By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Deputy Speaker and AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin is pushing for the passage of a bill seeking to safeguard the rights and support the development of agricultural development workers.
She cited the need for Congress to pass the proposed Magna Carta of Agricultural Development Workers to address underemployment in the agricultural sector.
“Every year, our country gains thousands of brilliant agriculturists, aqua-culturists, foresters, and other potential agricultural development workers. Instead of giving their service to the country, they choose to explore greener pastures abroad because they are not given enough job opportunities where they can practice what they have learned,” Garin said.
Citing a study published by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in 2017, she said about 40 percent of underemployed workers are in agriculture. And while 29 percent of the overall number of workers in the Philippines is employed under this sector, its output share is only a mere 10 percent.
This means that the productivity of the average worker in agriculture is only about a third that of average worker, Garin said.
She urged the House leadership to prioritize the passage of House Bill 6329, also known as the Magna Carta of Agricultural Development Workers to address the decline in output share and employment share of the agricultural workers.
Garin said the bill seeks to strengthen the rights of agricultural development workers, giving them additional benefits in terms of compensation, proper working hours, and other various incentives and rewards.
“The bill highlights provisions safeguarding the rights and supporting the development of agricultural development workers. This includes security of tenure for permanent positions, training and scholarship programs, overtime pay, an incentive and reward system, and an anti-discrimination clause,” she said.
The bill calls for the creation of the Magna Carta for Agricultural Development Workers Committee to oversee the agricultural service career development of agricultural workers.
Sitting at the panel are the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA); Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG); Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); Civil Service Commission (CSC); National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC); Department of Budget and Management (DBM); and a representative from a recognized national association of Agricultural Development Workers.
Covered by the bill are aqua-culturists, veterinarians, agricultural engineers, nutritionists, agricultural extension workers, agricultural technicians and operators, allied agricultural professionals, and administrative and support personnel regardless of their employment status.
House Bill 6329 proposes salary grade (SG) adjustments for Agricultural Technician 1 (SG 11 from SG 6); Aqua-culturist (SG 12 from SG 11); and Agricultural Technologist (SG 15 from SG 10). Deputy Speaker Garin maintains that the salary grade adjustment is to boost the morale of the agricultural development workers.
House Bill 6329 has been pending with the Committee on Agriculture and Food since September 7, 2017.