August 16, 2017

This week is Made in the Philippines Week, and Senator Francis Pangilinan suggests that Filipinos eat and buy locally whenever possible, and help increase the incomes of local farmers, fishers, and other producers.

The advocacy is not new to the senator, whose Sagip Saka bill seeks to provide tax incentives to the private sector that buy agricultural produce directly from accredited farmers’ and fishers’ enterprise.

The bill also requires local government units to buy their food needs, such as rice, vegetables, and poultry, for their feeding programs, and calamity and relief operations from farmers’ associations without public bidding.

“Kailangang ipagmalaking muli ang pagka-Pilipino sa pagtataguyod ng mga serbisyo at produktong gawang Pilipino (It is necessary to reaffirm the Filipino pride and identity through the patronage of services and products made by the Filipinos),” said the Liberal Party president.

Originally promulgated by former President Manuel L. Quezon in 1936, Proclamation 76 or “Made in the Philippines Week” aims to provide the necessary encouragement and stimulus to domestic industries.

Observed every third week of August, this celebration encourages Filipinos to contribute to the growth of local industries by patronizing and prioritizing Filipino products.

Celebrations of “Made in the Philippines Week” include exhibits, expos, lectures, and bazaars showcasing Philippine products and services all over the country.

Pangilinan supports the position of Dr. Rene Ofreneo, former dean of the school of labor and industrial relations at the University of the Philippines who stresses the value of a buy-Philippines policy to help develop the country’s industrial capacity.

In a paper on Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, Ofreneo pointed out that “many countries in the world have been using government procurement to develop and protect national industries that they deem critical to their own development.”

“A number of countries have explicit buy-local movements despite the so-called trade liberalization…A government policy expressing preferential purchasing for locally made products usually does the trick,” he said.

He cited the example of Japan and Korea where non-Japanese and non-Korean products, respectively, are hardly available.

In his paper, Ofreneo added, “Imagine if the Philippine government will ask the two million government employees and military personnel to wear only Philippine-made shoes and garments/textiles, the shoe and the garments/textile industry that have been wiped out by mindless trade liberalization could be revived and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

“But what is happening is that the supplies and materials being procured by many government offices are usually imported supplies and materials such as paper, office equipment, and so on,” he said.

The UP professor said the government procurement program can also be designed to increase the participation of small economic players such as small and medium industries. This way, he said procurement can be inclusive as well as developmental, in which small players can have equal chance in a more level playing field.

Ofreneo observed that in the absence of the preferential rules for small players, government procurement has become big business for those already big in business and giant multinationals.

He also lamented that even the Department of Education had to import tables and chairs from China to be used in typhoon Yolanda areas, where there are 33 million coconut trees felled that can be utilized for first-class tables, chairs and other wood craft finished products.

In his stint as Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Development, Pangilinan has emphasized the importance of enabling and empowering local food producers in Philippine development.

The LP president said that inclusive economy means increasing the incomes of farmers and fishers, the poorest sector in the country. He said the success of government programs must be pegged on the improved lives and livelihood of those who produce food for Filipinos.

“Habang hindi kumikita nang sapat ang mga pinakamahirap sa ating lipunan, mananatiling mahirap ang ating bayan. Hindi dami ng naipatayong farm-to-market roads ang pamantayan ng tagumpay kundi kung sapat na ang kita ng ating magsasaka at mangingisda (While the poorest in our society don’t earn enough, our country will remain poor. The number of constructed farm-to-market roads is not the measure of success but the increase in the incomes of our farmers and fishers),” Pangilinan said.

“Pagtulungan nating kamitin ito, bumili at kumain nang mga tubo at gawang Pilipino (Let’s all help achieve this by buying Philippine-made and eating Philippine-grown products),” he added.