Feature: Nurturing regional and local growth
By Minerva BC Newman
Cebu, Philippines (2 May) -- Nurturing regional and local growth are dependent on four major issues namely, agriculture's competitiveness and profitability; land use, administration and distribution; strengthening local governance and peace and security. These four major issues according to agriculture secretary Arthur Yap have been described as relevant and urgent to the economic growth of regions and local communities.
During the Philippine Development Forum and Economic Roadshow in Cebu, Yap said the first issue on competitiveness and profitability is increasingly a function of the agriculture sector's ability to compete and to be profitable.
"This can be achieved with more focused and strategic infrastructure investments, improved financial absorptive capacity and faster implementation of projects by the infrastructure agencies particularly the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA)," Yap added.
He said, these agencies are asked to address the high cost of transporting goods and fast track projects for virtual (web-based) and physical through ports, RO-RO, bridges and roads for inter-regional connectivity. The Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) meanwhile are asked to further expand domestic and international market access for agriculture and fishery products.
Yap continued that critically, the country's micro-credit access program, even if it is hailed as models on the world stage, there is still a continuing concern that the empowering capabilities have yet to reach the vast majority of rural and fishery stakeholders.
It is along this line that the National Credit Council has been finding ways to improve access to micro-credit with the private sector taking the lead. The DA on the other hand is asked to rationalize investments in agriculture and fishery sub-sectors to address a bias for land based agriculture especially the bias against high value and tree crops for grain crops.
On the second issue on land use, administration and distribution, the DA secretary said, it is imperative that the government issues a clear position to resolve the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), "land being the most critical and basic factor in the issue of rural growth."
The third issue involves strengthening local governance. According to Yap, it is a common observation that local government units continue to suffer difficulties in accessing credit and finance, with their critical LGU personnel still lacking in technical capabilities in the areas of planning, budgeting, investment programming and project preparation.
"The DOF, DILG, DBM, NEDA and the various leagues are asked to address the above issues urgently, as well as develop and implement a mechanism for providing performance-based incentives for good and performance driven LGUs," Yap further said.
Secretary Yap stressed that the amendments to the Local Government Code is also being proposed to clarify the issue of what constitutes the sources for the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) for distribution to the LGUs.
Lastly, the fourth major issue that is critical to regional and local growth is peace and security. "This is critical because it cuts across issues with a special focus on Mindanao," Yap opined.
Here, the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAAP) and the DILG are asked to affirm the government's continuing commitment to the peace process; the creation of a national fund for conflict-prone areas and challenging the LGUs to take a greater role and increasing their accountabilities in the area of ensuring, achieving and maintaining local peace in their areas of authority and responsibility. (PIA-Cebu) [top]