AS PART of the new normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sagip Saka Act of 2019 which institutionalizes and incentivizes direct food purchase from farmers, fisherfolk, and other food growers will ensure that no one goes hungry in the country, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Saturday.
“Ito ang ibig sabihin ng food security: Walang nagugutom, walang magugutom, at walang takot na baka magutom,” Pangilinan said.
“Hindi pa man pandemya, pero lalo na dahil dito, kalusugan ang isang tampok na problema ng bayan na dapat pinagtutuunan ng pansin ng ating gobyerno. Dapat masugpo ang pagkalat ng sakit. Dapat malusog ang Pilipino,” he added.
Pangilinan said access to affordable nutritious food is a key to having healthy Filipinos. He said ensuring that our food producers and growers are healthy — physically, culturally, and economically — ensures everyone’s health.
In an online consultation-dialogue on Friday, the senator listened to the concerns of farmers, other food growers, and local executives on food production and distribution in Pampanga during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Froilan Soriano, barangay captain of San Juan Baño, Arayat, said his office was able to use Pangilinan’s pet Sagip Saka Act to buy palay directly from the farmers, mill it in the barangay’s milling machines, and give an additional 3 kilos of rice to all families in his village.
Soriano said buying the rice at P18 per kilo (or P1 higher than the prevailing P17) was much lower than the P40 per kilo commercial rice. He said this allowed him to help the farmers earn more, as well as distribute to all households, including the 600 households that were not part the 2015 census and therefore not entitled to any ayuda, or official government support.
The benefits of the Sagip Saka formula were clear for the village leader: Farmers earned P1 per kilo more than normal, the barangay was able to maximize its funds and benefit all its constituents, the rice was of good quality, the community exercised bayanihan, and economic activity flourished in the village.
“Ngayon lang nangyari sa kasaysayan ng DA (Department of Agriculture) na direktang bumili ang lokal na pamahalaan sa rice farmers. Di pa nangyayari yan sa kasaysayan ng DA. Palakasin pa natin ito,” Pangilinan said.
According to the DA, as of July 20 this year, 442 local governments have bought over P2.5 billion worth of harvests directly from farmers and fisher folk during the COVID lockdown.
Pangilinan said the participation of many stakeholders — farmer and fisherfolk individuals and organizations, local governments, agriculturists, among others — has made possible cheaper and more sustainable sources of rice and other produce, especially during this pandemic.
He said the continued implementation of Sagip Saka will empower our farmers and fisher folk, and eventually ensure the country’s food security.
“Tamang presyo ang pinakamagandang insentibo para manatili sa pagtatanim ang ating mga magsasaka. Kapag alam nilang tama ang presyo, pag alam nilang may kikitain, dadami ang ani,” Pangilinan said.
“Pag marami ang ani, pag marami ang huli, walang Pilipinong magugutom,” he added.
Pangilinan said a new normal that establishes this middlemen-free food purchase further renews the general public’s respect for farmers and food producers.
“Dahil sa new normal, malaki rin ang opportunidad na baguhin natin yung pagtrato, pagkilala, pakikipag-negosasyon at pakikipag-usap sa mga magsasaka at mangingisda, sa mga farmer and fisher organizations,” Pangilinan said.
“Dapat hindi na bumalik sa dati. Biglang nagkaroon ng napakaimportanteng papel ang mga magsasaka at mangingisda. Hindi na dapat kayo bumalik sa dati na neglected o pinababayaan,” he added.