Press Release
February 4, 2010


It is puzzling why the Philippines still has to import its rice needs each year despite hosting for decades now the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the source of many rice farming innovations and research, said Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Loren Legarda.

Loren pointed out that the research output of many agricultural research institutions are not fully utilized in the fields due to the difficulty faced by local government units (LGUs) in providing farmers extension services like transfer of technology, credit and marketing assistance.

"Our extension services fail to translate the technologies from our research stations into actual field practice by our farmers or agriculture producers, said Loren, who revealed that agriculture's contribution to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) has been shrinking through the years.

In 2000, agriculture's share to GDP was 16 percent, down two percent at 14 percent in 2008, she said. Agricultural growth has also been lagging at an average of four percent annually to GDP's average of five percent.

"For example, Vietnam and the Philippines have the same technology in rice. Yet, the difference in yield is about one ton per hectare. If we increase Philippine yield by one ton per hectare in the irrigated areas alone, it is enough to wipe out the annual average total rice imports of the country," Loren said.

Loren explained that the bill proposes to transform the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) into the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Agency (PAFEA), expanding ATI's mandate limited to training.

She said PAFEA will be tasked to plan, make policies and manage knowledge resources, as well as providing other extension services such as demonstrations, mass media and human resource development.

"The PAFEA decision-making structure will be participatory to enable various stakeholders and actors from the government and the private sector to participate in the agricultural extension processes," Loren said.

As the Local Government Code had devolved the provision of agricultural extension program to LGUs, Loren said the bill would not nationalize anew the provision extension services but would have a set-up in which a national agency, the PEFEA, will be working closely with LGUs to provide farmers extension services.

Likewise, the bill proposes to grant aid to be given by the national government to augment the resources of LGUs, especially 4th to 6th class municipalities.

"The grants will defray the cost of personal salaries and be leveraged against the provision of funds of operations by the LGU concerned. This addresses the often-cited problem that municipalities provide funds for personal salaries, but do not have resources to finance operations, severely limiting the productivity and usefulness of extension workers," Loren said.

But the lack of useful extension services is just one of the reasons why the performance indicators for agriculture during the last eight years have not been very encouraging, she said, identifying the other concerns as irrigation, research and development, markets, credit, land reform and the overall lack of profitability of agriculture.

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