THE WAY FORWARD │ Level Up Philippine Agriculture!

Lawmakers to craft more agri-revitalizing bills

Author: DA Communications Group | 24 May 2021

The country’s legislators commit to craft more laws to boost the competitiveness of the agriculture and fishery sector, and continuously empower farmers and fisherfolk.

They made the commitment at the recently concluded two-day 2021 National Food Security Summit (NFSS), conducted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) that attracted a total of 15,000 participants, mostly virtually during the plenary sessions and 11 industry workshop discussions.

Senators Cynthia A. Villar and Francis N. Pangilinan and Congressmen Wilfrido Mark Enverga and Leo Rafael Cueva shared their respective legislative agenda aimed at modernizing and industrializing Philippine agriculture and fishery sector, benefitting more agricultural stakeholders and ensuring food security amid the pandemic and beyond.

“We sincerely thank our legislators and top local chief executives for sharing their valuable time and counsel so we can craft an updated national food security plan under the new normal,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar, adding that the DA family will continue to partner strongly with Congress and local government units to attain the Duterte administration’s vision of a food-secure and resilient Philippines teeming with empowered and prosperous farmers and fisherfolk.

The four legislators, who participated virtually, cited recent laws that benefited the sector, namely the: Republic Act (RA) 11524, which creates the coconut farmers and industry trust fund, providing for its management and utilization; RA 11511, which amends the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010; RA 11321 or the “Sagip Saka Act,” which institutionalizes and incentivizes direct food purchases from farmers and fishers and other food growers by government; and RA 11203 or the Rice Tarrification Law (RTL) that removes quantitative restrictions (QRs) on imported rice, making it affordable, and allots yearly P10-billion rice competitiveness enhance fund (RCEF) for six years.

To sustain this momentum, the lawmakers said they are working on several legislative measures that will boost the competitiveness of the country’s poultry, swine, cacao, bamboo, abaca, mango, coffee, corn, sugarcane, and pili.

They said they will also craft respective bills to provide support for young farmers and fisherfolk; establish an agriculture information system; amend the Magna Carta of small farmers; support the livestock industry through the Livestock and Poultry Feeds Act; and Free Weather Index-Based Agriculture Insurance Act.

Senator Villar—chairperson of the Senate committee on food and agriculture, and main author of the RTL—said farmers and fisherfolk must be ensured of access to government support that is relevant to their growth.

“We should ensure a continued increase in the sustainability of all agricultural sub-sectors, build adaptive capacity to address climate change, and increase support to our farmers, fisherfolk, and livestock raisers through positive developmental programs that would have favorable impact on their lives,” she said.

She also noted the need for “collective actions based on the values of solidarity and cooperation” in implementing an action plan.

Senator Villar commended and cited as example the organizers of community pantries, while encouraging them to also help farmers by directly buying their produce.

For his part, Senator Pangilinan, principal author of Sagip Sakap Act, said that aside from addressing immediate concerns brought about by the pandemic, the Senate maintains its sights on introducing structural changes for the long-term sustainability of the sector.

“Pandemic or not, we have to work toward food security and food self-sufficiency. Ensuring adequate and healthy food on every Filipino’s table is the best way to fight the diseases. But for us to secure our food, we must first secure our farmers and fisherfolk,” he said.

“We in Congress are also doing everything possible to address the difficulties faced by our people, especially our farmers and fisherfolk,” said Cong. Enverga, chair of the House of Representative (HOR) committee on agriculture and food.

He said Congress continues to look for solutions to cushion the impact of the pandemic, including the funding for the proposed “Bayanihan III” under House Bill No. 8628, which is currently being considered. He said they will prioritize the needs of the agriculture sector, particularly the hog industry as it continues to suffer due to the African Swine Fever (ASF).

For his part, Cong. Cueva, chair of the HOR committee on aquaculture and fisheries resources, highlighted the need to hasten the development of the country’s aquaculture sub-sector.

“We should consider that in a few decades, almost 80 percent of the fish supply of the world will come from aquaculture. By then, we should have established a strong aquaculture sector to guarantee that we could produce enough fish for our people,” said Cong. Cueva, adding that this is an urgent need to establish more multi-species hatcheries and aquaculture centers nationwide.

Further, he said they will also propose several legislative measures that include: the improvement, rehabilitation and modernization of the Navotas and Sangali (Zamboanga) fish ports; and implementation of aquaculture entrepreneurship through the Aqua-Negosyo Program. ### (DA-ATI and DA StratComms)

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