BUKIDNON – Agriculture should provide enough income beyond subsistence for farmers, who are among the country’s poorest, former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agriculture Modernization (PAFSAM) Secretary Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Sunday.
“Sabi nga, kung kumain ka ngayon, magpasalamat sa magsasaka (As the saying goes, if you ate today, thank a farmer),” he said. “That’s why we need to focus on them and agriculture.”
In a dialogue with farmers of the Sumilao Farmers’ Cooperative here in Bukidnon over the weekend, Pangilinan said it is unfair for farmers to go hungry when they produce the food of the nation.
One way to get farmers out of the cycle of poverty is to provide them with various government support from financing to irrigation to training, he said.
As PAFSAM, Pangilinan supported the Sumilao Farmers’ Cooperative by helping them establish farm enterprises.
“Sa ngayon mais at kasaba ang kanilang mga tanim. Mula sa gobyerno at sa ating inilunsad na programang Sagip Saka, nakakuha sila ng assistance tulad ng multi cab, at 10 wheeler truck (Right now, they plant corn and cassava. From the government, when we launched the Sagip Saka program, the cooperative was able to receive a multi-cab, and a 10-wheeler truck),” he said.
The cooperative members were among the farmers who marched from Bukidnon to Malacanang in 2010 to ask the President for the 97 hectares they are farming to be covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Another way is expanding coconut farmers’ training to include other uses of the so-called tree of life, Pangilinan said, citing the case of a woman in Bislig City who earns P450 a week making three bundles of coco coir and another P150 for coco twine. The senatorial candidate also visited Bislig during the election sortie.
“Kapag maganda ang demand umaabot ang kita niya nang P1,000 kada isang linggo (If the demand is good, she earns P1,000 every week),” he said.
Pangilinan also praised the Bislig local government, together with the Philippine Coconut Authority, for setting up the cooperative of coconut farmers.
“Bago dumating ang coco enterprise na ito, wala siyang kinikita. Ngayon meron na siyang pambili para sa mga araw araw na gastusin tulad ng bigas, asin, kape, at pambaon sa kanyang anak (Before this coco enterprise, the woman did not earn much. Now she has enough money to spend on everyday expenses like rice, salt, coffee, and children’s allowance),” he said.
This coconut enterprise development is one way to create jobs and livelihood in rural communities, Pangilinan said, noting that there are an estimated 330 million coconut trees in the country, producing 15 billion coconut husks every year.
“Trabaho para sa mga nasa kanayunan at dagdag na kita ang ating kailangan gawin upang mapawi ang gutom at matigil na ang malalang kahirapan sa kanayunan,” he said.
The Farmer Entrepreneurship and Development Bill, which seeks to help farmers move from subsistence farming, is a priority legislative measure of Pangilinan, who is seeking his third non-consecutive term as senator this year.
Another on Pangilinan’s legislative agenda is the Crop Insurance Bill, which seeks to expand insurance coverage to other crops.