Vice President and presidential aspirant Leni Robredo on Monday, Nov. 29, said the country’s farmers must focus on agricultural products that have more demand and market to improve their livelihood and living conditions.
Speaking during the Agri 2022 Online Forum, she noted hat traders have increased their income over the years while farmers only had a six percent increase in their income despite being the ones to do the hard work.
“Ang dami nating pwedeng gawin. Ngayon, sabi ko sa kanila, ‘mag-specialize na lang tayo sa mga produkto. Iyong may market, iyong ang itanim natin. ‘Wag na natin ipilit iyong mga wala naman masyadong market (We can do a lot of things. Now, I told them to specialize on the products. Those with market, let’s grow that. Let’s not force those without much market),” she said.
The Vice President shared that in a talk with traders, she learned the agricultural products that have high demand, among which are calamansi, ginger, chili pepper, lettuce, and cucumber.
But Robredo said some farmers have “resistance” to change because they are used to “cash crops.”
She had seen this in her initiative, the Umasenso sa Kabuhayan, which helps farmers become self-reliant agri-entrepreneurs by having them market their products directly to commercial establishments.
Her office has partnered with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in providing technical assistance to the farmers and training them to become entrepreneurs.
“So ito, gradual iyong pag-graduate from subsistence farming. So nangyari, parang mga block farms siya. Maliliit lang kasi maliliit na ano, eh, maliliit na magtatanim (So this, they will graduate gradually from subsistence farming. So it is like block farms. These are small because it is only intended for small farmers),” she said.
The presidential aspirant again opened up about wanting farmers and fisherfolk to participate in crafting policies that directly affect their livelihood.
“Kapag tinitingnan kasi natin parang masyadong trickle down iyong policy-making, masyadong trickle-down iyong pag-roll out ng mga programa natin (When we look at it, our policy-making just trickles down, even the rolling out of our programs),” she said.
“So ako, lagi kong bina-bat iyong (I am always batting) more participation noong ating (of our) farmers sa pagplano. Kasi kapag ang nagpa-plano hindi sila, hindi masyadong naisasaalang-alang (in planning. Because if they are not the ones planning, they’re not being considered). We don’t give a lot of focus on their plight,” Robredo added.
The lady official mentioned the People Empowerment Act, which she filed in the 16th Congress when she was still Camarines Sur representative.
The bill provides for people’s participation in all levels of governance—planning, policy making, execution, operationalization, evaluation, and monitoring.
It is patterned after her husband’s Empowerment Ordinance of Naga City that created the Naga City People’s Council, allowing for direct civil society participation in governance.