By Genalyn Kabiling
A new law establishing a farmers and fisherfolk enterprise development program has been signed by President Duterte in a bid to boost their income and productivity.
In Republic Act No. 11321 or the “Sagip Saka Act,” the government will extend assistance to farmers and fishermen by improving their production and productivity, enhancing access to credit grants and crop insurance as well as improved technologies, among others.
To promote and support the country’s farmers and fisherfolk, the law also mandates national and local government agencies to purchase agricultural and fishery products from accredited farmers and fisherfolk cooperatives and enterprises. Such procurement will be exempted from bidding process and instead undergo a negotiated procurement.
“It is declared policy of the State to achieve sustainable modern agriculture and food security by helping the agricultural and fishing communities to reach their full potential, increasing farmers’ and fishermen’s incomes, and bridging gaps through public-private partnerships, thereby improving their quality of life,” the law read.
“In pursuant of this policy, the State shall strengthen the farmers and fisherfolk enterprise development program by establishing a comprehensive and holistic approach in the formulation, coordination and implementation of enterprise development initiatives, consolidating the roles of different government agencies involved in farmers and fisherfolk enterprise development, and intensifying the building of entrepreneurship culture among farmers and fisherfolk,” it added.
The new law, signed by the President last April 17, has mandated the Department of Agriculture (DA) to be the implementing agency of the “Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program.” It will work with concerned government agencies for technical support and assistance.
Under the program, the government seeks to promote the development of enterprises involving agricultural and fishery products, particularly use science-based technologies to identify and prioritize these products.
The forms of assistance include agricultural extension services, skills development, provision of production units, equipment, facilities and infrastructure for production and post-production activities; improvement of access to financing; provision of access to improved technologies through research and development; provision of business support and development services such as marketing and networking.
The beneficiaries of the program are existing producers of priority commodities, farmer and fisherfolk, producer group or cluster of growers, and micro, small and medium scale processors and exporters.
The law also stated that partnerships or alliances between farmers and fisherfolk and the private sector may be formed to improve market aces of producer groups.
Also approved by the law are certain tax incentives and exemptions such as exemption of gifts and donations of real and personal properties for donor’s tax.
The local government units will also exempt structures, buildings and warehouses for storage of farm inputs and outputs from real property tax provided the value of the property does not exceed P3 million.
The Land Bank of the Philippines will also provide preferential rates and special window to accredited framers and fisherfolk enterprises.
The government will also grant income tax exemption arising from the operations of the enterprises provided the farmer and fisherfolk cooperatives and enterprises are registered barangay micro-business enterprises.
Under the law, a Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Council is also created to oversee the implementation of the program. It will be chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture.
The agriculture department will also keep an information system that contains the registry of agricultural and fisheries enterprises and a roster of private companies engaged with these enterprises.