The country’s leading economists and scholars congregated at UPLB on July 12 for the Philippine Economic Society’s (PES) first Regional Economic Conference at the auditorium of the soon-to-be-inaugurated REDREC building.
The Conference, with the theme “Regional integration and Philippine agriculture,” featured plenary sessions on the ASEAN integration and its implications on agriculture, economic growth, and rural development.
In his welcome remarks delivered by Dr. Portia G. Lapitan, vice chancellor for academic affairs, Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez Jr., noted that the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sector has been the least productive in the last three years despite forming one-third of the country’s labor force. It is important, according to him, to engage in multi-stakeholder collaboration to improve and expand opportunities for the said sector. He pointed out UPLB’s main contribution in this pursuit, particularly in producing competent agriculturists, economists, engineers, and foresters.
Carlos Bernardo O. Abad Santos, assistant secretary for planning and policy of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), gave the keynote address and presented the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for 2017-2022. The Plan focuses on achieving inclusive growth, a high-trust and resilient society, and a globally competitive knowledge economy, and is the first to be anchored on the long-term vision called AmBisyon Natin 2040.
The said vision, according to Abad Santos, is confronted with the challenge of being translated into action. “We need to ensure that the next plan builds on the gains of the 2017-2022 Plan. We need to have progressional plans instead of changing plans each time,” he said. AmBisyon Natin 2040 was approved on Oct. 11, 2016 through Executive Order No. 5. It resulted from nationwide focus group discussions and survey about the kind of life that Filipinos want by 2040.
The Conference’s first plenary session was led by Dr. Ramon L. Clarete, professor at the UP School of Economics, who discussed the current food trade patterns of ASEAN. He highlighted possible opportunities for the country’s economy, especially in the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sector and discussed the trade costs that still persist despite the low tariff imposed by the ASEAN member countries.
Dr. Roehlano M. Briones, senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, discussed ASEAN Free Trade Areas, and tariff reform and its implications on Philippine agriculture. Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy director-general for communication and partnerships at the International Rice Research Institute, on the other hand, talked about the relationship between the regional integration and the technological advances in rice production.
The second plenary session was opened by Emmanuel Genesis T. Andal, a faculty member at the Department of Economics, with his paper on “New generation trade agreements and Philippine agriculture.” He was followed by Geny F. Lapiña, a faculty member at the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, who discussed the opportunities and implications of the ASEAN Economic Community on the crops sector. Both speakers are from the UPLB College of Economics and Management (CEM).
Present during the conference were Luis G. Banua, regional director of NEDA-Calabarzon; Dr. Kevin C. Chua, an economist from the World Bank Office, Manila; Dr. Isabelita M. Pabuayon, dean of the College of Economics and Management; and Dr. Jose V. Camacho, Jr., dean of the Graduate School and president of PES. (Jessa Jael S. Arana)