April 20, 2012
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Chairman of the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Social Justice and Rural Development, points out that in light of the country’s current socio-economic climate, both the government and the private sector should look to increasing investments in Philippine agriculture and fisheries in order to create more jobs, secure food supply, and help combat poverty in the countryside.
The lawmaker, who is also co-chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries (COCAFM), makes the call following the release of the latest Pulse Asia survey which shows that among the “leading urgent national concerns” are “controlling inflation and addressing the low pay of workers”, followed by “fighting corruption in government, creating more jobs, and reducing poverty.”
“We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: there are still plenty of untapped opportunities in the countryside that will allow us to solve the problem of poverty, hunger, rising prices, and food security. The Philippines is still largely an agricultural nation, and if we channel the right mindset and resources onto this sector, we’ll be able to capitalize on existing opportunities in both domestic and foreign markets.”
Pangilinan cites “high-growth areas” such as in coffee, cacao, corn, and other high-value crops such as tomatoes, string beans, and onions. He also cites the example of the Kalasag Onion Farmers Cooperative in Nueva Ecija, which was able to quadruple its earnings in four years thanks to investments in agriculture and getting support from stakeholders, including the private sector and potential buyers.
“With the right investments and the right support structure in place, we can create more opportunities for our people to earn a decent living without leaving the country. In the same vein, upping the incomes of our farmers and fisherfolk means making agriculture and fisheries viable and attractive again so that we can improve food production and achieve food security.”
“Kabit-kabit ho lahat ‘yan,” Pangilinan points out. “Pagka-gumanda ang kita ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda, malaki ang epekto nito sa ating ekonomiya. Lahat tayo apektado. Lahat tayo makakakain, lahat tayo aasenso.”
In January 2012, Pangilinan launched Sagip Saka, an advocacy that aims to make modern agriculture sustainable and profitable by mobilizing stakeholders and giving agricultural communities greater access to capital, markets, technology, infrastructure, and other interventions. One hundred million has been earmarked for 23 pilot communities and projects from all over the country.
“We’re working to change the game for agriculture through Sagip Saka, but there’s much more to be done. If we exert a concerted effort to revitalize Philippine agriculture, we’ll be able to see a turnaround in both the short term and the long term.”
Pangilinan concludes, “Our people are crying out for solutions. Addressing the opportunities in the countryside is one of them.”