Press Release
May 27, 2020

Bong Go urges government to intensify support for agricultural sector to recover from COVID-19 crisis and in light of BP2 Program

As many Filipinos lose jobs and return home to their respective provinces amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go renewed his call for the government, particularly the Department of Agriculture, to intensify its support for the agricultural sector in providing livelihood, food security, and in boosting economic activities in the countryside.

In a virtual meeting with government agencies involved in the Balik Probinsya, Balik Pag-asa (BP2) Program on Monday, May 25, Senator Go asked the DA regarding its readiness to assist Filipinos returning to the provinces. The DA said that it will assist and provide agricultural enterprises they may need or want, adding that its intervention will be demand-driven.

Senator Go expressed his gratitude to the agency, saying that agriculture is one key area that must be utilized to provide livelihood opportunities for BP2 beneficiaries and increase agricultural productivity to ensure food security throughout the country.

"Lalo na sa panahon ngayon na apektado ng krisis ang ating ekonomiya, 'back to basics' po tayo. Nakita natin ngayon kung gaano kahalaga ang agrikultura sa ating bansa at sa ating kabuhayan," Go said.

"Mabilis pong maibabalik ang sigla ng ating ekonomiya kung palalakasin natin ang sektor ng agrikultura sa ating mga probinsya," he added.

Senator Go has also earlier called for the DA to complement the BP2 program in revitalizing the country's agricultural sector as many Filipinos expressed willingness to participate in the program and be reintegrated in the rural communities. He emphasized that the government must provide agricultural training and strengthen programs promoting agri-preneurship.

"Marami pong nawalan ng trabaho at kabuhayan dahil sa krisis. Kung uuwi po sila sa kanilang probinsya, bigyan po dapat sila ng oportunidad pang-livelihood na akma sa kanilang lugar at karamihan po ng ating probinsya ay agriculture-driven ang lokal na ekonomiya," Go explained.

"Magiging primary source po ng kabuhayan ang agrikultura ng mga magbabalik probinsya kung kaya't dapat mas palakasin ang mga programang pwedeng magturo at sumuporta sa mga nais magsaka, mangisda, at iba pang kabuhayang pang-agrikultura," he added.

The Senator has also earlier urged the DA to look after the well-being of farmers and fishers to ensure food security and make farm produce available to all communities.

"Suportahan po natin ang ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda. Tulungan natin silang malampasan ang paghihirap na dulot ng pandemya dahil ang sektor na ito ang bubuhay sa ating bansa pagkatapos ng krisis na ito," he stressed.

The DA has identified various initiatives to be implemented throughout the phases of the BP2 Program. For the short-term phase, these include a promotion of backyard poultry program, provision of low- or zero-interest credit facilities, free trainings on rice production and farming techniques, and the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita Marketing Program.

For the mediate phase, the DA is set to implement Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs which encourages children of farmers to continue farming, Rice Farmers Financial Assistance, and Financial Support to Rice Farmers. For the long-term phase, the agency is planning to co-lead the implementation of the National Convergence Initiative-Sustainable Rural Development.

DA is also proposing a P66-billion stimulus package under the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act being deliberated in the House of Representatives. It is intended for various immediate interventions for food production and availability, food accessibility and affordability, and food price stabilization.

In his latest pronouncement, DA Secretary William Dar said that agriculture will play a key role in recovering the country's losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the agriculture and fishery sectors will attract more investments through partnerships with the private sector and local government units.

"We believe that economic growth in agriculture is more effective at reducing poverty and food insecurity than growth in other sectors. Investments in agriculture can help revive food production and create jobs, following a crisis and enable rural communities to recover," Dar said during the opening of the Farmers' and Fisherfolks' Month celebration and launch of the Plant, Plant, Plant program on May 26 at the DA central office in Quezon City.

Furthermore, Senator Go has urged TESDA to participate in the BP2 initiative by providing technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programs that will be responsive to the needs of the local economy, including the agricultural sector. Go said that these TVET programs can increase the chance of returning Filipinos to land the right employment opportunities so they can recover from the losses during the pandemic.

"As PRRD said, starting fresh in the provinces would give Filipinos HOPE for a better future after COVID-19 crisis. Sa pagbabalik sa probinsya, mabibigyan sila ng bagong pag-asa," Go said.

Senator Go also clarified that the BP2 program aims to assist residents in Metro Manila who wish to relocate back to their provinces for good. This, he said, is different from other government initiatives that aim to assist locally stranded individuals to return back to their provinces.

"Ang layunin po ng BP2 program ay maenganyo at matulungan ang mga Pilipinong gusto nang magsimula ng panibagong buhay sa kanilang mga probinsya. Wala pong pilitan ito. Kung sino po ang may gusto, tutulungan sila ng gobyerno na lumipat para mabigyan sila ng bagong pag-asa ng mas magandang buhay pagkatapos ng krisis," he explained.

To avoid confusion, he added that there are other government initiatives in place to respond to the needs of stranded Filipinos who need help in going home to their provinces.

"May iba iba pong inisyatibo ang gobyerno para matulungan ang LSIs. Mayroon pong Hatid Estudyante Para Makabalik sa Probinsya program ang DOTr para sa mga estudyante na stranded. Mayroon ring mga programa ang DOTr, OWWA at MARINA para sa mga OFWs na bumalik sa bansa o naipit sa Metro Manila at nais umuwi sa kanilang probinsya," he explained.

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