As in any presidential elections, the economy should be at the heart of every political discourse. Millions of Filipinos look at the presidential elections as the time for change, and rest their hopes on the country’s new leaders.
The new president and his team will have their hands full on pressing economic issues—unemployment, poverty, low rural income, climate change and high prices. In particular, the new president has the task of improving the lot of farmers and fisherfolk, who comprise the majority of the population in the countryside.
Millions of Filipinos in the countryside still rely on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. They live and die by their crops from the farm and catch from the sea. Many of them live on a hand-to-mouth existence and are unable to break the poverty cycle. This neglected sector of the economy needs government assistance in terms of monetary, social and medical benefits
How many times have we read reports of Filipino farmers and fishermen bewailing their wasted produce and selling them for next to nothing, as calamities disrupt their fields, and their families go hungry?
It has even come to the point during the COVID-19 pandemic that various organizations and private persons have taken it upon themselves to buy vegetables, fruits, and fish at fair market prices from these poor farmers and fishermen—and place them in community pantries or give them away for everyone to benefit from.
But there’s a way to avert hunger and give dignity to our agricultural sector workers without resorting to handouts–let the government buy their wares directly to boost its own anti-poverty and food security programs.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, the Partido Reporma chairman and standard bearer, has proposed that the government buy 50 percent of the domestic agricultural output to avert huge potential income losses for our farmers and fisherfolk and alleviate their plight, while still stimulating the economy.
It makes sense because not only does it cut out greedy middlemen who have long preyed on our farmers and fisherfolk, it would also hurt illegal food importers who constantly undercut our agricultural workers and help keep food prices competitive in local markets.
This is not some idea Lacson plucked from thin air—this is being implemented now in Davao del Norte under Governor Edwin Jubahib, which has helped save farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods remain vulnerable to traditional economic pressures, on top of the negative effects of natural calamities.
Lacson says this dovetails with his party’s flagship Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) agenda, which gives local governments the power of the purse and allows them to plan their spending for development programs–instead of waiting for the national government to dole out assistance to them.
Lacson’s running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, explained: “When you disburse the money to the provinces, there is a corresponding mandate. It should be spent where it is intended. There will be a menu. You cannot use those funds inappropriately.” And we sure hope not, for our farmers and fishermen’s sake.
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