DA adopts Sen. Kiko’s Sagip Saka to increase farmers’ incomes

MANILA — The Department of Agriculture on Monday adopted Sen. Francis Pangilinan’s Sagip Saka law in its mission to double farmers’ incomes in the next five years.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar gave this presentation during the hearing on the department’s budget proposal of P71 billion, or not even a tenth of 1 percent of Thailand’s almost one trillion baht, or about P1.65 trillion.

“We in the department are keeping track of another equally important measure, the Sagip Saka Act, authored by the Honorable Francis Pangilinan. We are witnesses to its metamorphosis, from the time of its filing and to the final bill that was approved in the Senate,” Dar said.

“The original Sagip Saka Act was focused on creating local councils to manage the agricultural and fisheries funds that will be set aside from the DA budget and 1% of the internal revenue allotments of all local government units,” the agriculture secretary said.

Dar said that the final version of the Sagip Saka Act “gives particular emphasis to the essential role of the private sector, the use of science-based methodologies, importance of value chain analysis, and the need to improve and enhance agricultural and extension services aligned with this very leadership’s goals and objectives,” Dar said.

“I must say this is truly a meeting of the minds,” Dar added.

Pangilinan, principal author and sponsor of Republic Act 11321 or the Sagip Saka Act, said the law aims to increase the incomes of farmers and fisher folk to levels that would allow them to live in dignity.

Higher farmers’ incomes, indicator of agri programs’ success

In line with DA’s vision of “Masaganang Ani, Mataas na Kita”, Pangilinan said the actual farmers’ incomes should be the indicator of success of DA programs.

“If we want to have prosperous farmers and fishermen, we have to know whether their lives have changed in the next 3 to 5 years and income will be one of the indicators,” said Pangilinan.

The senator stressed that the role of DA is not limited to reporting accomplishments in replanting, fertilization, intercropping, etc.

“While that is part of the role, bottom line is, after all of that, kumita ba ang farmer o hindi? Kasi kung puro proyekto pero walang benchmark kung magkano ba ang nadagdag na kita nung farmer, eh di para tayong gumastos nang malaki pero hindi natin alam kung yung pasyente ba ay gumagaling,” Pangilinan said.

Comparing to other countries’ agri spending

To compare with other countries, the former food security secretary also asked Dar for the government agriculture spending of Thailand and Vietnam.

“When I was Secretary of Agriculture 21 years ago, I compared the budget of the DA of P20 billion in 1998, and Thailand was investing or budgeting 100-billion baht at that time. This time around, we have gone now to 71 billion, which is almost 20 billion in 1998. Today we have 71.8 billion and this time around, Thailand is almost 1 trillion (baht) already,” Dar said in response. He did not have the figures for Vietnam.

Pangilinan said he wants government spending for agriculture to double, triple, or even quadruple.

“We say this because unless we invest in our agriculture in the same manner or at least close to or relatively comparable with the other nations in ASEAN, we might just be running in place and not being able to move forward,” he said.

Sagip Saka Act, or Republic Act 11321, aims to increase farmers’ and fisher folk’s incomes by connecting the farmers directly with big consumers, including government agencies and corporations.

While government agencies are exempt from the Procurement Law, corporations are given tax incentives for buying directly from accredited farm enterprises.