In observance of National Rice Awareness Month this November, Senator Loren Legarda said it is possible to achieve rice self-sufficiency through public awareness and stronger government support for farmers.
Legarda expressed support for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) program to encourage the public to eat only the right proportion of rice and try other forms, like brown rice, which is healthier.
“We need to encourage the public to avoid rice wastage and try equally nutritious food such as corn, sweet potato, cassava, and banana as rice substitutes, as well as brown rice. In my Senate hearings, we encourage this by serving saba for snack and brown rice for lunch,” the veteran legislator said.
“Meanwhile, to support our agriculture sector, we must ensure more investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, improve water governance and land use policies, provide better forecasting tools and early warning systems, create a strengthened extension system that will assist farmers to achieve economic diversification, and access to credit and crop insurance,” the seasoned lawmaker added.
The lady senator, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said that there is stronger support for farmers through improved funding under the proposed 2018 national budget.
There is an allocation in the amount of P2.6-billion for subsidy of irrigation service fees (ISF) being paid by farmers to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), which was first introduced in the 2017 national budget; while P2.669 billion is appropriated for the construction, restoration or improvement of small-scale irrigation projects; and P4.281 billion is allocated for the construction of facilities and procurement of agricultural machineries and equipment.
The amount of P20.209 billion is allocated for the national programs of DA for rice, corn, high value crops development, organic agriculture and livestock with priority to provinces that are major producers and provinces with areas suitable for conversion to organic agriculture and the local government units (LGUs) with local ordinance on the promotion and development of organic agriculture; areas where the majority of small farmers and fisherfolks registered under the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) are located; and provinces or regions where the absolute number of poor farmers and fisherfolks and the incidence of poverty are high as identified in the latest official poverty statistics of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
The DA is also urged to increase the resilience of agricultural communities through implementation of disaster-resilient agricultural infrastructure projects and the distribution and development of seeds, which are optimally adaptive to present and future climate conditions. It should also conduct seminars and trainings for LGUs and farmers on the importance of rainwater catchments and organic farming approaches, among other elements of sustainable land use.
Moreover, the amount of P1 billion for Quick Response Fund (QRF) has been lodged under the DA as a standby fund to be used for the provision of seeds and other planting materials, minor repair of small-scale irrigation systems, among others, in order that the situation and living conditions of people living in communities or areas stricken by calamities, epidemics, crises and catastrophes that will occur in the last quarter of 2017 and in 2018 may be normalized as quickly as possible.
“Our farmers continue to face various challenges, especially with the impact of climate change and stronger natural hazards. Through these budget provisions, we hope to provide the much needed support that our farmers need. Moreover, by providing stronger support, the government would entice more Filipino farmers to plant rice anew. Through these efforts, we hope for our country to eventually meet our own rice requirements without resorting to importation,” Legarda concluded.