MANILA— Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday underscored the need for the Philippines to invest in infrastructure, particularly for agriculture development, to fully realize the benefits of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic integration.
During the close of the three-day ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) 2017 here, now Pampanga Rep. Arroyo said Philippine agriculture is vulnerable to ASEAN integration.
“It is better for all members to embrace regional integration while providing safety nets for the disadvantaged sectors and states,” she said.
Arroyo noted that the Philippines and the agriculture exporting countries, except for Vietnam whose rice is highly competitive, should invest more in agricultural infrastructure, credit, marketing assistance for farmers and fisherfolk, and research and development.
On the regulatory framework, she said it is more important that the regulatory system must empower the use of farmlands as collaterals even as the country has implemented a land reform.
“So the small farmers can enter the formal financing system and again I cannot overstress that financial technology is so important for developing and modernizing any sector, including agriculture,” she added.
Arroyo also underscored the need for agribusiness to have rural non-farm activities like processing, where more diversification and complementation can happen.
“This is where SMEs (small and medium enterprises) can thrive rather than wither under the pressure of economic integration. But since to the strong goes the victory, the SMEs must also become stronger,” she added.
Arroyo said year 2025 is supposed to be the year of ASEAN full integration to realize the region’s full potential as a major global economic force in the next 50 years.
“ASEAN integration provides for more foreign investments. As the sixth largest economy in the world and the world’s fourth largest trader, the ASEAN community stands to attract enterprises from within and outside,” she added.