Press Release
July 2, 2009


Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, is pushing the agencies implementing the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) to correct the implementation of the law.

Since the joint congressional meeting of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) on June 3, 2009, attended by the AFMA agencies and called by the lady senator and her counterpart in the Lower House, Representative Abraham Kahlil Mitra, the Department of Agriculture has been conducting inter-agency planning and budgeting workshops to recapture the true intent of the law.

"For eleven years of AFMA implementation, the AFMA agencies have not really sat down together to discuss creative ways of utilizing the safety net provided for in AFMA. They have not been working in concert.", the lady senator said.

Secretary Arthur Yap, when asked for reasons why the Department of Agriculture, the lead AFMA agency in the implementation of the law, have not been talking to each other, the secretary said it was difficult to instruct co-equal departments and to deal with the problem of turfing.

The agencies that have complied with the requirements of AFMA are the education and training institutions like the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) which led the Technical and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Education (DepEd) in the reorienting of curriculum according to AFMA. However, the oversight committee wonders why the enrolment in agriculture and fisheries courses is dwindling, as Co-Chair Representative Mitra asked during the June 3, 2009 meeting.

The Basic Needs agencies composed of the National Nutrition Council, Department of Social Services Development, Department of Health, TESDA, Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), Technology Resource Center and Department of Trade and Industry were able to finish the design of their roles in AFMA, but the design never got to be implemented both for lack of funds and weakness in implementation.

According to Legarda, many coordinating agencies, like the Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM) and Council for Extension and Research and Development for Agriculture and Fisheries (CERDAF), have not followed fully their mandate. The BSWM have not corrected the identification of the Strategic Agriculture and Fisheries Development Zones (BSWM). The said agencies complained that local government executives wanted SAFDZs in their locality and so the identified zones were not in conformity with the AFMA definition. SAFDZs are supposed to exhibit distinct physical characteristics that make them suitable for specific crop production and processing. The SAFDZs are the heart and core of AFMA implementation "because it is the base for planning for the agriculture and fisheries sector", Loren stated. "The CERDAF has barely operated and at present completely non-existent. As a result, there is overlapping in R & D functions and hence, inefficiency in the use of resources.", Legarda added.

"There is a need to step up modernizing agriculture and fishery in the country to make our farmers and fisherfolk more competitive and productive and to ensure sufficient food supply at affordable prices for our people. Modernization of the two sectors would also provide our people the most effective weapon against hunger and poverty," Loren said.

Loren, who also chairs the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM), stressed that what is needed by the country is a top-to-bottom modernization that will include all sorts of farm produce.

"The Philippines is first and foremost an agricultural country. And even if we strive to become an industrial country, we must first have a solid base in agriculture. I strongly believe that agriculture is the key towards providing jobs, "the lady senator said.

As a significant move towards full implementation of agricultural and fisheries modernization program, Loren reported that she and Rep. Abraham Khalil Mitra, chair of the House committee on agriculture and co-chair of COCAFM, have instructed the Department of Agriculture to convene all the departments and agencies involved in the implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) to discuss the proposed budget for AFMA in 2010 and what the various agencies have been doing in relation to the implementation of AFMA.

"This has to be done to prevent overlapping and duplication of functions as well as to ensure that AFMA budget would be spent efficiently and in the rightful way and purposes," Loren said.

AFMA budget is the sum of the total DA budget, the AFMA additional budget and the amount attributed by each participating agency out of their regular budget for the implementation of AFMA-related activities.

The programs included in the AFMA implementation are: agricultural and fishery land and water use classification and planning; research and development; information, extension and communication; production and market infrastructure support, credit assistance; human resource development; rural non-farm employment and basic needs assistance; and regulation of food safety and protection of plants and animals from pests and diseases.

AFMA programs aim to achieve food security, poverty alleviation and social equity, people empowerment, protection from unfair competition, global competitiveness, sustainable development and rational use of resources.

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