by DELANO TELAN TEFORA
The Philippines is a thriving nation of 7,107 islands blessed with vast natural resources. Her people are hardworking, living off these enviable gifts, half of whom belongs to the vital and extensive agriculture sector. The farmers and fisherfolks, the main contributors to the growth of the multi-billion peso agriculture industry, however are not given the attention and assistance they deserve for producing different kinds of food on tables not just in this country but in other nations as well.
Aside from the perennial problems of credit and access to the latest agricultural technologies, farmers and fisherfolks are faced with equally daunting challenges, such as changing weather patterns, conversion of farmlands, fluctuating prices, global economics meltdown, and worst, diversion of assistance that belong to the farmers and fisherfolks.
Our government leaders have been deaf and blind to the plight of the farmers and fisherfolks and allied sectors to agriculture. There are thousands of families that depend solely on agriculture which are not liberated from misery to prosperity; from failure to success. The 4Ps programs means 35 percent of Filipinos are not capable to support themselves.
Rice self sufficiency is the path why the Philippines must ensure that rice is accessible and affordable to Filipinos as their staple commodity. The key to this goal is to enhance provincial self sufficiency as Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) records show from 2003 to 2008 years, the annual average provincial growth of 3.68 percent was attained with all times high of 7 percent in 2004. In 2007 to 2009, the Philippines has a production performance of 5.96 percent growth. These achievements were attributed to in placed government interventions and investments through Rice Program with Hybrid Rice Commercialization program. However, such increase cannot match rice demand, owing to the high annual increase of population at 2.04 percent according to the National Statistics and Coordination Board (NSCB). Rice per capita consumption has also increased from 92.53 kgs per year to 120 kgs per year in 2010.
The present PDAF and DAP scams are clear diversion of funds and that the investment in the rice program of government are not enough to achieve self sufficiency sooner or later. The Department of Agriculture before has a Corporate Plan for Rice Self Sufficiency envisioned a 100 percent sufficient rice economy through improved rice productivity and increased income of rice farmers. It aims to increase total palay production from 16.2M MT in 2007; 17.3M MT in 2008; 17.8M MT in 2009; 18.7M MT in 2010; 19.6M MT in 2011; 20.6M MT in 2012 and 21.5M MT in 2013 leveling to reduce if not eliminate rice importation from 2010 to 2014. The targeted volumes of production are attainable in a normal condition with adequate government support to the program.
The said corresponding national government support will be matched with counterpart resources from the local government units to enhance a sense of responsibility and ownership of the rice self sufficiency plans.
The implementation of this Plan requires Php71 billion budget for the stated period including budget for the rehabilitation of irrigation systems and continuing rice Researches and Developments. Investments are needed in Research and Development to generate technologies that will further sustain increases in rice productivity and help expand the current production frontier in other rainfed and marshy areas. The role of the Researches and Developments is crucial in Agro economic systems effort to effectively manage and coordinate research matters only in agriculture and fishery and the stakeholders.
Fortunately, no one has given facts, figures and valid argument that categorically say if it can be achieved through “SA TUWID NA LANDAS”, that this elusive dream of rice self sufficiency for Filipinos can be realized. Our government must intensify the promotion of crop propagation management and production as food, feed, fuel, and fertilizer. It is true that many farmers are interested in planting, cultivating, and producing crops for food to survive and to help address the country’s food security.
Our prayers and great HOPE that our government officials both elected or appointed will change its image and spirit of character. /MP