By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Sunday pushed for the passage of the bill that seeks to utilize idle or abandoned government-owned lots and buildings for urban agriculture and vertical farming areas in order to reduce urban poverty and also ensure food security.
Pangilinan, himself a vegetable farmer who started planting on a small vacant lot in front of his house in Laguna, said it would be wise to grow food in these idle and abandoned government lands and put these areas to good use.
“In our own homes, we can start with planting herb gardens, even if only in garden pots. Aside from the joy of savings in grocery bills, there’s also joy in harvesting and eating your own produce,” Pangilinan said.
But Senate Bill No. 257, or the proposed Urban Agriculture and Farming Act of 2019, is for the national and local governments. The bill requires them to use idle or abandoned government lots and buildings, including land in state universities and colleges (SUCs) for growing crops, raising livestock, and producing food using methods in urban agriculture and vertical farming.
He said the bill aims to solve four problems mainly, urban poverty, food security, community building, and urban environment management.
“Our cities will be cleaner, with fresher air, and more neighbourly relations in the community,” said Pangilinan, a former Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
The bill also mandates the Departments of Agriculture (DA) and Science and Technology (DOST) to support and launch research for state-of-the-art technologies on urban agriculture and vertical farming.
Under the bill, local government units (LGUs) are required to formulate policy on the practice, particularly on the use of unused spaces and idle lands, aside from granting incentives to constituents who actively participate in urban farming.
Also under the bill, the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is also tasked to include urban agriculture and vertical farming in the curriculum of secondary and tertiary education in private and public schools.
According to Pangilinan’s bill, appropriations for the implementation of the measure shall be incorporated in the annual budgets of the DA, DOST, DepEd, and CHED.