Money from overseas saves PHL’s agri sector, rural areas from slump

WHAT have been filling the needs of whatever yields remain for agriculture-dependent rural Philippines come from the sea.

As agriculture officials just announced the lowest growth rate for the entire agriculture sector in nine years at 0.12 percent, remittances from overseas Filipinos continued to rise albeit slowly.

But there’s a bigger story, says a policy brief by the nonprofit Institute for Migration and Development Issues (IMDI): place becomes a livelihood, and Filipinos in overseas countries —though not farmers— have been plowing hard-earned incomes for families and even for their rural birthplaces.

This does not come as a surprise, says the Institute’s paper titled Rural Folk: Hard Up, So Some Leave, written by Ma. Cristina Gregorio and Jeremaiah Opiniano. Two-thirds of overseas Filipinos —either contract workers, permanent residents or irregular migrants— come from rural Philippines, areas largely disregarded as hubs of hope and development.

However, the Institute wrote that what seems to be happening is that overseas migration —a “new rurality,” authors say— “has made up for Philippine rural areas’ many shortcomings, even if not many residents from the countryside can afford to migrate overseas”.

For example, using estimates on incomes by overseas migrant families from government’s 2006 income and expenditures survey, 60 of 77 provinces had more overseas remittance incomes compared to the total incomes of provincial local governments (the latter coming from the Bureau of Local Government Finance).

The income gap, which IMDI refers to as “an income buffer for rural areas,” is mind-boggling: P348.524 billion of migrant family incomes versus P50.482 billion for incomes by provincial LGUs in 2006.

Data from the Institute’s policy brief also reveal:

·That the growth rate of the overseas exodus of permanent and temporary migrants is better than the agricultural sector’s performance; and

·That the P348.524 billion of incomes by migrant families in 2006 are at least twice more than all the loans handed out for agriculture and fishing (P93.228 billion);

However, the Institute wrote that since developed rural regions —especially those near Metro Manila— had more overseas migrants and more overseas remittances, overseas migration’s benefits have largely eased out poorer regions.

Rural regions with high underemployment and poverty incidence rates got lower money from abroad, govern-ment data which IMDI processed find.

And since underemployment indicates low-paying, low quality jobs, the situation entraps many rural folk into poverty and makes these people unable to migrate overseas.

If the Philippine rural region is farther from Metro Manila and has high levels of underemployment and poverty incidence, overseas remittances to these regions are lower.

dead end”.

At the same time, data from the Rural Poverty Report 2011 of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) revealed the decades-old slump of Philippine agriculture: agriculture’s gross value-added (GVA) as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product dropped from 23 percent in 1988 to 14.9 percent in 2008.

In a related IMDI policy paper, Harvests Coming from the Sea, the Institute wrote that while overseas migration can be a boon or a bane to agriculture, the links between the overseas exodus with farming and fishing “have yet to be fully explored”.

As well, the development potential from the migration-agriculture linkages “(was) not yet maximized as much,” the Institute wrote.#