Increasing the incomes of farmers and fisherfolk is the aim of Senator Francis Pangilinan’s legislative agenda for the 17th Congress, as he filed the Sagip Saka bill and the measure seeking the creation of a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, among others.
“During the campaign, we went around the country talking with farmers and fisherfolk. I have met some who have been farming for more than six decades. They have tirelessly toiled to bring food to all our tables, yet they remain the poorest of the poor. We have done them a great disservice and we seek to correct this,” Pangilinan said.
The Sagip Saka bill aims to help farmers move away from subsistence farming and into viable farm enterprises by mandating national and local government agencies to directly purchase agricultural products from accredited cooperatives.
It will also grant tax incentives to private entities and corporations who will purchase directly from farmers and fisherfolks’ enterprises, promoting increase in income.
“Our farmers and fisherfolk earn less than Php200 daily, less than Php6,000 monthly. A family of five would need at least Php9,000 to provide for their basic food and non-food needs. In this regard, we must benchmark agricultural programs to increasing their income,” he said.
FISHERIES SHOULD BE CENTER STAGE
Nearly 1.4 million Filipinos depend on fisheries for their source of income.
“The Philippine territory is only 1/5 land, and 4/5 water. It is not surprising that there is a great number of Filipinos relying on it for their livelihood. We must be able to fully utilize our aquamarine resources. We have the potential to be an aquaculture ‘super power,’” Pangilinan said.
The act of creating a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) aims to strategically use marine resources through proper management, development, trainings, and conservation – thereby improving the fisherfolk’s quality of life.
“By having a Cabinet-ranked official, we will be able to ensure that there is a dedicated body that will prioritize the plight of the fisherfolk,” he said.
REKINDLING THE FIGHT FOR THE COCO LEVY
The coco levy fund started in 1973, where a levy was put in place to stabilize the market prices of coconut-based consumer goods. From 55-centavo-per-100-kilogram in 1973, it was increased to Php20 from each coconut farmer in 1974. Until 2012, the fund has been stuck in court disputes and is now estimated to be at least Php72 billion.
“The Coco Levy Trust Fund bill will place the money in a perpetual trust fund where only the interest income will be used to support coco enterprise development, thereby sustainably raising the income of coconut farmers and improving the coconut industry as a whole. It has been more than 40 years since. We should not delay justice any further,” Pangilinan said.
Though the improvement of the agriculture sector remains to be Pangilinan’s top priority, the Senator also filed bills aiming to improve the other sectors. Aside from Sagip Saka and the establishment of DFAR, Pangilinan filed a food security bill that will establish a minimum rice reserve to be made accessible during emergencies. Pangilinan also filed a bill that will grant civil service eligibility to casual and contractual employees who have been rendering uninterrupted government service for five years. Pangilinan also seeks to upgrade the salary grade of government doctors from 16 to 24, as well as to increase the maternity leave period to 150 days.
The Senator also expressed his support for the establishment of free wifi service in public areas, a Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process, and the Freedom of Information Bill.
“This is our third term in the Senate and we will hit the ground running. We will ensure a progressive Senate term, in service and in pursuit of a modern, just, and humane Filipino society. We owe it to our people to promote growth that will be with and for the empowered Filipinos,” Pangilinan said.