Craft con­crete plan for agri, groups tell pres­i­den­tial bets

Business Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By Mary Grace Padin

FIVE agri­cul­ture coali­tions on Wed­nes­day called on the five pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in the May 2016 elec­tions to come up with con­crete ac­tion plans to im­prove the coun­try’s agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

The five coali­tions— Alyansa Agrikul­tura (AA), Philip­pine Cham­ber of Agri­cul­ture and Food Inc., Coali­tion for Agri­cul­ture Mod­ern­iza­tion in the Philip­pines, Pam­bansang Koal­isyon ng Kababai­han sa Kanayu­nan and the Agri­cul­ture

Agri­cul­ture re­mains our most ne­glected sec­tor, even as it em­ploys mil­lions of Filipinos across the coun­try.”

—Or­doñez

Fish­eries 2025 (AF2025)—said the ac­tion plan should ad­dress six pri­or­ity is­sues. Th­ese pri­or­ity is­sues are strength­en­ing the bu­reau­cracy of the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture ( DA), en­sur­ing stake­holder par­tic­i­pa­tion, agri­cul­ture ex­ten­sion, credit and in­sur­ance, agri­cul­ture global po­si­tion­ing and agri­cul­ture struc­tural re­form.

“Agri­cul­ture re­mains our most ne­glected sec­tor, even as it em­ploys mil­lions of Filipinos across the coun­try. Mil­lions of Filipino farm­ers go hun­gry each day, locked out from for­mal credit, set back by un­fair trade and un­able to com­pete in an in­creas­ingly im­port de­pen­dent econ­omy,” AA Chair­man and coali­tion con­vener Ernesto Or­doñez said.

The five coali­tions said the Philip­pines re­mains an agri­cul­tural coun­try, with the sec­tor em­ploy­ing 12 mil­lion peo­ple, or nearly a third of the coun­try’s work force.

“De­spite an in­crease in the DA bud­get from P30 bil­lion in 2011 to P89 bil­lion in 2015, growth in the sec­tor has av­er­aged an ane­mic 1.5 per­cent, a far cry from the govern­ment tar­get of 4 per­cent,” a joint state­ment from the five coali­tions read.

They added that the agri­cul­ture sec­tor have the high­est poverty in­ci­dence among all ba­sic sec­tors.

Filipinos fac­ing poverty are of­ten left with three op­tions: in­sur­gency, crime and over­seas work, ac­cord­ing to the groups.

“With clear links be­tween ag- ri­cul­ture and food se­cu­rity, so­cial and eco­nomic sta­bil­ity, and peace and or­der, Filipino farm­ers are now look­ing for clearly de­fined pro­grams to up­lift agri­cul­ture af­ter the next ad­min­is­tra­tion as­sumes of­fice,” they said. Al­though the can­di­dates ac­knowl­edged the role of agri­cul­ture in fight­ing poverty, Or­doñez said time con­straints in the pres­i­den­tial de­bate on Fe­bru­ary 21 did not al­low them to present con­crete plat­forms for the sec­tor.

With this, the coali­tions are ask­ing the as­pi­rants to present their plans for the sec­tor in a pub­lic fo­rum sched­uled next month.

Ear­lier, econ­o­mists from the Ate­neo de Manila Univer­sity said Filipinos should elect a pres­i­dent who is pro-agri­cul­ture to achieve in­clu­sive growth and en­able farm­ers to com­pete in the global mar­ket­place.

Ate­neo Cen­ter for Eco­nomic Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor Leonardo A. Lan­zona Jr. said a pro-agri­cul­ture pres­i­dent can look at the sec­tor as a means to lift mil­lions of peo­ple from poverty and to im­prove com­pet­i­tive­ness.

Lan­zona added that a pro-agri­cul­ture pres­i­dent can also ad­dress prob­lems in agrar­ian re­form.

While the govern­ment has been able to dis­trib­ute lands, he said farm­ers have en­coun­tered prob­lems in terms of the lack of fi­nanc­ing and ma­chin­ery to max­i­mize the land granted to them.

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