By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday proposed to mandate local government units (LGUs) in the country to allocate at least 10 percent of their annual funds to agriculture.
In a hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, Villar said she will work on the passage of a law that would provide for the mandatory allocation of LGU funds for agriculture to ensure food security amid the country’s increasing population.
“Maybe we can ask them (LGUs) to allocate around 10 percent of their fund to agriculture. Because most of them, both in the rural and in the urban area, should encourage agriculture for our food security. So I don’t think it’s much to ask them,” Villar said, noting that LGUS are required by law to allocate at least five percent of their respective annual budgets to gender and development programs and activities.
The senator raised this as she lamented how local agriculture officials fail to perform due to the lack of funds that will “encourage” them to initiate agriculture projects in their areas.
If there is law requiring LGUs to provide a budget for agriculture, “then they will have money to spend for their city and municipal agriculturists and provincial agriculturists,” Villar said.
“Kasi ngayon wala silang ginagawa, so hindi maganda ‘yon. Kaya failure din yong ating agriculture in the Philippines (Because right now they are doing nothing, and it’s not good. And that is also a reason why agriculture in the Philippines is a failure),” she added.
She also blamed the “absence” of programs by government agencies that will actually help Filipino farmers to be competitive.
The 10-percent LGU allocation, Villar noted, could be used to promote agriculture, especially in urban areas of the country where there are no agricultural lands.
Villar said the agriculture committee will refer to the plenary the measures promoting urban agriculture and vertical farming in metropolitan areas and public and private schools in the country.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan, during the hearing, said the agency supports bills on urban agriculture.
Cayanan said urban farming will not only supplement the food needs of residents in urbanized areas, but also help in their waste management as this would also promote recycling and composting.
The DA official added that this could also address malnutrition and stunting of children since fresh and nutritious food will be more available and accessible to them. Families could also generate addition income from their excess produce, Cayanan also noted.
Representatives of the Department of Education and other stakeholders also expressed support for the Senate’s move.