Sen. Kiko Pangilinan’s Keynote Speech at the Sagip Saka launching (English version)

January 30, 2012
Alexander Fernandez, 61, a rice farmer from Brgy. Soledad, Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija, tells Sen. Kiko Pangilinan of his hardships in food-producing.
Alexander Fernandez, 61, a rice farmer from Brgy. Soledad, Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija, tells Sen. Kiko Pangilinan of his hardships in food-producing.

Sen. Kiko Pangilinan’s Keynote Speech
(English version)
January 27, 2012 Kalayaan Hall, Club Filipino, Greenhill, San Juan

A good morning to everyone. Indeed, what a great morning today is because we are all gathered here today to breathe new life into agriculture and to give critical support to our farmers and fisherfolk who are this country’s backbone and lifeline. Without our farmers and fishermen, we will not be able to produce the food that we need to survive. Without our farmers and fishermen, we will not be able to support our economy through agricultural exports. Without our farmers and fishermen, the Philippines will be nothing more than an import-oriented economy, dependent on the produce and on the products of the rest of the world.

But the truth is that we ARE an agricultural nation, we ARE an agricultural economy, and it is high time that we bring back the primacy and the importance of our farmers and fisherfolk. Over 60 percent of our labor force is directly or indirectly employed by agriculture, and nearly half of our GDP comes from agriculture and agri-industries and enterprises.

It is unthinkable that, over the last 30 years, growth in this sector has been stuck at just over two percent. It’s not even enough to cover our annual population growth. Kaya naman po pala hindi tayo umaasenso. Mahigit sa kalahati ng ating ekonomiya ay hindi umuusad at tila napabayaan na nitong mga nakaraang dekada. Clearly agriculture has been neglected for decades. This explains why we continue to lag behind while our neighbors like Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand have zoomed past us. They focused on agriculture modernization and on improving the quality of life of their farmers and fisherfolk. Past administrations, on the other hand, made great public pronouncements yet failed miserably in effectively implementing our agriculture programs.

This is why, today, I am very proud to say that all our joint efforts have encouraged the national government to support agriculture. Last year, we convened the Agriculture and Fisheries 2025 (AF2025), a multi-stakeholder advocacy that dared to envision a new future and clear roadmap for agriculture. Thanks to AF2025 pushing the agriculture agenda, in 2012 we saw a 52% increase in the budget appropriation for agriculture. And for the first time in decades, our Agriculture department, headed by Sec. Prosy Alcala, is now focused not only on improving the productivity and yield of our farms and fishpens but also on increasing the incomes and improving quality of life of our agricultural workers. Indeed, the time for agriculture has come again, and now our challenge is to consolidate all our gains and expand the good work that we’ve already started. Our farmers, our fisherfolk, and the rest of our nation deserve nothing less.

Today represents a new age in agriculture and a departure from the old ways of doing things. Tapos na po ang “dating gawi”. Where there used to be a lack of regard and concern for agriculture, we now see a coming together of stakeholders to “save agriculture” and push it forward on the national agenda. Where there used to be lack of coordination and communication, we now see greater efforts to work more closely together and achieve results.

At the core of our efforts is SAGIP SAKA, our advocacy that aims to achieve sustainable modern agriculture and food security by transforming agricultural communities to reach their full potential, improving farmers’ and fishers’ quality of life, and bridging gaps through public-private partnerships. The seven cornerstones of Sagip Saka are: (1) providing access to investments and credit, (2) opening access to market, (3) rolling out infrastructure, (4) strengthening research and development, (5) organizing farmer communities and cooperatives, (6) ensuring the quality and consistency of supply, (7) mitigating the risks brought about by climate change. At present, we are investing P100 million from our Priority Assistance Development Fund to pilot 25 agricultural communities within the next year. With the support of more sectors in government and the private sector, we hope to gain more support for this program and replicate this nationwide.
We would then like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have also <“tumaya”> in this program and have allocated resources to make this program fly. We would like to recognize the Department of Agriculture for allocating P20 million for the Ifugao Rice Terraces, the local government of Cavite for allocating P5 million for our Cavite pilot communities, and the Bohol local government for allocating P4 million for our Bohol pilot communities. We call on the rest of the local governments to support this program and support the farmers and the fisherfolk who are the lifeblood of our communities.

We would also like to share that we are now looking into the “new and improved” ACEF, the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, as a possible source of grants, scholarships, and funding support for other Sagip Saka communities and programs. Even our approach to ACEF will represent a departure from the old ways of doing things. Where there used to be a lack of transparency and participation, there will now be greater transparency, greater collaboration, and a greater effort to ensure that the funds will go to the right places.

Sagip Saka is not a one-shot deal because our focus is to make the program sustainable so that we can help more agriculture and fisheries workers and communities in the coming years. Neither is this charity or a dole-out because every Sagip Saka community has gone through a thorough screening process, and we have a criteria for selecting our beneficiaries. We have ensured that for every Sagip Saka community, there is the presence of strong and effective partnerships between and among at least two of our five pillars: the Department of Agriculture and other government agencies, the business sector, farmers and fishers cooperatives, civil society organizations and micro-finance institutions, and local government units.

At its core, Sagip Saka is a major collaborative effort that relies on the support and the active participation of our different pillars. We would not have been able to do this without the Department of Agriculture and our other national government agencies, just as we would not have been able to do this without our private sector partners, our NGO partners, our farmers and fishers cooperatives, and our LGUs. The success of Sagip Saka depends on this interconnected “ecosystem” and on our ability to innovate and deliver creative solutions.

But the real heart of Sagip Saka is the drive to bring farmers and fisherfolk out of poverty and to give them the respect that their professions so deserve, with the belief that empowering our agricultural sector with financial stability and disposable income will also make a huge impact on our economy. When this 60% of our labor force can afford to live better lives, they will spend more for food, for housing, for the education of their children, for some basic necessities and even some luxuries. Imagine the impact of that on consumption and spending. Imagine how much more money will flow around and pave the way for the creation of more jobs? The possibilities are truly tremendous.

Bakit ho sa Thailand, ang mga magsasaka ay naka-4 x 4? Thailand has the highest number of 4 x 4 vehicles purchased throughout the world, because this is the vehicle of choice of the farmer. Bakit sa atin, ni hindi makabili ng traktor ang ating mga magsasaka? We need to wake up to the reality that we still are, by and large, an agricultural economy. Unless we address the obstacles that hinder the boom in agriculture and fisheries, we will be deluding ourselves into thinking that we can reach developed nation status in a decade and a half.

We therefore need to look at the challenges of agriculture from new lenses, with new mindsets and perspectives, with a new vision in mind. We must be willing to dare. We must be willing to tackle risks. To do things differently. We need social innovation and a revolution in agriculture in order to move forward. Sagip Saka IS precisely this social innovation, and we hope that you can continue supporting this advocacy as we roll it out to more communities around the Philippines.
We are only just beginning, and the best for agriculture and fisheries in the Philippines is yet to come.

Thank you and good morning.