Historic agriculture people power
Last Oct. 27, Federation of Free Farmers chair Leonardo Montemayor said: “I consider historic the adoption of this agriculture position. It groups together for the first time the thinking of farmers, fishers and rural development organizations (BSA, FFF, and AA); agribusiness (PCAFI), and the academe/science community (CAMP).
Montemayor is referring to the document “Transform Agriculture for Food Security, Job Creation, and Balanced Growth.” It has been given to all the presidential candidates to respond to in the forthcoming Halalan sa Agrikultura 2022. This will be a forum where each presidential candidate will speak on a separate day exclusively about agriculture. It will have extensive nationwide coverage through all traditional and social media to inform our citizens of our serious agriculture situation today.
In previous elections, the presidential candidates, in general, did not give agriculture a high priority. Consequently, their agriculture programs fell short, lacking focus and detail. As an indication, over a nine-year period, agriculture increased by only 1.6 percent compared to industry’s 6.8 percent.
With the new agriculture people power, this will no longer be the case. There are 12 specific recommendations in this document which the presidentiables will study and give their positions, plans and programs for. Which agriculture sectors agreed to these 12 recommendations? These are divided into three categories, with the organizations identified and their founding years:
Farmers and fisherfolk: a) Federation of Free Farmers (FFF-1953), a farmer-led nationwide organization with a 68-year track record of commendable service to small farmers. It is led by Leonardo Montemayor; b) Alyansa Agrikultura (AA-2003), a coalition of farmers and fisherfolk with special focus on economic upliftment and social justice for small stakeholders, led by chair Arsenio Tanchuling and executive vice president Elias Jose. Its vice presidents for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are heads of national major commodity federations, and c) Bayanihan sa Agrikultura (BSA-2021), a grouping of 99 agriculture-related NGOs (nongovernmental organization) and POs which signed a joint manifesto identifying today’s agriculture main problems and recommendations. Their coordinator is Hazel Tanchuling, Rice Action Watch executive director.
Agribusiness: Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI-1999), a business grouping with 44 agriculture commodity champions. It’s president is Daniel Fausto, cited Entrepreneur of the Year by the Department of Agriculture.
Science and academe: Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP-2004), an organization of academicians and scientists from the entire Philippines. It’s chair is National Scientist Emil Javier, former University of the Philippines president and Minister of Science and Technology.
The documents’ main premise is stated in its first two paragraphs:
“A major development challenge facing the next government is transforming Philippine agriculture into an engine of economic growth, a generator of jobs, a social and economic stabilizer in the countryside, and the cornerstone for the country’s food security. Before COVID-19, the sector had been stagnating. Under the pandemic, agriculture has been weakened further by transport and logistical breakdowns, aimless import liberalization, lack of health facilities to contain the virus spread and poor distribution of amelioration assistance to the rural masses.
“We demand a reversal of this situation. Agriculture can and should play a leading role in national economic recovery and, more importantly, in ensuring social and economic development for all. To achieve this, urgent policy reforms must be institutionalized and implemented with decisiveness.”
Two of the 12 recommendations are:
– Given the immense area and economic potential of our territorial and inland waters, a Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources should be created. Moreover, the government must assert our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. – Genuine representation and involvement of farmers, fishers and other stakeholders must be institutionalized in all levels of planning and monitoring. Sectoral appointees to government agri-fisheries boards, councils and committees must have a proven track record of service.
With this historic agriculture people power that started, quo vadis, agriculture?
The author is Agriwatch chair, former Secretary of Presidential programs and projects and former undersecretary of DA and DTI. Contact is [email protected]
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