THE WAY FORWARD │ Level Up Philippine Agriculture!

Strong partnership with legislative leaders key to smooth implementation of agri programs

Author: DA Communications Group | 17 June 2021

The Department of Agriculture (DA) says its solid partnership with the leadership of both houses of Congress and relevant committees is vital for the continued smooth implementation of flagship farm-fishery programs to realize the Duterte administration’s goal of a food-secure and resilient Philippine agriculture with empowered and prosperous farmers and fisherfolk.

“With the support of Congress — particularly Representative Wilfrido Mark Enverga and Senator Cynthia Villar, respective chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, at the House of Representatives and Senate — we believe that we can achieve our goal for an efficient and industrialized farming sector and increase its contribution to the country’s economic recovery efforts,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

“Our strengthened collaboration focuses on the vigorous implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTĹ) or Republic Act 11203, authored by Senator Villar. The RTL calls for the implementation of the six-year Rice Competitiveness Enhance Fund (RCEF) program that entails providing rice farmers farm machinery, inbred rice seeds, credit, and trainings,” the DA chief added.

Other initiatives cover the implementation of the national soil health program, promotion of agri-tourism and organic agriculture, and establishment of farmers’ field schools, among others.

“These areas of cooperation with Congress complement our OneDA reform agenda, which is anchored on four major pillars — consolidation, modernization, industrialization, and professionalization,” Secretary Dar said.

To further improve the development of the rice sector, the DA chief expressed full support for the approval of the twin legislations which seek to tap for cash aid the excess of P10 billion collected from tariffs on rice imports.

Senator Villar initiated the Senate Bill No. 1927 which aims to provide cash aid to farmers owning one hectare or less of rice land until 2024. The bill has passed the Senate in December 2020, with all senators voting in favor of the proposed legislation. When enacted, it will be known as the “Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers Act of 2020.”

The counterpart measure House Bill 8964 before the House committees on appropriations and agriculture has been approved last month, and will be submitted to all Congressional members for consideration, prior to approval.

The DA is preparing proposed amendments to the measures, including increasing its coverage to maximize the number of beneficiaries, said Secretary Dar.

Related to said legislation, he has tasked the entire OneDA Family to work on the efficient delivery of RCEF components like world-class farm machinery and high quality inbred seeds.

The DA chief also expressed his support to proposals made by Senator Villar to promote farm schools all over the country, being the main author of RA 10816 or the “Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016,” that encourages the transformation of productive, model farms into tourism and learning sites. Further, the RTL also mandates a special role for farm schools as venues of extension services programs.

The farm schools — once accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) or by the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) — can avail of government support and scholarship grants as a learning site.

To date, there are 2,367 accredited farm schools that serve as learning sites for farmers and agriculture enthusiasts, who are given the opportunity to train for free on the use of modern farming technologies.

The DA has also started efforts to implement the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), a key feature in the Republic Act No. 11511 — which amended RA 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.

The PGS is a locally-focused quality assurance system that certifies producers and farmers as actual and active organic agriculture practitioners and can serve as an alternative to third-party certification.

“RA 11511 opened opportunities for our small farmers and fisherfolk who want a sustainable and environment-friendly organic practice through PGS,” Secretary Dar said.

“We remain motivated to continue working with Congress, which is one of our strongest partners in the OneDA Family. The strong bond we have cultivated is vital to the development of agriculture, particularly now that the continuing crisis has highlighted the need to bolster food security and improve our food systems,” he concluded. ### (DA StratComms)

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