Uplift farmers, trim poverty

LEYTE Rep. Martin Romualdez yesterday prodded his fellow legislators to prioritize the passage of President Duterte’s pet bills that seek to increase farmers’ income and accelerate agricultural productivity, saying this will help cut poverty level by half before year 2022.

“If we want to reduce poverty, we need to find ways on how to increase the Filipino farmers’ income. We need to accelerate agricultural productivity, but this must translate to bigger take-home pay for those who till the soil,” said Romualdez, who is one of the leading contenders in the speakership race.

“From Day One in office, President Duterte has made it clear that no one should be left behind in our journey of progress. The economic growth that we are experiencing must benefit our farmers, who comprise majority of the population,” said Romualdez.

Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), made the remarks after President Duterte joined the inauguration of the Leyte rice processing plant of a couple whose business model promises to be “the national flagship for innovation in rice production.”

The rice processing plant of Chen Yi Agventures, owned by the husband-and-wife team of French-Italian Patrick Francois Renucci and Filipino-Chinese Rachel Renucci-Tan, is touted as one of the most technologically-advanced post-harvest facilities in the Philippines.

It is located in Alangalang, a second class municipality in Leyte about 30 kilometers south of Tacloban City, which is being developed as the country’s fifth largest rice producing area.

“This couple is leading the charge in rice revolution. Their firm is now a major producer that integrates seed growing, planting, farm management, harvesting and rice production in the Visayas and Mindanao,” Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), pointed out.

“This business model must be replicated throughout the country. The Renucci partnership program increased our farmers’ income ten-fold not through magic tricks. All it did was address the decades-old problems in agriculture such as the lack of seeds, high labor cost due to antiquated production methods and lack of post-harvest facilities,” he added.

Romualdez said the Alangalang experience must be studied by members of the 18th Congress and incorporated in an anti-poverty roadmap that may be jointly developed by the executive and legislative departments.

“Philippine agriculture needs to play a greater role in national development. The Duterte administration has laid the foundation for the country’s economic takeoff. If Congress can enact laws supporting agriculture, we can sustain the economic growth and make it beneficial to the ordinary man,” the Leyte solon added.

To make the agriculture sector more productive, Romualdez said legislators and the President’s economic team must agree on a program that ensures allocation of greater resources, focus on agricultural research and extension services, and assistance to farmers in production and marketing.

The program, he said, must also include improved access of small farmers to credit and loan facilities from Land Bank of the Philippines and other lending institutions.

“We all know the main problems in Philippine agriculture: lack of capital, lack of labor and the low yield. If we can address these issues, we can help President Duterte put agriculture back in the national development plan and ensure an exponential increase in farmers’ income,” Romualdez said.