By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Francis N. Pangilinan on Tuesday pushed for the adoption of a program that would provide temporary employment to qualified individuals of poor households in rural areas.
In his Senate Bill 776, Pangilinan seeks to establish the Rural Employment Assistance Program (REAP), which will allow rural people to earn not less than 75 percent of the prevailing minimum wage for each day of work
The explanatory note of the Pangilinan bill states that the goal of the measure bill is to provide Filipinos with opportunities for just and sufficient means of livelihood in order to address poverty, especially in the rural areas.
The veteran lawmaker believes that the bill, once enacted into law, would help bridge the disparity between urban and rural areas in terms of development.
In the past three years, Pangilinan pointed out that the poverty and underemployment rate in the country is seen to be decreasing substantially.
Poverty incidence among Filipino families was projected at 16.1 percent in the first semester of 2018, lower than the estimated 22.2 percent during the same period in 2015.
In the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the unemployment rate has declined from 5.5 percent in April 2018 to just 5.1 percent in April 2019.
Despite all these improvements, Pangilinan said the overall development in the country has been uneven, with rural areas lagging behind.
‘’Most of the poor live in these areas and work in the agriculture and fisheries sector. Farmers and fishermen have consistently registered the highest poverty incidence among basic sectors since 2006,” he emphasized.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), blamed the lag in economic growth and higher rates of underemployment in rural areas to limited or lack of access to market, productive capital, as well as knowledge and technology.
In addition, the rural poor also have a small number of options for generating off-farm income.
Pangilinan, the former food security secretary during the Noynoy Aquino presidency, pushes for modernized agriculture as the way to become a progressive Philippines.