Philippines needs to move away from 'subsistence farming': Pangilinan

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 14 2022 10:30 AM | Updated as of Jun 14 2022 11:58 AM

Farmers start to plant rice at a field in Barangay Simamla, Virac, Catanduanes on November 7, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Farmers start to plant rice at a field in Barangay Simamla, Virac, Catanduanes on November 7, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippines needs to move away from subsistence farming as it faces a potential food crisis due to shortages brought on by the war in Ukraine, Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said Tuesday.

The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) earlier warned of a possible food crisis this year after several countries stopped exporting wheat to the Philippines. 

Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Pangilinan said the Philippines must move away from subsistence agriculture in which nearly all of the crops or livestock raised are used to maintain the farmer and the farmer's family, without any surplus. 

Instead, Philippine agriculture must move towards farm enterprise management and development so farmers' income, capacity and productivity will increase. 

He cited the Sagip Saka Act which allows government to buy directly from farmers without public bidding at the right price.

"It needs to be implemented in full. Nung (In) 2020, about 400 LGUs participate din this program and about P3 billion worth purchased in this project," he said.

The senator echoed advice from PCAFI and the present agriculture and agrarian reform chiefs for government to increase the Department of Agriculture's budget. 

This, after President-elect Bongbong Marcos earlier said he would like to bring down the price of rice to P20 per kilo.

"Put your money where your mouth is...If you wanna look at the big picture, if you combine agri and irrigation, it’s about P115 billion total annually. That's a little over 2 percent of the entire budget," he said. 

"Vietnam is doing 6 percent of the national budget. Thailand is doing about 4 percent so double. Dun pa lang (Just for that), irrigation appropriations, kulang (we're lacking). The same with all other items in DA (Department of Agriculture) budget in terms of support."

He also questioned government's "propensity" to rely on importation, saying this should only be a stop-gap measure.

"This propensity for importation really affects our local production. Ang baboy ngayon P390 ang pork liempo. Nasaan 'yung mga import na sinasabi nilang magbababa ng presyo? Most likely yan hino-hoard at nilalabas unti-unti," he said.

(The price of pork right now is P390 for pork liempo. Where are the imports they said would bring down the price? Most likely it's hoarded and being brought out gradually.)

"I think number 1 is enforcement, the DA and BOC and the DOF should be front and center in ensuring there are no sacred cows in terms of bringing in these imports... Pag nakita ng private sector na seryoso ang gobyerno magbebehave yan, ilalabas nila ang supply."

(If the private sector sees government means business, it would behave and bring out the supply.)

Pangilinan, who has his own farm, said the culture of looking down upon agriculture must change. "Kahit magsasaka mismo sinasabi nila 'magsasaka lang ako.' This is sad," he said.

"In other countries, they are given respect and recognition and they put their money where their mouth is by providing their farmers support. Our culture needs to be revisited."

He added that farming remains his priority after losing his bid for the vice-presidency. 

"People will still have to eat regardless of the elections. We will help sa Angat Buhay NGO as best we can," he said.

Asked if he would help the Marcos administration, Pangilinan said he would be "willing to help in whatever way if it is good for the country."

"If the programs are good I would support," he said.

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