Pangilinan to allot part of pork barrel funds for agri livelihood

January 17, 2011

Marianne V. Go
The Philippine Star
January 17, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Francisco Pangilinan is willing to allocate a portion of his pork barrel to fund community-based agricultural livelihood projects, even as he assured that he would work for the restoration of the Department of Agriculture’s budget next year if the DA is able to prove that it can efficiently work with its current reduced allocation.

In a press briefing, Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, acknowledged the need to provide additional funds, investments and credit to the agricultural sector in the face of growing global concern about food production.

Pangilinan, in fact, is agreeable to allowing more foreign investments in agricultural production but on the condition that such production must also be available for domestic consumption and not completely exported.

Pangilinan noted that while recent events such as the flooding in Australia and increasing food demand from China and India are of concern, the Philippines itself is not facing any immediate food crisis.

The concern, like most other countries, Pangilinan observed, is of continuing access since neighbors like Indonesia and China, which used to produce and export rice, are also now going to import rice.

Pangilinan expressed confidence though that the DA, under the leadership of Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, is addressing the need to increase and ensure food production.

For Pangilinan, the major areas of concerns in Philippine agriculture include raising the income of farmers, increasing infrastructure, improving or building up the capacity of farmers, organizing farmers and fisherfolk, providing market information and linkage, providing access to credit and increasing investments into the sector.

Pangilinan echoed a growing global concern that farmers are aging and that less and less are engaging in farming or willing to till the land.

Agriculture, Pangilinan acknowledged, is a backbone of economic activity.

The youth, he noted, are not willing to become farmers because of the low income.

As such, Pangilinan said, Government must ensure that the farming/agricultural sector become more profitable to encourage the youth to go to the agricultural sector.

Pangilinan said the DA should help capacitate farmers in terms of teaching them the latest technologies and methodologies.

However, Pangilinan does not support the proposal of the DA to reverse the devolution of agricultural extension workers from the control of Local Government Units and back to the direct control of the DA.

Pangilinan, instead, prefers to that LGUs retain direct control of the agricultural extension workers with the DA providing more funds and assistance to the LGUs for agri extension work.

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