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Not too late

For some recommendations contained in a position paper approved by leaders from different agriculture-related sectors, it is not too late for the current administration to take action. These are the 12 reform recommendations listed in “Transform Agriculture for Food Security, Job Creation and Balanced Growth.”

Never have we seen leaders from these sectors agreeing unanimously on key actions that must be taken to get us out of our dismal agriculture situation. These sectors, the concerned groups and their founding dates are:

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1. Farmers and fisherfolk- Federation of Free Farmers (FFF-1953)

2. Agribusiness–Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI-1953)

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3. Science and academe-Coalition For Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP-2004)

4. Agriculture alliances-Alyansa Agrikultura (AA-2003)

5. Nongovernment organizations–Bayan sa Agrikultura (BSA-2021)

The 12 recommendations have been submitted to the presidentiables for their positions. But it is not too late for the current administration’s government officials to take action on these before its term is over. We have seen some movement in this direction. Here are the recommendations:

Role: Agriculture and fisheries should be recognized as the main guarantor of food security and foundation for economic recovery. Farmers and fishers should be treated as saviors and lead actors, not as mendicants. Budget: Agri-fisheries deserves adequate, sustained and effectively-used funding. Its budget should at least be doubled and its allocation optimized.

Domestic vs. import: Emphasis must be on self-reliance in domestic production, farmers’ productivity, profitability and protection from pandemics, calamities and climate change events. The government should implement safeguards to protect local producers from serious market disruptions, unfair trade practices and smuggling. Importation must be a last resort, and benefits therefrom should be shared among producers and consumers. The Rice Tariffication Law must be reviewed and amended.

Allocation: Substantial and fairly allocated support should be accorded to commodities other than rice—coconut, corn, high-value crops, fish, poultry and livestock. Tariff collections must be earmarked for sectors affected by imported goods.

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Clustering and credit: To ensure producers’ livelihood and higher incomes, the Department of Agriculture (DA) should lead the shift from monocropping to localized, diversified, sustainable production systems and cluster/cooperative/community-based approaches in production, value-adding and marketing. A more effective rural credit and crop insurance program must be emplaced, including the creation of a Land Bank subsidiary dedicated to lending to small farmers and fishers. Mechanization, digital technology and other innovations should be fast-tracked.Value chain and instrumentation system: More investments are necessary in rural, market, postharvest and agri-fisheries processing infrastructure to curb postproduction losses, cut marketing expenses, enhance producers’ access to alternative outlets for their products and reduce the cost of food to consumers.

Fisheries: Given the immense area and economic potential of our territorial and inland waters, a Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources should be created. The government must assert our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, a major source of marine fish supply.

LGU emphasis: The DA and other agencies should establish a partnership—based on shared priorities, responsibilities and resources—with local government units (LGUs) that will put more resources and efforts into agriculture and fisheries. Upgrading LGUs’ capacity to provide agricultural support services must be prioritized.

Stakeholder participation: Genuine representation and involvement of farmers, fishers and other stakeholders must be institutionalized at all levels of planning and monitoring. Sectoral appointees to government agri-fisheries boards, councils and committees must have a proven track record of service.

Women empowerment: Women have limited participation in areas like fisheries production, agricultural services and equipment/facilities. Equity, productivity and justice call for a bigger women’s empowerment program in agri-fisheries. The youth should also be assisted to go into the sector.

Agrarian reform with support service: As mandated by the Constitution, the agrarian reform and support services program in private agricultural and public lands must be fully implemented.

Land and water use: A National Land and Water Use Law is urgently needed—along with interagency and citizens’ mobilization programs—to conserve and regenerate our soil, water, biodiversity and other natural resources and to guarantee food security for all. To ensure a unified direction, the National Irrigation Administration should be placed under the DA’s supervision.

Examples of new action in the right direction are the executive branch’s restoration of and stakeholder participation in certain bodies it abolished, and the legislative branch’s increase in the agriculture budget that the executive branch had proposed. The current government officials should continue action in this direction, before a new president hopefully implements the 12 recommendations fully during the next term.

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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TAGS: Food Security, griculture-related sectors
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