Party-list reps name top 3 agri problems

ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Representatives of party-lists working for the agriculture sector named the top three problems they aim to solve if they get elected.

Speaking on ANC's "Beyond Politics," Rep. Rico Geron of Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (AGAP), Rep. Agapito Guanlao of Butil Party-list, and Roderico Bioco of Kamais Party-list shared the problems commonly affecting those in the agriculture sector.

For Guanlao, the government should increase the quick response fund for farmers from P500 million to P5 billion.

"Agriculture is very vulnerable in climate change, and even rural areas. I already proposed a budgetary resolution in Congress to increase the quick response fund to P5 billion. Ako rin 'yung nagpanukala ng quick response fund, ang inilagay, P500 million. But, magkano lang ito, kaliit ng P500 million for agricultural sector. This should be increased to P5 billion and will really fund pre- and post-disaster response."

He also believes that agriculture should be looked at from the point of view of farmers, and farmers should be the focus of agricultural reforms.

"Kaya sabi ko, huwag lang tingnan 'yung agrikultura, tingnan 'yung pokus natin, 'yung magsasaka. Kailangan ang focus natin, ang magsasaka. Eh ito na ang nangyari. So mukhang 'yung programa natin, at 'yung paghahanda natin, hindi naka-focus doon sa kailangan talaga. Kailangan 'yung magsasaka ang focus natin," Guanlao said.

"Katulad nga nung nangyari sa Kidapawan. Alam mo, may programa tayo sa El Niño, mitigation program, like magbigay ng binhi, magbigay ng patubig, ayusin 'yung mga imprastraktura, technology training, pero 'yung pagbibigay ng subsidiya sa pagkain ng magsasaka, hindi kasama 'yun. So kailangan siguro, holistic 'yung approach," he added.

Identify farmers, farm workers

Bioco, on the other hand, believes it is high time to distinguish farmers from farm workers so as to address their problems better.

"One of the basic issue na problema ng gobyerno natin, hindi natin alam kung sino ang magsasaka, at sino ang manggagawa sa sakahan. Kung may araro ka, akala ng gobyerno, farmer ka na," he said.

He also believes that being able to distinguish between the two categories can help the government in providing them with aid that fits their needs.

"Now, this is very critical na understanding ano, kasi in times of crisis, like itong El Niño ngayon, itong drought ngayon, 'yung mga farmers, kahit papaano, may mga lupa, nakakautang doon sa mga financiers para lang makatawid dito sa gutom. Pero 'yung mga farm workers na walang mga lupa, saan sila tatakbo? So tatakbo sila sa gobyerno," Bioco said.

"If there is a critical understanding, then 'yung release ng rice o 'yung problema ng mga farm workers, that should have been addressed properly by DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). Ang DA (Department of Agriculture) is the farmer. Farmers should take care of his farm workers but in times of crisis, he cannot take care of his farmers. They have to go to the government. Ang mga farmers, hindi na sila hihintayin ng gobyerno," he added.

According to Bioco, farm workers need more aid from the government, as farmers, more often than not, have more options.

"'Yung farm workers, we have to know them, we have to identify them from the farmers kasi andun sila sa baba, and that's a DSWD issue. Ang farmers, kahit papano, nakakaangat ng konti, and that's a DA issue," he said.

"If we want to move up the farm workers to the level of farmers, then that's a DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) issue, that's a tenancy issue and a support issue also that is different from what DA is doing," Bioco added.

Aging farmers

For Geron, the government should also be able to address the issue of aging farmers, as it would be impossible for a country like the Philippines to survive without them.

"Farmers are aging. Ang mga kabataan ay hindi interesado sa farming, maybe because their parents are encouraging them not to be farmers. Actually, ang sinasabi nila eh mag-aral kang mabuti at nang hindi ka matulad sa akin para maging isang farmer," he said.

"Hindi maaring mawala ang mga farmer sa ating lipunan dahil diyan lang tayo makatitiyak sa ating tinatawag na food security," Geron added.

He added that the government should also focus on encouraging the younger generation to venture into farming by making it more financially stable.

"Kaya talagang ang focus ng gobyerno ay dapat tiyakin na ang pagsasaka ay kikita upang maging attractive yan kahit sa kabataan, and probably develop some programs kung paanong itong mga youth ay ma-encourage na maging farmer," Geron said.

"Sapagkat kung ating susuriin, doon sa mga umuunlad ang buhay na mga farmers, sila 'yung mga farmer na nakapag-aral. Kaya kung mag-iinvest ang ating pamahalaan, ang DA, for example, ng scholarship para sa ating kabataan to become farmers, I think that would be a very sustainable program," he also said.

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