CEBU CITY — Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Tuesday asked program implementor-agriculturists to help save the country’s 2.1 million farmers by raising their incomes to decent levels through the Sagip Saka Law.
“Ang Sagip Saka Law ay paano natin bibigyan ng suporta ang mga farm organizations at farm enterprises para tumaas ang kita ng mga nagpapakain sa atin (The Sagip Saka Law is about how we can give support to our farm organizations and farmer enterprises to increase the revenue of those who feed us),” Pangilinan said.
“We envision farm enterprises rather than subsistence farming. Pag marami ang ani, mas malaki ang kita ng magsasaka, mas mumura ang bilihin (If the harvest is plenty, the farmers’ income will go up, the prices of produce will go down),” he added.
The Sagip Saka Law author was here during the Department of Agriculture’s consultation with farmers, fisher folk, and other stakeholders from the Visayas on the law’s implementing rules and regulation.
“The Sagip Saka Law exempts local governments and national agencies, with their feeding programs, their hospital meals, and their relief operations from the Procurement Law. This means they can go directly to the farmers and reach a negotiated agreement,” Pangilinan explained.
“Pag local government na ang bibili, hindi pwedeng baratin [ang mga magsasaka] sa isang negotiated procurement (When the local government makes the purchase, the farmers won’t be short-changed in a negotiated procurement),” he said.
For instance, Pangilinan said, right now, a kilo of squash in the wet market sells for 30 pesos which the squash farmer is only able to sell to a middleman for only 5 pesos. If the local government buys it at 20 pesos or 25 pesos, that would already mean a four- to five-fold increase in the farmer’s income.
“This will encourage him to keep on farming. Magsasaka pa rin siya dahil alam niyang hindi siya babaratin (He will continue to farm because he knows he won’t be short-changed),” Pangilinan explained.
The law, 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.
“Tama ang sinabi ni Secretary [William] Dar noong kanyang mga unang binitawan na salita. Sabi nya, isa sa mga target dapat, in five years’ time, madoble ang kinikita ng ating mga magsasaka. (Secretary Dar was right when he said that one of the targets is, in five years’ time, we have to double the earnings of the farmers),” said the former food security czar.
“There is a threat here, dahil kapag hindi kumita ang farmer, ibebenta ang lupa, wala nang magsasaka (because when farmers are no longer earning, they will sell their land and no one will farm). Food security will be a problem,” he said.
Pangilinan also shared his experience as a farmer. He told of how his vegetable farm in Cavite suffered a direct hit from Typhoon Glenda back in 2014.
“Ubos ang aking tanim. Nawasak ang aking mga greenhouse. Naubos ang aking punla. Nagtatatawag ako ng ibang farm, baka sakaling may punla dahil kailangan kong magtaning ulit. Dahil hahabulin ko ang aking aanihin dahil may mga order ako na nakabinbin. Hindi biro (My produce was gone. My greenhouses were destroyed. My seeds were gone. I tried calling other farms to see if they might have seeds because I needed to farm again because I had pending orders. It’s wasn’t a joke).”
He continues: “Matapos akong ubusin ng masamang panahon, maganda naman yung panahon, napeste naman ako. Ano ba itong napasukan ko? (After the typhoon wiped out my crops, I was hit by pests during the warmer weather. I asked myself, What did I get myself into?).”
“Pero doon ko naunawaan ang mga hinaharap ng ating mga magsasaka, pati na rin ng ating mga mangingisda. Hindi biro. Doon ko mas naintindihan, napakahalaga ng crop insurance. Doon ko naintindihan napakahalaga ng calamity assistance (I understood then the hardships faced by our farmers and fishermen. It’s not a joke. I understood then the importance of crop insurance. I understood then that calamity assistance is very important).”