Tourism-depedent Siargao will have to look elsewhere for its survival, and Surigao del Norte 1st district Rep. Francisco Jose Matugas believes farming is the answer.
“We are hoping that something good will come out of this crisis. Going back to farming is one of them," Matugas said, referring to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is high time that we engage in activities that address our basic needs," he said, adding that local folk are compelled to go back to basics and appreciate the things that are considered necessary.
Matugas said that without tourism, Siargaonons have no choice but to go back to farming and fishing. "Prices of local produce are back to what they used to be. The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed caused a much-needed reset even for Siargao Island," he said.
He noted that during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), communities welcomed Bagtik Moserbisyo teams as they distributed free seeds to them for the purpose of backyard and home gardening.
"Bagtik Moserbisyo, Pagkaong Siguro ug Sigurado" was the food sustainability program launched by Matugas in Siargao Island back in 2018. Originally, the program's goal was to address food security issues on the island brought by the unprecedented influx of tourists.
"By the time the COVID-19 pandemic reached the country, the first batch of farmers who have signed up for the program have already been earning from their harvests. In fact, the farmers were even able to donate some of their vegetable produce to the Siargaonon frontliners and made vegetables available to the community during the ," bared the Mindanao solon, who is a vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
He said the farmer-beneficiaries of the program were those who participated in various trainings and workshops for the past two years, including the "LEAF Siargao: More Love for Women Farmers, the School Garden Program and the Agri-Youth."
"The gardens from the School Garden Program are now flourishing. The communities that participated in growing and maintaining these gardens are now reaping enough for their consumption and are earning from the surplus that they sell at their barangays’ vegetable market," noted Matugas.
He said he hopes Siargao would be on its way to becoming food sufficient once travels resume and the tourism industry is revived.