The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic crisis is an opportunity for our farmers to increase their incomes and for the country to become food secure, Senator Kiko Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan, former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, was reacting to Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s report to the Senate that local government units (LGUs) bought P2.4-billion worth of food directly from Filipino food producers to distribute as food packs among their respective constituents.

“Ito na dapat ang bagong normal o ang mas mabuting normal para sa ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda: Diretso nang bumibili sa kanila ang mga LGU ng mga pangangailangan sa pagkain,” the veteran legislator said.

“At kapag na-engganyo nang mas magtanim pa ang ating mga magsasaka dahil sa mas mataas na kita rito, mas dadami ang pagkain, mas mumura para sa ating mga mamimili at mas magiging secure tayong may kakainin tayo araw-araw,” the seasoned lawmaker added.

“Lahat tayo panalo sa Sagip Saka,” the senator said.

The direct purchase of farm produce and fish catch from farmers and fishermen, and the subsequent bypassing of middlemen is at the core of Pangilinan’s brainchild Sagip Saka, enacted into law last year.

In his report to the Senate Committee of the Whole, Dar said, “Malaking tulong po iyong Sagip Saka niyo.”

From the beginning of the enhanced community quarantine, Pangilinan advocated that the implementation of his Sagip Saka Law be fast-tracked, pushing for, among others, classifying as front-liners farmers, fishers, and workers in food manufacturing and logistics, as well as issuing quarantine passes to them.

To ensure that farmers and fishers thrive during this time of the pandemic, he wrote local executives, including the league of governors and mayors, informing them of Sagip Saka Law and the enabling circular from the Department of Budget and Management’s Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB).

The GPPB circular details how LGUs can tap farmers and farmers’ groups as government suppliers. It says that a farmer needs only to have a barangay certificate affirming that he or she is indeed a farmer will be enough for the LGU to purchase food from him or her.

“Because now we have Sagip Saka at itong GPPB resolution na pwede nang bumili direkta sa mga farmers, dapat tuloy tuloy na nating gawing new normal ito — na ang gobyerno ay direktang bumibili sa farmers sa maayos na presyo,” Pangilinan said.

“We cut out the middlemen, we increase the income of our farmers.”

“We cut out the middlemen, we increase the income of our farmers. That will be the biggest incentive for them to keep planting,” he stressed.

At the Senate hearing on government efforts during the pandemic, the agriculture secretary also appealed for the Senate’s help on their proposed stimulus package for agriculture which funds for an updated logistics, wholesale, retail, and storage systems.

“This is part of our proposal for the stimulus package.”

“We have this idea of having food markets na malalaki dito sa Metro Manila. Maybe four quadrants for big food markets, na may malalaking warehouses, mga cold storages at retail. Dito rin yung wholesale na galing probinsya. We are detailing this plan and this is part of our proposal for the stimulus package,” Dar said.

Pangilinan said he supports the plan, saying that this is part of the farmers’ “handholding” phase.

“Handholding pa rin po ito dahil new normal for the farmers. So, we have to give them the capacity to be able to follow through and sustain. Pagtulungan na natin dahil ito naman ang kaligtasan natin. Pagtulungan na po natin,” Pangilinan said.


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