July 19, 2022

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Marcos eyes fertilizer deals with China, Russia

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. is looking to pursue government-to-government deals with some of the world’s top suppliers of fertilizer such as Russia and China, as he aims to boost the country’s agriculture production.

However, experts said Mr. Marcos should thoroughly study the move as it may force him to offer concessions that will not be beneficial to the country.

Mr. Marcos is considering communicating with the governments of China, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Russia to purchase cheaper fertilizer through bilateral deals, the Palace said in a press release.

“They want to help and approach us, so let’s take advantage of that. Give us fertilizers that are affordable. That’s the whole point of government-to-government deals,” Mr. Marcos told Agriculture officials at a meeting on Monday, according to a media release.

Mr. Marcos, who heads the Agriculture department, said they could send letters to those governments and “say that we are in the market to buy this volume of fertilizer.”

The President also asked Agriculture officials to provide data on the sources and prices of fertilizer.

The Philippines imports much of its fertilizer supply, which has been disrupted by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Higher fertilizer prices are expected to drive up costs of agricultural commodities in the next few months.

It is already expected that Mr. Marcos would gravitate to Russia and China, among others, “since other countries probably have major issues either supporting him or being seen trading with his government,” said Hansley A. Juliano, a political economy researcher studying at Nagoya University’s Graduate School of International Development in Japan.

Mr. Juliano said the move signals that the Philippine leader does not care about how his foreign policy is perceived, “considering that just a few days ago, reportage on infrastructure projects under his predecessor were left hanging due to Chinese funding not forthcoming or properly allocated for.”

“China hasn’t exactly proven itself reliable in one economic engagement and now you’re relying on it again?” he said. “It’s like going back to a bad electronics store that gave you a bad warranty policy.”

Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches political science at the Ateneo de Manila University, urged the administration to consult with the Philippines’ fertilizer industry and other concerned sectors before making any policy decision.

“I hope they could also reveal alternative options so that stakeholders can weigh on them,” Mr. Aguirre said in a Messenger chat. “I hope this was not done unilaterally on the part of the government without consultation and due diligence.”

He also urged the government to be careful in dealing with countries that have been “neglectful of their obligations.”

Mr. Marcos told the Transportation department to renegotiate loan agreements with China for railway projects worth $4.90 billion. Transportation officials last week said the loan applications were considered “withdrawn” after the Chinese government “failed to act on the funding requests” made by the Duterte administration.