Bigger DA budget, creation of fisheries dep’t pushed
Various organizations of farmers, fisherfolk, agribusiness owners and members of the academe have come together to release a position paper that is meant to help “reverse” the current state of the agriculture industry.
The Bayanihan sa Agrikultura, Federation of Free Farmers, Alyansa Agrikultura, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food and the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines laid out 12 recommendations that, according to them, were keys to achieving food security, job creation, poverty eradication and balanced rural-urban development.
The call was made amid the rising cost of oil and fertilizers that continued to hound farmers and fishers, the worsening effects of climate change on food production and the increasing food prices.
“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,” the groups said in the position paper.
“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,” they added.
The groups’ recommendations included the doubling of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) annual budget and the allocation of substantial funding across agricultural commodities other than rice.
They also proposed the creation of a Land Bank subsidiary that would be dedicated to lending to small farmers and fishers.
They urged lawmakers to create a Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources to give importance to the fisheries sector. They said the government must also assert the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, considered a major source of marine fish supply.
The groups were also demanding a genuine representation of stakeholders in consultation meetings and policy-making, adding that sectoral appointees to agriculture-related government boards, councils and committees must have a proven track record of service.
A National Land and Water Use Law is also urgently needed, the groups said, as a means to conserve and regenerate the country’s soil, water, biodiversity and other natural resources to achieve food security.
The position paper stressed the importance of prioritizing the country’s own food production systems and that “importation must be a last resort.” “Sustainability of production is threatened by land conversion, degradation of the natural resources base and climate change. The result is widespread poverty. Three out of every four poor Filipinos are in rural areas [where there are] limited number and quality of job opportunities,” it said.
The agriculture industry continues to be marred with systemic challenges despite its potential to become one of the most lucrative sectors in the country.
Agricultural support services to stakeholders remain inadequate, there is limited processing of raw produce that could be a profitable venture for stakeholders, and the marketing and movement of products continue to be sloppy, the groups said.