Pangilinan supports Aquino migration plan

May 11, 2011

Mario B. Casayuran
Manila Bulletin
May 10, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate agriculture and food committee, Tuesday came out in support of the plan of President Benigno S. Aquino III to set into motion a mass migration of informal settlers from the urban to the rural areas and activate the lethargic agricultural sector.

“This is something like the Homestead Act in the 50s which saw the migration to Mindanao. This time, it is reverse migration to the countryside,’’ Pangilinan said in an interview.

In Jakarta, President Aquino announced that half a million families in Metro Manila would be relocated and would receive two hectares of farm land each under his administration’s program for informal settlers.

Inventories of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), according to President Aquino, show “we can lend, lease or give two hectares of land per indigent family provided they cultivate agricultural crops, develop and earn from the land they will live on.’’

Pangilinan said the government plan should be extended to those who are jobless and unemployed.

He said he would meet with Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes to discuss the plan which some suggested should include international financing and technical help to make it work.

Help should come in the form of farm implements, water supply, housing, seedlings, food supply for the new settlers.

Pangilinan said he has made the matter of food security and elevating the status of farmers and fisherfolk top priorities in his work as senator in the current 15th Congress.

He said he and Alcala have convened the Agricultural and Fisheries 2025 whose goal is to craft a long-term program that would address issues hounding the agricultural and fisheries sector.

“Nearly three million are jobless. Our farmers’ average age is 57. We need to encourage a new generation of Filipinos to go into farming and agri-business,’’ Pangilinan said.

He said that the Aquino plan, once fine-tuned, would create a new breed of farmers and would inject new blood to the farming sector long lethargic and its full potential unrealized.

“We need to create a core of young people and turn them into ‘farm-treneurs’ willing to go into farming and agri-business and boost rural development and create jobs in the agriculture and fisheries sector. Instead of leaving the country to be employed abroad, we should encourage the jobless and unemployed to leave the urban centers and go into farming in the rural areas,’’ he said.

“At an average age of 57, our farmers are an endangered species needing immediate government intervention. When we lose our farmers to call centers or jobs overseas, we lose our capacity to secure our food requirements,’’ he said.


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