Press Release
May 19, 2010


Utilizing idle and underutilized land Senator Edgardo J Angara eyes at least one million direct jobs in the countryside through the Rural Employment Generation.

"Reviving its rural roots has been one of Japan's responses to the global job crisis, an affliction affecting the developed and developing world alike. While most policy responses focus on keeping people at work and alleviating the situation of the unemployed, some governments, like Japan, have also created employment in other sectors of the economy," said Angara who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance.

He added, "Philippine agriculture has long been overlooked and underinvested, yet it is one of the steadiest sources of livelihood and job opportunities. The National Economic and Development Authority discovered agriculture as one of the economy's catalysts, supporting the other pillars shaken by the current global economic slowdown."

Angara shared that the Japanese government has a program sending the jobless to the rural areas to work on farms and fisheries. It finances 10-day trips for 800 jobless people to learn how to process and sell agricultural produce. Japan's agriculture ministry plans to send about 50 people for yearlong stays in farming and fishing villages.

The program aims to provide not only livelihood, but to revitalize its graying hinterlands and boost its agricultural production, which currently supplies less than half of Japan's food consumption.

Angara, a weekend farmer and a former Department of Agriculture Secretary, has long advocated developing agriculture not simply to address the job crisis and prevent a sequel of last year's food-price increases. He added that developing agriculture is a long-term strategy for sustainable development.

Angara filed the Rural Employment Generation Bill (SB883) which tasks the Department of Agriculture (DA) to develop idle and underutilized lands, assisting farmers in planting cassava, corn and high-value commercial crops.

Under this program, the DA shall consolidate existing crop areas and prime and idle farmlands into farming cluster modules, for mechanized and irrigated crop production. Farmers will be given access to credit through grants and credit schemes, and trained in farming practices such as farm mechanization, hybridization, and postharvest and processing technologies.

One million hectares of land shall be developed through the Rural Employment Generation, which is expected to create at least 1 million direct jobs and generate a minimum of P25,000 increase in annual farm income per hectare. Overall, the program is expected to spur rural employment valued at P10.35 billion, and private-sector investment worth P10 billion.

"Like Japan, the current global economic crisis should make us seriously rethink agriculture, a long-neglected sector of our economy. And as a developing country, the impact of revamping agriculture goes beyond the current job crisis--it is also the most potent and cost effective means to uplift people from poverty and spur development bottom-up," added Angara.

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