Press Release
February 26, 2010


Senator Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said there is a need to fully support and develop the local vegetable industry to enhance the productivity of vegetable farmers and enable them to compete with their counterparts in developed countries.

At the same time, Loren lauded the efforts of vegetable growers in providing the Filipinos the food necessary to develop a healthy body and sound mind, even as she cited their important role in the nation's quest for food sufficiency and food security.

In a speech delivered for her by Executive Director Charito Sebastian of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) at the opening of the National Vegetable Congress in Puerto Princesa, Palawan , Loren said "a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grain and high-fiber foods, fish, lean protein and fat-free or low fat dairy products is the key to fight cardiovascular diseases."

"Ang pagkain po ng gulay at prutas ay mabisang panlaban sa heart attack. Kailangan natin ang malulusog na mga mamamayan upang magkaroon ng sigla ang ating buhay tungo sa sama-samang pag-unlad," sinabi niya.

"Kung kaya po kailangan nating suportahan ang vegetable industry tungo sa pagkakaroon ng seguridad sa pagkain - seguridad sa kasapatan at kalidad ng pagkain - at maging sa pagsabay sa pag-unlad ng industriya ng gulay sa mga higit na mayayamang bansa," dugtong pa niya.

Loren, who also chairs the COCAFM, said the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 or AFMA has laid down everything for the sector to know and do stressing that the law guides all the commodity sub-sectors.

"AFMA anchored agriculture and fisheries modernization in this country on four core goals: food security, farmer and fishers' prosperity, sustainable development and rational allocation of resources," she said.

"The 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 and Fisheries Development Zones (SAFDZs) that shall serve as engines of sustainable countryside growth. SAFDZ catalyzes integrated countryside development, which, in turn, generates jobs. It has high degree multiplier effects especially in both rural and urban sectors," Loren elaborated.

"There are four AFMA provisions which we should have used and started twelve years ago to mitigate climate change. We could have prepared for the many ill effects of El Nino of 2010 having experienced El Nino in 1997-1998, the worst El Nino in our memory and which occurred in the country with a lingering drought that lasted for a year," Loren, who also chairs the Senate committee on climate change said.

"What are these provisions? What should we have done using these provisions?" she asked.

"First, we should have delineated the SAFDZs where conversion to other uses of the most productive agricultural lands is prohibited and where the protection of healthy coastal and marine ecosystems will reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities, especially in the face of climate changes," she explained.

Loren reported that she asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to use the P800-million fund for SAFDZ appropriated by Congress for 2010 as seed money for local government units (LGUs), state universities and colleges (SUCs) of agriculture, private sector like the National Vegetable Growers, and the National Mapping and Resource Inventory Agency (NAMRIA) to participate.

"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," Loren said.

"Second, we should have strengthened the convergence between the DA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). These two departments could have worked together by sharing their resources in rehabilitating and protecting watersheds that are crucial for both upland and lowland irrigation," she stated.

"Third, we should have maximized resources for Research and Development under AFMA. We should have spent for research on drought-tolerant or flood-tolerant vegetable varieties. To date, what varieties have we developed? According to Bureau of Plants Industry, the old vegetable varieties are currently better adapted to dry weather, " Loren said.

"Last year, we had super typhoons that filled our reservoirs to almost overflowing volume. Research should have guided us and developed the technologies to store some of this water for our use today. The DA is currently promoting the use of organic fertilizers as this would help conserve water around the roots of plants," the lady senator asserted.

"And fourth, we should have maximized our extension system to teach our farmers and fisherfolk on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Therefore, I am enjoining SUCs , particularly their extension program managers, to help local extension workers teach our farmers and fisherfolk as they face the challenges of climate change," Loren said.

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