Press Release
March 11, 2009


Sector vital to RP's efforts to buck Global Financial Crisis

Senator Edgardo J. Angara today urged his colleagues to prioritize measures that support the development of agriculture in the country since the sector can aid the country's job generation efforts and provide the much needed boost to attain continued economic growth amid Global Financial Crisis.

"One of the biggest faults of policymaking in the Philippines is underspending in agriculture, hence the persistent poverty across the country especially the countryside. The Filipino farmer is handicapped by the lack of technical support and basic facilities such as farm-to-market roads, irrigation networks, post-harvest facilities, fishing ports and access to basic credit. These keep our farmers from maximizing productivity," said Angara who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance.

He added, "For food prices to come down, and for food supply to be able to meet the growing demands of our population, investment in agriculture is essential. We should start with an efficient post-harvest network, better logistics, better access to credit, market access and stepped up research and development (R&D) efforts. In the end, we will reap our investments through continued economic growth."

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) emphasized the role of agriculture as a catalyst in RP's economic growth. NEDA announced that the agriculture sector is positioned to become "one of the drivers in attaining the higher end of the government's growth target" this 2009.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection for this year is pegged at 3.7-4.7 percent after registering a growth of 4.6 percent last year.

Angara also said that investments in the sector could also translate to generating employment.

He announced that estimates show as much as five million Filipinos in the rural sector are either unemployed or underemployed. Although the employment in the rural sector is largely seasonal, much of the unemployment and underemployment can be attributed to underutilization of agricultural lands throughout the country.

Through SB 883 or the Rural Employment Generation Bill which Angara recently filed, corn, cassava and high value commercial crops shall be planted throughout the country with the Department of Agriculture (DA) serving as lead agency. Tie-ups between the private sector and government will be necessary, including collaborations between agribusiness companies and farmer-beneficiaries.

DA shall undertake the development of a total of 845,000 hectares of idle or underutilized agricultural land, to be planted hybrid corn, cassava and high value commercial crops ("HVCC") over a period of two years

The Rural Employment Generation Program will generate rural employment valued at 10.354 Billion Pesos and private sector investments of 10.605 Billion Pesos. More importantly, with an improvement in our country's rural employment level, it is anticipated that rural poverty will drastically be reduced.

The program shall also have the following features: (1) development of Modern Technology Systems; (2) Production Credit Support to farmers and; (3) Human Resource Development through training of farmers.

Angara also announced that an Agricultural Development Fund will be established through this bill, in the amount of Pesos Five Billion Five Hundred Fifty One Million (Php 5,551,000,000.00) for the first year and Pesos Four Billion Seventy Eight Million (Php 4,078,000,000.00) in the second year of the Program.

"In 2009, we expect the effects of the global financial crisis to hit our homes. It is therefore imperative for us to initiate efforts toward providing jobs in the countryside and increase spending power of the poor in the rural sector," added Angara.

Angara, who is a former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA) from 1999-2001, also formerly chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM).

He has authored significant legislations in agriculture including the Agriculture Fisheries and Modernization Act (AFMA), a masterplan for agricultural modernization which other countries in Southeast Asia have adopted.

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