Break ‘cycle of disaster, poverty’ in agriculture – Gordon
Re-electionist Senator Richard J. Gordon today called on the public and the private sectors to help break what he called a “cycle of disaster and poverty” that has been pulling back the agriculture sector for decades.
Gordon, who chairs the Senate government corporations and public enterprises, said the Filipino farmers are always at a disadvantage yearly due to factors beyond their control, such as natural disaster, smuggling, and unfair competition.
“We have to stop the cycle of disaster and poverty in agriculture. Every time there’s smuggling, na-impoverish iyung farmer, kinukumpetensiya siya sa garlic, kinukumpetensiya siya sa lahat ng produkto,” he said in a recent agriculture forum. “Ang kailangan natin is to create an atmosphere upon which agriculture will be modernized by both public and private sectors, with private sector being allowed to do its business because it knows how to do business with the modicum of ‘yung talagang hindi naman nasisikil para makakuha ng tamang presyo ‘yung farmer at saka makuha nila yung produkto ng farmer na kikita din sila in the end," he added.
Being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, Filipino farmers are not spared from the average of 20 typhoons traversing through the country annually, which often spoil their months-long preparation for the harvest.
Gordon cited for instance the high price farmers had to pay in the wake of Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai), the most powerful storm to hit the country in 2021, which amounted to at least Php 11 billion in damages per latest figures.
Other threats include outside competition from smuggling, as imported products from countries such as China offer a cheaper alternative against Filipino produce. According to the report of the Bureau of Customs, it has seized around PhP 222-million worth of smuggled goods in the first half of 2021 alone.
To help address these perennial problems, Gordon proposed that the government should set up an information hub to serve as a one-stop shop to address persisting agriculture-related issues.
“We’ve tried everything in agriculture and, for that matter, even in the general framework of our economy, kailangan natin talaga, mayroon tayong strategic platform na lahat ng sinasabi natin like land reform, lahat ng ginagawa natin, rice tariffication, agricultural modernization and fishery modernization, mailalagay natin yan sa isang lugar para maintindihan ng farm at ng private sector,” he said.
“I-aadvocate ko na ‘yung private sector makatulong. Ang gobyerno dapat paves the way for the private sector to come into agriculture dahil ang hinahanap ng mga tao sa mga farmers, magkaroon sila ng liberation from poverty,” he added.
It may be recalled that Gordon has filed the Regional Investment and Infrastructure Coordinating Hub of Central Luzon (RICH) bill, a measure that was approved by Congress but was vetoed by President Duterte in the 17th Congress.
The bill aims to maximize the use of available infrastructures, agricultural land, and human resources to encourage foreign and local investments outside the National Capital Region and attract foreign direct investment into Central Luzon.
Food insecurity also intensified during the pandemic, as a United Nations-commissioned report detailed that 46.1 million Filipinos experienced limited access to food caused by lack of money and other resources.