THE Indonesian government will implement a “Philippines First Policy” that will prioritize the Philippines as a source of agricultural goods whenever there is a need to import, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said on Tuesday.

“Yesterday, [Indonesian] Trade Minister [Enggartiasto] Lukita announced a new policy which will be adopted by Indonesia and they call it Philippine First Policy. They have recognized us as their distant cousins and they said starting now, if there is anything they need, they will look at the Philippines as a priority source for the things that they need before sourcing it from other countries,” Mr. Piñol said in a briefing in Quezon City.

Mr. Piñol earlier this year complained that Indonesia is not open to importing from the Philippines which results in a huge trade deficit between the two countries. Recently, the two countries along with Malaysia entered into a tripartite agreement to limit exports to the Philippines of palm oil.

“(Yesterday), [Indonesian] Trade Minister Lokita, [Philippine Trade] Secretary Ramon Lopez and myself, agreed that the three countries would form a technical working group (TWG) to come up with an acceptable arrangement. We call it a brotherly arrangement, to ensure that nobody will be placed in a disadvantageous position,” Mr. Piñol said.

“(Indonesia saw) it could have an adverse effect not only on diplomatic relations but also trade relationships. We are already consolidating our production that will be ready for the Indonesian market and I’m prioritizing onions [for export],” Mr. Piñol noted.

According to Mr. Piñol, the three countries have agreed to fight the campaign of Western countries against the use of palm oil and coconut oil.

“We should join hands to standing up to the lobby of vegetable oil producers in the Western countries who are waging a campaign against palm oil and coconut oil,” Mr. Piñol said.

Mr. Piñol also said that Indonesia is currently having a hard time in exporting palm oil to the European Union (EU), and banning them from exporting to the Philippines will be detrimental for Jakarta. Mr. Piñol earlier considered imposing quantitative restrictions (QR) on export of palm oil to the Philippines, claiming that such exports may have disadvantaged Filipino coconut farmers who are dealing with low prices for copra.

“I can understand their concern because right now hirap sila pumasok sa EU (…they are having difficulty to penetrate the EU market). Nagsta-start na ’yung ban ng EU sa palm oil (EU has already started banning palm oil). If they will get the same ban from the Philippines, that will be detrimental to their palm oil industry,” Mr. Piñol said.

“(There is a move right now) to really join hands and address this problem because we also have our own palm oil production in the Philippines. We will also be affected by the ban imposed by the EU,” Mr. Piñol said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio