Senator Cynthia Villar called on local government units, the private sector and agricultural stakeholders to make it a collective goal to improve the condition of Filipino farmers and fisherfolks.
“The farmers and fishermen are the key to the growth of the agricultural sector which is relevant to our country’s social and economic growth and sustainability,” said Villar
As the current chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, the veteran legislator said her ultimate goal is to improve the living conditions of farmers and fisherfolks as they remain among the poorest in our country.
“I have been working hard in removing all the barriers that prevent them from being more competitive and successful,” said the seasoned lawmaker, adding that these barriers are the lack of technical expertise, inadequate access to cheap credit and lack of mechanization and financial literacy.
“The barriers that prevent farmers and fisherfolks from being more competitive are the lack of technical expertise, inadequate access to cheap credit and lack of mechanization and financial literacy.”
Considering that the Philippines is an agricultural country, the lady senator told her audience during the Farmers & Fisherfolk Leaders Summit in Dapa, Surigao del Norte, that it is not right that they would remain poor. She said this situation should be remedied.
Villar said agricultural workers are among the lowest paid. Based on the data last year, she said the average daily basic pay of workers in the agriculture industry is P210.13 compared to those in non-agriculture industry that receive P441.44. She said the coconut farmers are the poorest, earning only P50 pesos a day.
“There are 8 million crop farmers in our country, 3.5 million of them are coconut farmers and another 3.5 million are rice farmers. So, if we can improve their plight and get them out of poverty, we can resolve poverty in the country,” Villar said. She noted that increasing food production and farm productivity alone cannot move them permanently out of poverty.
“There are 8 million crop farmers in our country, 3.5 million of them are coconut farmers and another 3.5 million are rice farmers. So, if we can improve their plight and get them out of poverty, we can resolve poverty in the country.”
“We must also teach small farmers capacity-building strategies and approaches to level up their knowledge and knowhow to help them to operate their small farms as agri-businesses,” Villar said.
But before they can become good entrepreneurs and businessmen, she said they need to be trained and educated first. Villar emphasized this will remove the barriers of lack of technical expertise and financial literacy.
“As a legislator, there is a conscious effort on my part also to make sure that my proposed bills in the Senate have a provision or component that will support training, education, mechanization, research and development,” she noted.
This includes the enactment into law of Republic Act (RA) 10848 or the act extending the period of implementation of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund up to year 2022. Villar said 80 percent of the (ACEF) fund will be in the form of credit with minimal interest, which shall not exceed P5 million per project loan to cooperatives; and maximum of P1 million to small farmers.
Besides the ACEF law, in all the other bills she authored for the fisheries, sugar and other agricultural sectors, that have been passed into law, she ensured a sufficient allocation for research and development and further education/training/improvement of farmers, fisherfolks and agricultural workers.
Being the primary author of the Farm Tourism Development Law or Republic Act 10816, Villar also emphasized the training and education to make improve the competitiveness of farmers.