In view of the implementation of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program (BP2), Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go emphasized the need to invest more in the agriculture sector and promote household food security in the countryside, ensuring that the basic needs of BP2 beneficiaries are sustained once they have relocated to their home provinces.
“This is an opportune time to decongest Metro Manila by creating opportunities outside this overpopulated metropolis, especially for our urban poor who wish to relocate to the countryside. There are still hundreds of hectares of agricultural land and unlimited water resources that can be utilized for livelihood in the provinces. Agriculture and food security play a big role in regional development,” Go explained.
“Let us provide the urban poor the needed opportunities to have a sustainable livelihood in the provinces if they decide to relocate since they are one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society amid this COVID-19 pandemic as well as in times of other calamities,” he added.
To accomplish this task, the Senator urged the agriculture department to further develop food security programs—this time, focused on household food security—as the government prepares for more Filipinos who may opt to move back to the countryside as a way to decongest Metro Manila and spread economic development nationwide.
“Dahil sa COVID-19, nakita po natin kung gaano ka-vulnerable ang Metro Manila sa mga sakit dahil sa congestion dito. Isa sa mga nakita nating solusyon dito ang BP2. Ngunit para mas mahikayat natin ang mga Pilipino na bumalik sa kanilang probinsya, dapat nating masigurado ang food security sa bansa, lalo na sa ating mga probinsya,” Go said.
“Kaya naman hinikayat ko ang Department of Agriculture na patuloy na maglatag at mag-implementa ng mga programa para masiguro natin na may sapat na pagkain para sa mga Pilipino, lalu na sa mga BP2 beneficiaries, sa kanilang hapag kainan, may health crisis man o wala,” he also said.
“More specifically, dapat mas pagtuunan ng pansin ng DA ang ‘household food security’ ng mga magbabalik-probinsya,” he added, noting that there is a significant number of families in Metro Manila who already signified intentions to avail of the BP2 benefits.
To fund DA’s various food security programs, Go said that the Department of Budget and Management could consider allowing DA to realign the funds of the agriculture department in so far as the law permits, to ensure ample funds to implement DA’s existing programs supportive of BP2.
Some of these programs of the DA include the giving of seeds and support for backyard poultry raising; contribution of various inputs, such as machineries, tools, and equipment to agricultural workers; and the provision of low- or zero-interest credit and establishment of credit facilities, such as Sikat Saka Program for rice and corn farmers, Survival and Recovery Loan for victims of calamities, and Production Loan Easy Access for crops, livestock, fisheries projects.
The agriculture department also provides free training on rice production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production and farm mechanization to farmers, and implements the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita Marketing Program which establishes a direct link between the farmers/fisherfolk and the consuming public, ensuring that farmers get the best prices for their goods, while providing affordable, safe, and nutritious produce to Filipino consumers.
Meanwhile, Go also said that equally vital in ensuring household food security in the country is the close coordination and partnership between local government units and the agriculture department. Therefore, Go urged LGUs nationwide to implement their own programs that would be applicable to their localities which should be aligned with the DA’s food security plans and programs.
“Mahalaga rin po ang role ng LGUs sa food security ng bansa. Kaya dapat lamang po na magkaroon din sila ng sarili nilang mga programang pang-food security ayon po sa guidelines ng DA,” Go said.
With the help of these programs, Go said that Filipinos will be able to plant or do backyard poultry farming, paving the way for agri-preneurs to start their own food enterprises.
“We have seen how the pandemic broke the global supply chains of the food sector. Now is the time to ensure that we are food self-reliant and to reduce our dependence on global trade when it comes to food. Now, more than ever, we need to promote and support food security and agriculture in the country,” he emphasized.
As the proponent of the BP2, Go added that ensuring food security will also be crucial in its success, reminding national agencies to implement the program immediately to benefit all affected Filipinos who wish to go back to their home provinces.
“Importante po na mabigyan ng sapat na suporta mula gobyerno ang mga magbabalik probinsya lalo na pagdating sa pagkain, pabahay, at kabuhayan. Kasama rin dito ang pagsigurado na handa ang health, education at local government institutions para sa mga pangangailangan ng komunidad,” he stressed.
At the same time, the Senator said that he will also recommend to the Executive branch other necessary measures that can support the objectives of giving Filipinos a better future after the COVID-19 crisis.
“Bilang proponent ng programang ito, patuloy akong makikipagtulungan sa Executive branch. Sila naman ang may mandatong mag-execute at mag-implementa nito,” Go said.
“Now is the time to act. Marami nang gustong umuwi. Pero walang pilitan po ito. Layunin po ng programang ito na mabigyan ng bagong pag-asa ang mga Pilipino na may hinaharap silang maayos na kinabukasan at tutulungan sila ng gobyerno kung sakaling gusto nilang bumalik sa kanilang mga probinsya,” he added.