Senator-elect Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday said Philippine agriculture will be part of his priorities in the Senate, highlighting the direct impact food security has on the population’s health and productivity regardless if there is a crisis or not.
“Wala pa pong pandemic at hindi pa nangyayari y’ung sa Ukraine at sa Russia, problema na natin ang presyo ng mga bilihin lalo na ang pagkain. Ngayon, talagang kailangan front and center ang mga programa at proyekto natin sa agriculture,” Cayetano said in an interview with reporters after the general assembly of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. on May 25, 2022.
The Senator-elect said he will work to allocate a bigger budget for the sector to enable the Department of Agriculture to implement a well-curated variety of programs and projects.
He said these programs must be in accordance with a strategy for a more efficient agriculture industry, to be crafted from proposals made by actual experts and agricultural groups.
He cited as example the need to shift the approach in Philippine agriculture from ordinary farming and fishing to agribusiness.
“Ang dami po nating mga kababayan na napakagaling sa agriculture, kaya nga lang nasa abroad kasi hindi nila makita y’ung future dito. But isa sa pinakamayaman, kung ang pag-usapan mo man ay ang karagatan o ang lupa, ay ang Pilipinas,” Cayetano said.
He said agribusiness is the key to reigniting the general public’s interest in agriculture, which he aims to introduce by passing measures that will fund education for aspiring agriculturists and build shared facilities where farmers and fisherfolk can process their harvest.
“Usually when we tell people ‘agriculture,’ iniisip nila y’ung magtatanim, mangingisda, but [it can also include] y’ung added value by processing the food, for example… We should look at farmers like business[people],” the Senator-elect said.
The strategy, he added, includes reviewing and amending existing laws such as the Rice Tariffication Law and the Land Reform Act.
Three basic needs
Cayetano said his legislative agenda is ultimately geared towards guaranteeing Filipinos the three basic needs of a stable society: food, health, and education.
“Dapat, kahit anong pangit ng ekonomiya, walang Pilipinong magugutom, walang Pilipinong hindi makakakita ng doktor at makaka-access ng gamot, at walang Pilipinong mapipilitang tumigil sa pag-aaral,” he said.
“If we can find a way na y’ung tatlong ‘yon ay guaranteed sa bawat Pilipino, maganda ang future natin,” he added.
Cayetano also said while hunger and poverty have been long-standing problems of the country, the need for more abundant agriculture has become greater given the sharp fall of the economy and the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sana ngayong panahon ng crisis, mamulat tayo na agriculture ang isa sa mga kailangan nating sandalan,” he said.
He said the problem of hunger directly affects health, which ultimately leads to reduced productivity.
“Kung ang talagang ulam natin parati ay tuyo at kanin, so masyadong maalat, tapos panay kanin kasi hindi na abot-kaya ang gulay at isda at iba’t ibang masusustansya na prutas, y’ung natipid natin sa pagkain gagastusin din natin sa pagpapagamot,” he said.