By Hannah Torregaza
Senator Cynthia Villar today vowed to hasten the approval of bills relevant to spurring the growth of the country’s agricultural industry.
At the initial consultative meeting and launch of (Food and Agriculture Organization) FAO-Legislative Advisory Group PH or FLAG-PH, Villar, who chairs the Senate agriculture and food committee, said one of the measures she intends to expedite is Senate Bill 322 or an act establishing a continuing national program for hybrid and other quality seeds production.
The senator pointed out she had called a hearing late last year on the implementation of Republic Act 3708 or the Seeds Industry Development Act of 1992 due to its failure to make available high-quality seeds to small farmers.
“Allow me to give you an update on my authored bills, such as the National Food Authority (NFA) Reorganization Act; and the Abolition of the irrigation service fees for small farmers and some other bills,” Villar said.
The lawmaker said the reorganization of the NFA is among the priorities of her committee this year.
Villar said she believes the NFA is due for reorganization “because of the key role it plays in the lives of rice-eating Filipinos and a rice-producing Philippines or our food security.”
She lamented that until now the Philippines is yet to reach its rice self-sufficiency targets.
Villar said even President Duterte is keen on NFA taking a bigger role by handling other agricultural commodities (rice and corn) besides rice.
Likewise, she said that for the first time in the country’s history, irrigation would now be free for farmers.
A primary author of the Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act of 2017 or Senate Bill 1465, she said the bill is now under Committee Report No. 103 and is ready to be approved.
“Once signed into law, free irrigation services will be institutionalized for small farmers or those with eight hectares or below, which as UN-FAO acknowledges are the ones that will feed the world’s population,” Villar stressed.
“It is truly a landmark law that will benefit generations of Filipino farmers,” she added.