Sorsogon Governor Francis “Chiz” Escudero said the government needs to invest more substantially in the agriculture sector if it wants to attract a new generation of farmers and ensure food security for the country.
Citing data from the World Bank, Escudero said agriculture workers accounted for only 22.86% of the Philippine labor force in 2019, compared with 37.11% in 2000, which means more and more Filipinos are abandoning farms and farm work.
“Ang average na edad ng ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda ay 58-years-old. In two years’ time, senior citizen na sila. Walang bagong henerasyon ng magsasaka at mangingisda na pumapalit sa kanila,” Escudero pointed out.
“Dahil sino mang magsasaka, mangingisda, magniniyog o nagtatanim ng gulay, ang pangarap para sa anak nila ay maging teacher, pulis, sundalo, abogado, nurse, doctor. Walang nangangarap na sumunod sa yapak nila sa hirap ng buhay,” he added.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), poverty incidence is highest among agriculture workers, with 31.6% of farmers and 26.2% of fisherfolk living in poverty as of 2018. They were even worse off in 2015, when 40.8% of farmers and 36.9% of fisherfolk were poor.
“Sa ibang bansa, hindi mahirap ang magsasaka, hindi pobre ang mangingisda. Ito’y dahil sa subsidiya na binibigay sa kanila ng pamahalaan. Samantalang ang pinakamahihirap sa Pilipinas, nasa sektor ng agrikultura,” Escudero said.
“Panahon na para patunayan nating pwedeng magkaroon ng sapat na kita ang magasasaka at mangingisda para mapalitan na sila ng mas batang Pilipino na maglalagay pa rin ng pagkain sa ating mga lamesa. Kung hindi, mauubos na lang ang pera ng Pilipino kakaangkat dahil wala nang nagtatanim, wala nang nangingisda sa ating bansa,” he said.
Escudero, who is seeking a Senate comeback, said government neglect of agriculture has made the Philippines increasingly reliant on imports, particularly from Vietnam and Thailand. The Philippines is among the top rice importers in the world.
The governor is challenging the next president to commit Php400 billion to agriculture from the national budget, increasing over the next six years.