A group of legislators on Friday asked their colleagues in the House of Representatives to look into the effect on palay harvest and farmers’ income of the over four-decade heavy dependence by tillers on imported synthetic or petroleum-based fertilizers.
The group led by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte raised the call amid a fresh government push for balanced fertilization or the combined use of both chemical and organic fertilizers.
Villafuerte was the principal proponent of House Resolution (HR) 972 urging the House Committee on Agriculture to study “the effectiveness of the use of chemical fertilizers in rice production.”
“To support, through meaningful legislation, the direction set by President Marcos on finding alternatives to boost palay productivity, there is a need to answer: (1) whether or not chemical fertilizers like urea really cost cheaper than, if not just the same, as biofertilizers, and (2) whether or not organic inputs or biofertilizers are still untested or have been proven to significantly boost crop yields,” the authors of HR 972 said.
Other proponents of the measure were Sta. Rosa City Rep. Dan Fernandez, Bataan Rep. Albert Raymond Garcia, and Bicol Saro Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan.
They recalled that the Department of Agriculture (DA) issued last April 27 Memorandum Order (MO) No. 32 covering the “Implementing Guidelines on the Distribution and Use of biofertilizers, which sets the guidelines on the distribution and use of biofertilizers for 2023.”
They noted that MO 32 apparently aims “to conquer high price of inputs and promote alternative inputs such as biofertilizers,” given that President Marcos announced at a recent DA sectoral meeting “his administration’s push for the use of biofertilizers by our farmers to cut their use of imported petroleum-based fertilizers.”
High palay production costs affect all rice-eating Filipinos, they said, because aside from shrinking the incomes of local farmers, the increasing cost of imported inputs such as synthetic or chemical fertilizers “also affect consumers who bear the brunt of the consequent higher prices” of rice and other foodstuff.
“Our farmers rely heavily on fertilizers and other farm inputs to boost agricultural productivity amid the lack of control over meteorological and other natural conditions,” HR 972 stated.
“The pressure on productivity to feed our people is ever increasing as the Philippine population grows at an estimated pace of 2 percent a year,” the measure read.
The DA has pegged the country’s annual requirement for various fertilizer grades at 2.6 million metric tons (MT), which, according to HR 972, dents the country’s dollar reserves and our farmers’ incomes as “the Philippines imports 95 percent of its fertilizer requirements, which make it vulnerable to conditions that can affect output and prices.”
The resolution also pointed out that “the spike in oil prices also saw a corresponding increase in prices of fertilizers, which are a by-product of oil,” thus leaving the Philippines with “virtually no control over factors affecting the cost of farm inputs as it is a net importer of fuel and fertilizer.”