Agriculture can save the Philippines from COVID-19 havoc
A resounding yes to “Hope in agriculture” (Editorial, 5/24/20). As a country with vast untapped agricultural lands and abundant bodies of water, we need to revive the agriculture sector. And this global pandemic made us realize the unlimited potentials of our fertile lands that have been taken for granted all these years.Republic Act No. 8435 or the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 was never passed into law to mean nothing. Where are we on the road map in terms of modernization of the mentioned sector? As an agricultural country, the Philippines could rise from this pandemic if we could put in place, with seriousness, highly needed reforms that encourage the development of an agriculture-driven economy.
The new normal leads to a paradigm shift, a different perspective that we must embrace for this nation to remain afloat. Both the government and the private sector have important roles to play in our journey to achieve food sufficiency and sustainability.
Doing all these is not a walk in the park. The herculean task of rising again from the havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic entails a new breed of citizens. But how can we attract people to take agriculture seriously sans infrastructure like irrigation, farm-to-market roads, better transport system, etc.?
Consequently, giving prime importance to agriculture would directly result to poverty alleviation, while jobs are created in the rural areas through the establishment of farms and other related industries. The decongestion of cities will not be farfetched if employment is generated in the province. And instead of our high dependence on imported basic produce like rice, etc., our export earnings from our farm products and aquatic resources would eventually increase.
We need to conduct information dissemination campaigns if we want to achieve the desired results of having enough supply of produce on the table. Farm-to-market, farm-to-table, farm/agri-tourism, organic farming, and domestic tourism should be the new lingo of the new normal.
The Department of Agriculture, as the lead agency, should review and rehaul its current practices. Massive training and information dissemination campaigns should be done to lure more people to go into farming. Just putting money in the pockets of our farmers and fishermen who are bereft of technical know-how would result to a wastage of resources.
Why not pour the chunk of funds of the Pantawid Pamil-
yang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to the needed infrastructure for agriculture, instead of giving money on doles?
I look forward to the time when my home province in Eastern Samar, tagged as among the poorest of the poor provinces, would eventually have, at minimum, its proper irrigation system. For agriculture to flourish, water supply is indispensable. Dependence on rains alone leads to poor harvests. As we are on the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean, our marine resources may also be tapped as a lucrative source of livelihood.
With food security, no threat of pandemic would cause us to panic again thinking where to get our staple rice, for instance. With ample food in our baskets, relief goods need not be synonymous to canned goods and meager kilos of imported rice contained in a toxic plastic bag.
Among its harsh lessons, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to go back to basics. As we “Heal as One,” we need not lose hope. We would never go wrong with agriculture. And this country will rise again.
BELEN DOCENA-ASUELO, [email protected]
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