Press Release
January 7, 2010


Upon learning yesterday that the House of Representatives will work to pass House Bill 6883 or the Magna Carta of Agriculture and Fishery Development Workers among other priority bills, Senator Loren Legarda stated that this bill will only improve the salaries and benefits of local extension workers but it will not correct the structural defects that have been largely responsible for the inefficiency and lack of responsiveness to the needs of the farmers and other clients particularly the poor since the introduction of the devolution of extension workers in the early 1990s.

"The Magna Carta will put the salaries and benefits of local extension workers at par with those of their national counterparts and I am glad about this. The agricultural extension workers are crucial in the transfer of scientific knowledge and know-how and in strengthening the linkage between the agriculture and fisheries producers and processors and the market and credit providers," Loren said. " However, political realities and the lack of appreciation of many local chief executives of the importance of agriculture to the development of their areas have led to the appointment of non-agriculture experts in the pool of local extension workers in municipalities, provinces and cities. In many cases, the devolved agriculturists are floated and non-agriculturists are appointed as Municipal Agriculturists by the local chief executives. Many cases have been documented where the agriculture personnel are asked to perform non-agriculture functions to the neglect of their core functions. In these cases, the provision of agriculture services, especially extension, is neglected to the detriment of the poor who needs it most," she explained.

"It is important that the national government through proposed apex agency for extension of the Department of Agriculture professionalizes the management and standardizes the salaries and benefits of the local extension workers while it shepherds LGUs to full maturity in the execution of devolved functions. In time, when local governance has reached maturity as regards local autonomy and empowerment, full powers will be returned to chief executives. But the country cannot sacrifice the welfare of our farmers and fisherfolk who produce our food but suffer the brunt of the inefficiency of local extension.", Loren, who is the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) said.

"I assure our mayors and governors that I will work towards the increase of their IRA by 5% more so that they can devote resources to agricultural activities. But they should commit to use this portion of the IRA to agriculture and fishery activities.", Loren stressed.

"Therefore I appeal to the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee on Civil Service to work with me in the integration of the Magna Carta Bill with the bill on the National Extension System for Agriculture and Fisheries." Loren said.

"In the next few weeks, I will conduct consultation meetings with local extension workers and tell them that they should start thinking of improving their expertise by getting the needed technical and managerial training in teaching the farmers and fisherfolk how to prepare simple feasibility studies and how to approach rural banks and other microfinance institutions. Very important, they should also teach the farmers how to manage their cooperatives because the Cooperative Development Authority lacks personnel to teach the farmers on cooperativism aside from the fact that the focus of this agency is more on regulation rather than assistance to cooperatives," the lady senator said.

"I will also tell the local executives to put agricultural engineers in the extension pool so that they could teach the farmers how to operate and maintain their communal irrigation system and farm machineries. I will also impress in their minds that teaching the farmers and fisherfolk how to market and get the best price for their products is part of their tasks. These are the reasons why we need to increase their salaries and benefits." Loren concluded.

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