Press Release
February 9, 2010

Loren Declares Her Core Goals of Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization: Food Security, Farmers and Fishers' Prosperity, & Sustainable Development

Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM), declared that agriculture modernization in this country should be anchored on three core goals of the AFMA: food security, farmers and fishers' prosperity, and sustainable development.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 (AFMA) lays down the central strategy in the achievement of these goals-- the identification, integrated planning for, and development of the country's Strategic Agriculture & Fisheries Development Zones (SAFDZs) that will serve as engines of sustainable countryside growth. SAFDZ catalyzes integrated countryside development, which, in turn, generates jobs. It has high degree multiplier effects especially to both the rural and urban sectors. Legarda regrets the fact that until now the DA has not completed the task, 12 years after AFMA passed. Therefore, she enjoins the DA to use the 800-million fund for SAFDZ appropriated by Congress for 2010 as a seed money for the local government units (LGUs), state universities and colleges (SUCs) of agriculture, private sector, and the National Mapping and Resource Inventory Agency (NAMRIA) to participate. Legarda notes that an effective SAFDZ plan should be developed in a highly participatory manner, and implementers especially at the local level should have a strong sense of plan ownership.

Legarda believes that to boost rural incomes and attain prosperity among small farmers and agriculture producers, the strategy for agriculture development especially in the SAFZ should be diversification of income sources. She hopes this can be accelerated by integrating it as a major feature of SAFDZ development plan as well as the country's national agriculture and fisheries development plan. She enjoins the DA to move away from its traditional commodity focused, top-down plan to income- focused plan where farmers and fishers make the decision what and when to produce to get the best income and profit. She feels that this is the best strategy to address the continuing high food prices and high rural poverty.

The SAFDZ, Legarda points out, allows the country to optimize the use of its agriculture and fisheries resources in the most sustainable manner. Their identification will allow the country to protect the agricultural lands from conversion to non-agriculture uses and marine resources from being exploited beyond sustainable levels--activities which can jeopardize the country's food security and endanger the our land and coastal eco-systems. At the same time, the identification and protection of the zones will allow the country to craft a well-targeted sustainable area development to boost rural incomes. Legarda believes that agriculture and fisheries development should always be grounded on sustainable principles that the country has pledged under Agenda 21 of the Philippine Strategy for Sustainable Development. This becomes even more urgent in view of global issues that have seriously affected the country: climate change and energy security. Sustainable agriculture practices can effectively contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as energy security.

She hopes that by the end of 2011 the country has a well established and publicly understood SAFDZ plans.

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