Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 27, 2011
MANILA, Philippines—The January 2011 edition of National Geographic talked about how the world will change when global population hits an estimated 7 billion. And according to the UN Population Division, this number will be reached by the end of this year.
National Geographic’s Robert Punzig writes: “With population growing by about 80 million each year, it is hard not to be alarmed. Right now on Earth, water tables are falling, soil is eroding, glaciers are melting and fish stocks are vanishing. Close to a billion people go hungry each day.”
What does this mean for us Filipinos?
The Social Weather Station (SWS) reports that we have reached unprecedented hunger levels. With less water, less fertile soil, less fish and climate change, we will be in deep trouble if we remain complacent.
It is in this context that we welcome the holding of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries 2025 Conference, which was announced by Senator Francis Pangilinan last January 17.
Pangilinan chairs the Senate agriculture committee. He also co-chairs with Representative Mark Mendoza the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (Cocafm).
How then can PAF 2025 address the challenges in our changing world?
Alyansa Agrikultura participated actively in the crafting of the National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) six-year medium-term development plan (MTDP). However, Alyansa believes that the vision and general direction for agricultural development should go beyond a president’s six-year term in order to achieve stability, continuity and effectiveness.
Thus, it fully supports the 15-year perspective of PAF 2025.
Last month, a small group led by Senator Pangilinan met to discuss possible paradigm shifts. The group included former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, former Economic Planning Secretary Cielito Habito, DA officials and Alyansa Agrikultura leaders.
The group came up with an initial draft of five goals and eight strategies.
This draft is a starting discussion point for proposed changes and improvements during the PAF 2025 Conference.
Specific priority doable programs will then be recommended. This will hopefully optimize the use of the P38-billion DA budget this year.
Instead of the DA just focusing on traditional targets such as rice and corn production levels, the DA can also prioritize policies and programs to achieve the following five goals.
Goal 1—Increase farmer and fisherfolk incomes
We must not only measure production levels, but also incomes. We must expand agriculture extension work to include providing the best technology, as well as promoting supplemental income-generating activities. Examples include food processing and additional livelihood opportunities (e.g., beekeeping, dairy cow raising).
Goal 2—Increase private and public agriculture and fisheries investments
A concrete plan and timetable must be formulated to secure the investments needed to achieve our targets. Options such as investment missions, public-private partnership campaigns with strict guidelines to prevent abuse, and the optimal use of Land Bank and other funds must be launched this year.
Goal 3—Restore agriculture and fisheries trade surplus
Our country should regain its status as a food exporter, not an importer. We should stop relying on the convenience of imports, and instead provide the required support services for our agriculture to be globally competitive. We should have a program to stop the rampant smuggling that is killing agriculture.
Goal 4—Increase jobs in the agri-business production supply chain
We should optimize the value of our agricultural products through innovations in the supply chain. This includes vertical and horizontal integration of systems from seed to shelf, and adding value through post-harvest systems and food processing.
Goal 5—Increase food security
We should promote the optimal combination of food staples that will meet our basic nutritional requirements. We should then formulate master plans to make these adequate and accessible for our people. This includes having climate change contingency plans to ensure our food security.
The PAF 2025 is barely two weeks away. If you have suggestions regarding the initial five goals as well as priority programs to achieve these goals, please send them to the Cocafm c/o the Philippine Senate. You can also e-mail these to [email protected], which we can then forward to Cocafm. Through our joint efforts, the journey to PAF 2025 can start with the correct first steps.
(The author is chairman of Agriwatch, former secretary for presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary for agriculture, and trade and industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112.)
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