MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is reportedly pushing for the delay of the full implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) in light of the current global economic recession.
Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila has been talking to his ASEAN counterparts about delaying the full implementation of the AFTA by January 2010.
As agreed under AFTA, the Philippines and its ASEAN partners must bring down to between zero and five percent all tariff covers.
While most of the other ASEAN signatories to the AFTA are reportedly receptive to the delay, Singapore is opposed to any change in the timetable and is supposedly pushing for the implementation of the agreement as scheduled.
Unfortunately for the Philippines, several industries in the agriculture sector are still not ready for competition.
According to Gregorio San Diego of the United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA), and Albert Lim of the National Federation of Hog Farmers, Inc. (NFHFI), the poultry, egg and hog industries, as well as the rice sector, are still not ready for the full implementation of AFTA by January 2010.
In an interview with The STAR, San Diego and Lim expressed their joint concern about the fast approaching implementation of AFTA in 10 months.
San Diego said that the poultry and egg sector is asking President Arroyo to take action now and declare a “moratorium” on the implementation of the AFTA agreement.
According to San Diego, the Philippine poultry and egg sector cannot still effectively complete against Thailand and Malaysia which are major exporters of poultry.
The Philippine poultry and egg sector, San Diego said, should be placed in the sensitive list along with rice.
San Diego argued that while Malaysia and Thailand may still be affected by the Asian Avian flu virus, they would eventually recover and the Philippines would be swamped with Thai and Malaysian poultry and egg exports.–Marianne V. Go, Philippine Star