Press Release
February 24, 2013

Cayetano: Let Strawberry Farmers Taste the Sweet Life

"I wish the life of our farmers could be as sweet as strawberries." This was the message today of Senator Alan Cayetano as he attended the Panagbenga Festivities in Baguio. The senator joined thousands of locals and tourists in witnessing the Panagbenga parade along Session Road after touring La Trinidad, Benguet yesterday.

Cayetano and wife Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano toured the city where they fell in love and got married nine years ago. "Baguio is very special to us and we'd like to see a resurgence of Baguio's glory days," Cayetano said. "But more than this, we want Baguio to be developed as a main destination not just for local tourists but also for foreigners, especially the less known sites with a lot of potential such as strawberry fields," he added.

Cayetano was especially moved by the concerns of strawberry farmers. "There has to be a program that will encourage tourists to stop by here. Wala pa akong nakilalang nagpunta sa strawberry fields na hindi nag-enjoy (I don't know anyone who has not enjoyed visiting the strawberry fields)," Cayetano pointed out.

The couple visited farmers at strawberry fields of La Trinidad, Benguet yesterday, who shared that they earn only an average of Php200 pesos per day, far less than what factory workers in the province receive. Neither do most of them receive benefits from Philhealth.

"The City of Baguio makes Php500,000 per day, mostly from tourists. If La Trinidad which is just 25 minutes away, could achieve the same numbers, we will see a great improvement in the lives of our farmers," Cayetano said, proposing a decrease in VAT on oil as a first step to helping the agricultural industry.

He cited how transport of goods like fruits and vegetables from the mountains of Benguet to the markets of Baguio and eventually to Manila becomes a burden to poor farmers and traders given the increasing transportation cost of these agricultural products.

"Unless we find ways to assist our local industries by helping them gain access to capital and lessen major expenses for businesses such as transportation costs, their lives will continue in the irony of planting something sweet but not experiencing the sweet life," Cayetano said.

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