October 15, 2010
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, speaking on the occasion of World Food Day, which aptly has the theme “United Against Hunger”, called on all concerned sectors to immediately convene and craft a roadmap that would address the country’s food security.
“We should, precisely as the theme of today’s celebration calls for, unite against hunger and address the areas we are lacking, areas that hamper the growth of the agricultural sector,” Pangilinan said.
He cited the following as some of the areas that need to be addressed: access to markets; research and development; access to credit and support services for farmers, agricultural workers, and their families; crop diversification; development infrastructure and facilities; and even food security in the midst of climate change.
“This early in PNoy’s administraton, we should sit down and craft a roadmap that would address the lack of investments in agriculture, productivity, food security, income and livelihood, and hunger and poverty. Since majority of Filipinos depend on agriculture for livelihood and even basic survival, then the government should prioritize agriculture as a growth driver for our country.
Studies have shown that the Philippines is around 70 percent rural, and that majority of the labor force is either directly or indirectly tied to agriculture. However, the agriculture sector accounts for only less than 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The Department of Agriculture also reported a contraction of 2.59 percent in agricultural performance for the first half of 2010, with crops down by as much as 6.72 percent.
A recent World Bank report also showed that poverty and hunger incidence is highest in rural areas.
“We all know what the problems are but we are not focused on solving these problems and identifying targets and deadlines to deliver results,” Pangilinan asserted. “A roadmap, a strategy for agriculture, must be cobbled together by government and all stakeholders.”
Citing a recommendation by the World Bank, Pangilinan also called on Congress to “craft the needed legislation to reduce high trade tariffs and other non-tariff barriers to trade in agricultural commodities.”
The senator also called for stronger measures and stiffer penalties against smuggling of agricultural goods.
“Every time smuggled goods enter the country, it means loss of income and opportunities for our farmers. It is an injustice to our farmers and to ourselves. Thus, the roadmap must also address the issue of smuggling, as well as jobs and incomes in the agriculture sector,” Pangilinan reiterated.
Senator Pangilinan is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.