JPE: Comprehensive plan to help agriculture sector

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is preparing a comprehensive plan for the agriculture sector to help farmers and fisherfolk boost production, modernize methods and cope with the dry spell, and ensure there is enough food supply in the country.

The program will also temper food costs and cut down dependence on imported products, said Enrile, who is running for reelection under the Partido ng Masang Pilipino.

Speaking over the radio in Mindoro Occidental, the Senate chief said funding for irrigation and conservation of water resources should be increased to manage the impact of the El Niño phenomenon that periodically visits the Philippines.

At least 25 provinces have been affected by the drought so far, and the government expects the number to increase as it predicts El Niño to last until July. Field reports received by the Department of Agriculture as of February 16 showed that over 200,000 metric tons (MT) of palay, corn and other crops with an aggregate value of P2.84 billion have been damaged by the dry spell.

Severely affected by El Niño are Isabela, Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Masbate, Antique, Negros Occidental and Guimaras.

The agriculture department has already set aside over P882 million to aid farmers and fisherfolk, and for measures to mitigate the impact of the long dry spell.

“We will have to increase our expenditures para sa irigasyon at saka conservation of water resources… Maraming magagawa diyan,” the Senate chief said, adding that these efforts should be complemented by replanting of trees in order to expand the green coverage of the country.

The veteran legislator said his plans would also include the education of fisherfolk about aquaculture and other fishing opportunities, as well as new fishing methods in order to provide them with a more stable source of income.

“We are fostering aquaculture para stable ‘yung sources ng income nila and we will modernize the technique in fishing na ginagamit nila and also those involved in deep-sea fishing para tumaas ang kanilang income,” Enrile said.

Under the 2010 Appropriations Act, some P39.24 billion has been earmarked for the needs of the agriculture sector more designed to help farmers and fisherfolk meet the challenges of globalization, from P3.61 billion set aside in 2009.#