Philippines, United States agree to set a ministerial level team on agricultural cooperation

2023 May 1

The Philippines and the United States have agreed to set a ministerial team on agricultural cooperation as the Marcos administration puts focus on food efficiency and security.

The partnership was sealed during a meeting between President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and US Department of Agriculture officials led by Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

President Marcos described as important the meeting with USDA, “simply because there are things that we are hoping to be able to partner with the United States when it comes to the agricultural sector.”

The chief executive noted the “weaknesses that we had discovered during the lockdowns during the pandemic, at the height of the pandemic, and the shortages in food supply.”

Assigning himself the agriculture portfolio was crucial, the President remarked, “because agriculture is a very complicated issue, especially in the Philippines.”

“As we had started to plan our way out of the pandemic economy, even the financial experts, we would talk about the economy, we would talk about the more strictly financial aspects of the development economy, we still keep coming back to agriculture and we cannot do all of the things that we would like to do for our economy if our agriculture is not — there are agricultural system — is not strengthened,” the President said.

In the meeting, Manila sought to bolster mutually beneficial agreements to strengthen agriculture research for development, capacity-building initiatives specific to the advancement of biotechnology agenda in the country, as well as expanding market access of Philippine agricultural products to the US.

The USDA, for its part, also looked forward to strengthened knowledge transfer between the US and the Philippines as well as continued cooperation on agriculture innovation systems.

“(We’re) looking forward to an initiative where a number of your professors… will be coming to the United States, will be exposed to our own university system… so they in turn take it back to the Philippines,” a USDA official said.

Food security and agri research

In the meeting, the President also expressed hope that the upcoming Food Security Dialogue on May 5 will further boost cooperation on capacity-building and technology support as the country works together in building effective and efficient supply chains, export, and value-chain development of agricultural commodities.

The President said the goal is to strengthen research and development in the agricultural sector, particularly on biotechnology centers, geospatial databases, climate-proof facilities, and information services.

“This is an extremely important part of the transformation of our society and of our economy for the post-pandemic world,“ President Marcos said.

Joining the President in the meeting were Speaker Martin Romualdez, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Lagdameo Jr., Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.