Press Release
August 17, 2009


Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday said an additional P30 billion should be invested in agriculture to make it easier for the country's economy to recover from the global economic crisis and to lift more of our people from poverty.

"More than half of our poor live in the countryside. They continue to lack access to productive resources including land, credit, technology, and infrastructure," he said during a forum before students of the University of Los Baños over the weekend.

"Even with our emergence as an important player regionally in the BPO and electronics industries, the Philippines is still mainly an agricultural country with the majority of the workforce engaged in tilling the soil," Escudero added.

According to the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB), farmers and fishermen are the two poorest sectors in the country, with poverty incidences of 44 percent and 49.9 percent, respectively.

He said the unlimited potentials of agriculture will only be realized if government fully implements the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) that was passed by the Senate in 1998.

The AFMA was meant to be a blueprint for Philippine agriculture, and its success hinged on the conceptualization of specific programs as well as availability of funding for several years on top of the annual budget for the Department of Agriculture (DA).

"We need to focus on agriculture if we want to make a difference in the lives of the poor," he said. The Department of Agriculture had recently admitted that farm output growth for the second quarter had missed targets and was the slowest in four years at .87%, compared to the 5.4% growth seen during the same period in 2008.

Output in the crops sub-sector contracted by 3.61% as production declined in sugarcane (-56.7%), corn (-0.52%), mangoes (-17.6%), pineapple (-1.2%), coffee (-1.44%), abaca (-6%), and garlic (-5.6%). Palay production, on the other hand, improved by 1.87%, the DA said.

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