Ensure food security, help farmers, fishers – Bong Go
JAVIER JOE ISMAEL
The Manila Times
CITING the crucial role of farmers and fisherfolk in ensuring food security, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has underscored the need to continue strengthening agricultural support systems and infrastructure as he welcomed the recent enactment of a measure that expands the agriculture, fisheries and rural development financing system. Go was an author of the measure, which became Republic Act (RA) 11901. Through reforms in the existing structure of the financial system, the senator said rural communities will have greater access to credit, which will help improve their welfare, competitiveness, income and productivity, particularly for farmers, fisherfolk, agri-based workers and organizations and other target rural community beneficiaries. “Pangunahing source ng kabuhayan ng karamihan ng ating mamamayang Pilipino ang agrikultura, kaya dapat mas palakasin pa natin ang mga programa o kaya naman dagdagan pa upang mas lalo pong ma-engganyo ang ating mga magsasaka. Sila ang nagsisiguro na may makain tayo sa araw-araw (Agriculture is the main source of livelihood of many of our fellow Filipinos. We need to continue strengthening our agricultural support systems in order to encourage our farmers. We depend on them for the food we eat everyday),” Go added. “It is critical that we support our farmers and fishers. To ensure that those in rural areas have equitable prospects for development, we must continue to strengthen agricultural support systems and infrastructure,” he said. Primarily authored by Sen. Cynthia Villar, the new law mandates all banking institutions, except newly-established banks, to set aside at least 25 percent of their total loanable funds for agricultural and fisheries-related sectors after operating for five years. The total loanable funds generated by a banking institution will be defined by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Moreover, both the Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines are tasked to use their resources to invest in and promote digital banking technology, automation, branchless banking and cash agent operations to reach more remote areas, and use of e-commerce and mobile phone applications to reach the rural public. Under the law, financing shall come in the form of loans and investments to support productivity-enhancing programs, projects or activities, encourage competitiveness and promote sustainable development of rural communities. This includes post-harvest activities like processing, storage, marketing, distribution and logistics. The measure repealed RA 10000, or the “Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act of 2009,” which was initially designed to extend credit access to the agricultural sector. Go previously said the old law had to be improved since most farmers and fisherfolk remain a low-income, impoverished, high-risk sector due to lack of means and mechanisms to add value to their products. He has long emphasized the importance of supporting the Philippine agriculture and fisheries sectors, noting that food security is a vital part of the country’s national security. Go has also been advocating for other programs to support farmers and fishers in the country, such as the enhancement of the irrigation of farmlands and expansion of the National Rice Program. He saw the need to invest heavily in the establishment of regional and big provincial storage facilities to prevent wastage of farm produce. The senator pushed for the promotion of agripreneurship and the provision of incentives to farmers’ children, such as better scholarship grants, to encourage them to continue farming.