Duterte bill dangles free agri education to indigent farmers' kids

At a glance

  • Davao City 1st district Rep. Paolo Duterte files with two other solons House Bill (HB) No.7572, which seeks to institutionalize free tertiary agricultural education, and other related courses to all dependent children of qualified indigent farmers.

  • (Photo from MANILA BULLETIN)

Here's another attempt from solons to lure more young Filipinos into agriculture.

Davao City 1st district Rep. Paolo Duterte has led the filing of House Bill (HB) No.7572, or the proposed Act granting free tertiary agricultural education, and other related courses to all dependent children of qualified indigent farmers.

Referred to the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education last March 15, the bill aims to provide subsidies to children of qualified indigent farmers who will enroll in agriculture courses and other related fields of study in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

This is on top of the free tuition offered under Republic Act (RA) No.10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

“We need young Filipinos who are exposed to today’s technologies  to consider agriculture as a viable career. The youth’s innovative spirit, their enthusiasm to change the way we think or do things is what we need right now to reinvigorate our agriculture sector," said Duterte, a former deputy speaker.

"Providing farmers’  children  the educational support they need will encourage them to pursue agriculture and other related courses,” he added.

His co-authors in the measure include Benguet lone district  Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Edvic Yap.

Duterte said young Filipinos should be made aware that agriculture courses do not just involve farming, but also cover  degrees in  agricultural and biosystems engineering, agribusiness management, agricultural biotechnology, agricultural economics, and fisheries technology, among other studies.

Under the bill, dependents of qualified  indigent farmers who pass the admission requirements in SUCs and other local universities and colleges (LUCs) for agriculture and other related courses will  be provided free tuition and other school fees, as well as other  incentives and subsidies such as living and transportation allowances.

A qualified indigent farmer is defined under the measure as individuals included in the registry of farmers of the Department of Agriculture (DA), whose sole source of income is cultivating  the land they own or lease, or who actually engage in crop production, livestock and poultry farming.

“Apart from encouraging the youth to consider entering the [agriculture sector], the said measure will also uplift and motivate agricultural research that it vital in the sector’s quest for development,” the bill’s authors said.

They said the bill will complement ongoing government efforts to increase agricultural production and assistance to small farmers.

In coordination with the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), the DA is tasked under the bill to establish a scholarship program for tertiary agricultural education.

The bill’s authors cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showing the continuous employment drop in the agriculture sector comprising agriculture, forestry, fishing and the aquaculture industries.

From 24.5 percent (9.7 million) in October 2020 and 24.6 percent (10.77 million in October 2021), the PSA said the share to total employment of  the agriculture sector declined to 22.5 percent (10.6 million) in October 2022.

The PSA also said that in terms of skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers, the numbers continue to drop from 14.2 percent (5.7 million) in October 2020 and 12.4 percent (5.4 million) in October 2021 to 11.8 percent (5.6 million) in October of last year.