MANILA – Measures to eradicate hunger should focus on farmers who provide us our food but continue to be the poorest and most hungry, said Senator Kiko Pangilinan on Monday, as he welcomes Senate Bill 111, or the framework law filed by Senator Koko Pimentel seeking to harmonize all food programs toward wiping out hunger.
“Sa bawat tatlong Pilipinong maaaring magtrabaho, dalawa ay kahit paano’y nasa pagsasaka, pero ang ating mga magsasaka ay nananatiling pinakamahirap sa mga mahirap at walang sapat na kita para pakainin ang sariling pamilya (For every three Filipinos who are able to work, two are directly or indirectly in agriculture, yet our farmers remain the poorest of the poor, with barely enough income to feed their family),” Pangilinan said.
“Itong nakakabahalang kalagayan ay dapat at pwedeng baguhin (This upsetting situation should and can be changed),” he added.
Almost half of the hungry people in the world are from farming communities, mostly in lands prone to natural disasters, the Food and Agriculture Oganization (FAO) said recently.
Senate Bill 111 aims to create a Commission on the Right to Adequate Food that will enforce food-related laws with the goal of eradicating hunger.
“Pag nabaputi natin ang ating pagsasaka, mas lalapit tayo sa sitwasyong walang batang nagugutom. Pag napataas natin ang kita ng ating mga magsasaka, mapapakain at mabibigyan na nila ng mas magandang kinabukasan ang kanilang pamilya (Improving our agriculture leaves us one step closer to ensuring that no child will go hungry. Increasing the income of farmers enables them to provide for beyond their family’s basic food needs),” Pangilinan said.
He said the goal is for farmers to increase their income from their daily average income of P63 so that they can feed their children three times a day.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that those who went hungry due to lack of food at least once increased from 2.6 million families in December to 3.1 million in March despite there being a decrease in self-identified poor.
In Mindanao alone, the incidence increased to 19% (978,000 families) in March from 13% (658,000) in December.
FARMING AGAINST HUNGER
One of Pangilinan’s priority pieces of legislation is the recently filed Sagip Saka Bill, or the Farmer and Fisherfolk Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development Act of 2016.
“Gusto nating umalis na ang ating mga magsasaka sa kanilang isang-kahig-isang-tukang pagsasaka at maging matagumpay na farm entrepreneurs (We aim to help our farmers move away from their customaryisang-kahig-isang-tuka type of farming, and into viable farm enterprises),” Pangilinan said.
In Sagip Saka, national and local government agencies are required to directly buy food products from accredited agricultural cooperatives. It also grants tax incentives to private entities and corporations that buy directly from farmers and fisherfolks’ enterprises. These are expected to raise the incomes of farmers and fisherfolks.
“Siguraduhin nating ang pagtaas ng kita ng mga magsasaka ang magiging batayan ng tagumpay ng mga programang sakahan. Pataasin lang natin ang kita ng 67 porsyento ng mga Pilipinong nakaasa sa pagsasaka at bubuti na ang purchasing power nila pati na ang ekonomiya sa kanayunan (We must ensure that increasing the income of farmers would be the benchmark of agricultural programs. An increase in the income of the 67% relying on agriculture for sustenance would bolster the purchasing power of the marginalized sectors and will jump-start a significant boost in the rural economy),” Pangilinan said.
“Pag nangyari ito, di na luho ang pagkain, bababa ang kagutuman, tataas ang productivity, at mapapaaral at mapapagamot na rin ng ating mga magsasaka ang kanilang pamilya — lahat ng yan makakatulong para tuluyan nang mawala ang kahirapan (Food items that seemed only a luxury before can now be afforded. Hunger will lessen, promoting increase in productivity, and they will also be able to provide basic non-food needs such as education and medicine — all contributing to the collapse of the cycle of poverty),” he said.
Pangilinan filed pro-farmer and pro-fisher bills for the 17th Congress aiming to benchmark the increase in incomes of the agriculture sector. These measures include Sagip Saka, the creation of a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the refiling of the Coco Levy Trust Fund Bill, among others.