Senatorial re-electionist Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Friday called on the more than 1.3 million registered overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to exercise their right to vote, which for them starts tomorrow, April 9.
“April 9 is the start of the month-long overseas absentee voting for Filipinos overseas. It is also Araw ng Kagitingan,” said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
“Hinihimok natin ang ating bayani — ang mga magsasaka na nagpapakain sa atin at ang mga OFW na bumubuhay sa ating bansa — na bumoto. Hinihikayat natin silang pumili ng mga kandidatong mas pahuhusayin pa ang buhay nila at ng kanilang mga pamilya rito. Dahil ang mga bayani ay bumoboto at bumoboto nang matalino (I enjoin our heroes — the farmers who feed us and the OFWs who keep the country afloat — to vote. I encourage them to cast their ballot for candidates who will make life better for them and their families here. Because heroes vote and vote wisely),” he said.
According to the Commission on Elections, a total of 1,386,087 overseas Filipinos are registered for OAV all around the world. The poll body expects a high turnout of voters as the coming elections involves the choice for president.
OAV voters are allowed to vote only for president, vice president, senators, and party-list organizations. OAV voting is from 8 a.m. April 9 (host country time) to 7 p.m. May 9 (Philippine time).
“Ngayon ay Araw ng Kagitingan din. Marami sa ating mga OFW ay nagtatrabaho sa mga lugar na mahusay ang serbisyo publiko. Alam nila ang ibig sabihin ng primera klaseng pamamahala kung saan ang tao ay libreng ipahayag ang kanilang sarili at bumuo ng mga unyon, at libre rin mula sa kakulangan at gutom (Today is also Araw ng Kagitingan. Many of our overseas Filipino workers toil in places where public service is better. They know and experience first-class governance where people are free to express themselves and form unions, and where they are also free of want and hunger),” Pangilinan said.
The senatorial candidate who is seeking his third non-consecutive term said boosting agriculture and creating jobs in the sector will keep Filipinos from leaving their families here in the country to find their fortune abroad, stressing the need for major reforms in the sector to make this happen.
“Kung mapabuti natin ang ating produksyon ng pagkain, gawing makabago ito, hindi na kailangan pang lumayo ng ating mga kababayan sa kanilang pamilya, malungkot at minsan maabuso sa pagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa. Maaarin na nilang mahanap ang kanilang kapalaran dito (If we improve our agriculture or food production, modernize it, our countrymen don’t have to suffer the alienation and sometimes abuse of working abroad. They can find their fortune here),” Pangilinan said.
Primary among his proposed measures once re-elected to the Senate is the Sagip Saka initiative, which seeks to increase the income of farmers from subsistence to sustainable levels.
In Sagip Saka or the Farmer Entrepreneurship and Development Act of 2016, government helps Filipino farmers earn more by transforming them into cooperativized entrepreneurs linked to a supply chain that are able to perform the functions of the middlemen.
The senatorial candidate said the example of cooperativized onion farmers linking directly with fast-food giant Jollibee increased their yield from 60,000 tons in 2008 to 800,000 this year.
“Ang karaniwang magsasaka ng niyog, halimbawa, ay kumikita ngayon ng P15,000 kada taon. Kung maayos ang pagpapatupad ng Sagip Saka, makakatulong ito para palakihin ang kita nila, tulad ng mga magsasaka sa sibuyas, nang sampung beses (The average coconut farmer, for example, now earns P15,000 a year. With the proper implementation of Sagip Saka, it would help increase their income, as the onion farmers’, by as much as ten times),” Pangilinan said.
“Hindi na nila kailangan pang mangibang-bansa (They don’t need to leave the country),” he added.
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.
“Boosting agriculture has at least three positive effects: increase food production and make food available to more Filipinos; provide the market for other products; and provide employment,” Pangilinan said.
“Kung kumikita na ang ating mga magsasaka, makakabili na sila ng tricycle at ng mas makabagong gamit sa pansaka para sa dagdag kita, ng mga sewing machine para kay misis, at kung anu-ano pa. Ito ang magpapasigla rin sa ating mga industriya (If our farmers earn more, they would be able to buy a tricycle and other modern farm equipment for additional income, perhaps a sewing machine for the wife, and many others. This demand would stimulate our industry),” he added.
Over the years, agriculture has remained the smallest contributor to economic growth, growing last year by less than 1 percent at 0.2 percent.
“Nais kong ibigay sa ating mga magsasaka ang karampatang respeto at dignidad ng maayos na pamumuhay dahil sila, tulad ng ating mga OFWs, ay mga bayani. Tulad ng sabi ng anak kong si Frankie, dapat natin silang mahalin tulad ng pagmamahal natin sa ating mga magulang dahil tulad ng ating mga magulang, sila ang nagpapakain sa atin (I want to give our farmers the respect and dignity of a good life to our farmer because like our OFWs, they are heroes. As my daughter Frankie says, we should treat them like our parents because like our parents, they feed us),” Pangilinan said.
“Ang mga manggagawang Pilipinong nagtatrabaho sa labas ng bayan ay mga bayani. Tulad ng ating mga magsasaka, nagbabanat sila ng buto para mapakain at buhayin ang kanilang mga pamilya. Kung ang pagsasaka, ang literal na paglinang ng pagkain, ay maaaring bumuhay ng kanilang mga pamilya rito, hindi na nila iiwan itong mahirap ngunit napaka-makatuparang trabaho sa bansa (Overseas Filipino workers are heroes. Like our farmers, they do back-breaking work to feed and provide for their families. If farming, the literal growing of food, can feed their families here, then they would not leave this difficult but fulfilling job in the country),” Pangilinan said.