NEWLY elected Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan vowed to modernize the agricultural sector and ensure the sustainability of farming and fisheries in the Philippines.
Pangilinan, who served as the first Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (PAFSAM) under then President Benigno Aguino III, said developing the agricultural sector of the country would help alleviate poverty.
“[If] you shape up agriculture, you can stop poverty. I’d like to come up with programs wherein people will go into farming and earn from farming,” Pangilinan said in a interview.
He pledged to push for the rights of farmers and fisher folks through giving emphasis on their health and education benefits and opportunities.
“I would like to build and support numerous programs wherein the farmers and fishermen of our country would be protected,” Pangilinan said. “Our farmers deserve respect and protection. They lift up this country from the grass roots of poverty,” he added.
Pangilinan explained that the famers and fisher folks have supported and fed the Philippines for decades, but they have remained poverty-stricken.
“Farmers barely make over P 20,000 every year and the land they own are most times not sufficient or not big enough,” Pangilinan said. “Most of the time, they are abused and do not get to exercise the rights they are entitled to.
Furthermore, the country’s agricultural sector has seen a steady decline in the past decades. Agriculture’s share of the Philippine economy has shrunk to just over ten percent from more than 30 percent in the 1960’s and 1970’S.
Up to this date, about a third of the country’s workers are employed in the farm sector, leading to high poverty rate.
According to the statement of Pangilinan, farmers, fisher folks and people who are either directly and indirectly employed in the agricultural sector make up almost 60 percent of the country’s labor force.
Agriculture is the foundation and backbone of every nation, especially the Philippines. However, it is harrowing to say that the general mentality of the public towards this “tedious” work is that it is a low-income profession and it is associated with poverty, Pangilinan said.
“People have no interest in farming because they think that it is for poor people. What they do not realize is that there is profit in farming,” Pangilinan said. “We need to change the notion of the masses.”
He said there is a need to educate the people on farming and raise the awareness that farming should not be equated to poverty.
Youth on agriculture
Pangilinan said young people can contribute in the development of Philippine agriculture through appreciating and taking up farming.
He said the lack of interest in farming among the youth could be a big problem in the future.
“If the new generation of Filipinos don’t want to farm anymore, that’s really a serious challenge,” Pangilinan said.
The average Filipino farmer is 56 years old and most of their children do not want to take up farming again because they think it is the reason why they are poor, he added.
“I would like to see young people go into farming and the only reason they would go to farming is that if it is profitable or if it gives them good income,” Pangilinan said. “I would like to like to come up with a programs wherein young people would be more incline to farming.”
He cited backyard farming as one activity that could possibly get the attention of the youth.
“I started with backyard farming and you really get a lot from it. We should get back to this and see how it helps us,” he said.
Pangilinan highlighted the youth’s inclination to modern developments in technology as small-scale distractions.
“Our youth are now focused on technology and that is not completely a bad thing. However, I encourage them to go out of their houses and see farming as an activity they would want to get in to to help the nation,” he said.
He said that there are young people who propagated medical herbs in every backyard in a number of barangays and that is something that should be encouraged.
Aside from the country’s agricultural sector, Pangilinan also vowed to improve education through supporting state universities.
“Education will always be an important factor in the advancement of our country and so I would like to strengthen and provide opportunities for education,” Pangilinan said.
He promised to expand scholarships and ‘study now, pay later’ programs “so that anyone who wants to study has access to quality education.”
Furthermore, Pangilinan encouraged the youth to actively partake in nation building, emphasizing their critical role.
“Young people should be involved in shaping the nation. The real challenge of our country is how we find solutions. The government cannot do it alone. We need the support and commitment of young people,” Pangilinan said.
The problem is that people criticize the government, but fail to do their jobs as active citizens. The country has a multitude of problems, but there are a multitude of solutions as well, he said.
“It is so easy to complain, that is the easiest thing to do. The government is just one and the citizens should help because that is part of our democratic lives. Criticisms are necessary so we could learn what to contribute to save the nation,” Pangilinan said.
In addition, Pangilinan urged the people to come together, solve errands faster, stay committed and have one common vision.
As the former PAFSAM, Pangilinan was in charge of four agencies transferred to the office of the president: the National Food Authority, the National Irrigation Administration, the Fertilizer and Pesticide authority and the Philippine Coconut Authority.
He said during previous his terms as legislator, he was able to bring down the price of rice, control the cocolisap infestation, weave P 30 billion worth of irrigation projects and pass a number of bills in Congress, including the Coco Levy Bill for the benefit and livelihood of the farmers of the Philippines.
Pangilinan, a former Quezon City councilor, won a seat at the Senate in 2001 and was re-elected in 2007. In the recently concluded national elections last May 9, he garnered over blank million votes, securing a fresh term as senator. ###