By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has urged the Duterte government to consider investing heavily in the agriculture sector if it wants the country’s economic growth more inclusive or felt by a larger population.
Angara said that aside from infrastructure development, the Philippines needs nothing short of an “agricultural revolution” which the Duterte administration can spearhead alongside its “Build, build, build” initiative.
“Just as we hope to enter a golden age of infrastructure, we should aim to reach an equivalent ‘golden age of agriculture’,” Angara said at the 2018 National Conference and Agri-Fishery Research and Development Festival held in Sorsogon City,
“Where there’s build, build, build, there should also be a ‘grow, grow, grow’; ‘plant, plant, plant’ or even ‘fish, fish, fish’,” he further said.
An agricultural revolution, he said, is necessary to help revive the country’s ailing agriculture sector, considering that 60 percent of poor Filipinos work in the agriculture sector.
“We may be exhibiting among the fastest growth rates in the world today, but such growth would be for nothing if it doesn’t reach our farmers and fisher folk,” he said.
“Isipin nalang natin, bakit kasama pa rin ang mga magsasaka at mangingisda sa mga pinakamahirap na sektor? Bagaman pagkain ang kanilang hanapbuhay, marami pa rin sa kanila ang nagugutom (Just imagine, why are our farmers and fishermen are still one of the poorest sectors? Even if food is their main livelihood, many of them still go hungry),” Angara stressed.
“Kaya marami sa kanila ang nagkakasakit, at karamihan sa kanilang mga anak ay hindi nakapag-aaral o kaya naman ay hirap maghanap ng trabaho, (That’s why most of them fall ill, and most of their children cannot go to school or most of them are having a hard time finding job),” he said.
The conference was hosted by the Fulbright-Philippine Agriculture Alumni Association Inc., which considered the senator’s father, the late Senate President Edgardo Angara, as the father of the Fulbright-Philippine Agriculture Program.
The lawmaker recently received the Posthumous Award given by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to his father “for his distinguished contribution in the modernization of the Philippine agriculture and fisheries through the realization of the Agriculture and Fishery Modernization Act (AFMA) while he served as Agriculture Secretary from 1999 to 2001.”
Angara said that becoming an agriculture secretary gave his father the opportunity to implement the AFMA law and “to champion the advancement of food production programs that brought about the increase in volume of rice yield and other food staples in the country.”
“To him, investments in agriculture research and development (R&D) were always the most cost-effective. My father may have been a ‘weekend farmer’—as he once put it. But the problems facing farmers, fisher folk, livestock producers and all others in agriculture always occupied his mind,” he said.
“To him, agriculture wasn’t just a hobby or a passion project; it was an advocacy that needed to be pursued doggedly for the sake of the country,” added the senator.