As the incoming agriculture secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol laid out the three components of his agricultural program, returning Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said increased incomes for farmers and fisherfolk should be used as benchmarks for the success of this program.
“Unless the incomes of our farmers and fisherfolk are increased to sustainable levels that can raise a family, success of agricultural programs will remain hollow for them,” said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
“The Department of Agriculture should target at least 50-percent increase in the incomes of farmers and fisherfolk incomes by 2022,” Pangilinan said.
Earlier, Piñol said his marching orders from President-elect Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte include making food available and affordable to Filipinos, as well as stopping corruption in the Department of Agriculture. He said these can be achieved in three ways: fast and effective agricultural technology-transfer to farmers, easy access to financing, and efficient marketing for farmer’s produce.
Pangilinan agreed with the Duterte administration’s plan for agriculture, stressing that uplifting the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolk, who make up almost 60 percent of the country’s labor force, should be part of the new government’s primary goals.
In relation to this, the returning senator has vowed to legislate Sagip Saka Act of 2016, or the Farmer Entrepreneurship and Development Act of 2016, which aims to organize clustered farms, as well as provide farmers direct access to markets through direct government and private sector purchases, access to credit, training, and capacity building, Department of Trade and Industry support for value adding and packaging, strong local government participation, among others.
“We want to uplift the lives of our farmers from poverty and create new and decent jobs. Standard of living can improve through agriculture. Agriculture can provide a decent livelihood for farmers,” Pangilinan said.
Right now, farmers and fishermen are among the poorest sector in the Philippines. According to the 2012 Family Income and Expenditure Survey and Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistical Authority, 39.2 percent of fishermen and 38.3 percent of farmers are poor.
“This situation need not be the case with our farmers,” Pangilinan said.