Delivered by Cong. Mark Villar at the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) Awarding & Recognition CeremonyTheme: Enhancing Alliance; Optimizing Outcomes. Held at Summit Hall, Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Pasay City, June 22, 2015.

Congratulations to all the awardees in today’s ceremony. I understand that this event also marks the anniversary of the consolidation of the two former councils of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)—the Philippine Council for Marine and Aquatic Research and Development (PCAMRD) and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) in 2011—or the fourth anniversary of what has become PCAARRD.

As one of the leading groups that extends research and development (R&D) support to the agriculture sector, the role PCAARRD cannot be discounted. The programs that it formulates for science and technology-based R&D in the different sectors are truly beneficial and crucial to the sectors’ further growth and development.

As the current chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, I have worked numerous times with PCAARRD and we have ongoing as well as upcoming activities. So, I acknowledge their valuable contribution in the agriculture sector. The new technologies and modern systems they develop directly or indirectly help improve the lives of Filipino farmers and fisherfolks by making their work easier, increasing their earning capability, opening new markets for them, helping them cope with environmental risks among others.

As such, I agree that, PCAARRD has been contributing tremendously in catalyzing the Philippine agriculture, aquatic and natural resources (AANR) sectors toward self-sufficiency and global competitiveness.

That is also the primary reason why I really pursued the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee. I would like to help in improving the plight of Filipino farmers and fisherfolks, who are among the poorest sectors in our country. Since Day One, I have been working on that goal. The Philippines is an agricultural country, so we should focus on the further growth and development of the agriculture sector. I also believe that R&D as well as technological innovation are important in further growing and developing the country’s agriculture sector.

In fact, we have reviewed the slow implementation of Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act or (AFMA) or R.A. 8435, which calls for the allocation of at least P20 billion a year for agriculture modernization-related programs and projects. And yet data cite that the Philippines still lags behind its regional neighbors in the farm mechanization aspect—a far fifth placer to Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for Republic Act (R.A.) 10601 or the Agriculture and Fisheries Mechanization Law or AFMECH is already completed. It will promote the development and adoption of modern, appropriate, cost-effective and environmentally safe agricultural and fisheries machinery and equipment to enhance farm productivity and efficiency to achieve food security and increase farmers’ income.

Filipino farmers and fisherfolks are among the poorest in our country, I believe that new concepts and technologies will help them compete, especially with the economic reintegration under the ASEAN Economic Community starting at the end this year. We need to help Filipino farmers and agricultural workers, which comprise two-thirds of our population, to be more efficient, productive and globally competitive. 

  The agriculture sector will be able to generate more revenues for the Philippines, if it will be backed not only by adequate budget and effective programs of the government, more so with the adoption of advanced systems and technology.

On the legislation side, I am doing my best in giving all the necessary legislative support to farmers and fisherfolks, or the agriculture sector in general.

Under my chairmanship, the committee has passed into law the amendment to the Fisheries Code of 1998 and the Sugar Cane Industry Development Act of 2014, which would put in place programs to promote and support the competitiveness of the Philippine sugar industry. I have also sponsored Senate Bill 2675 or the ‘Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act of 2015’ and Senate Bill 2831 or the ‘Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act of 2015’. I am also pursuing the passage of Senate Bill No. 2765 that will declare certain acts of agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage, the farm tourism bill, crop protection bill and many others.

I have an open-door policy and I closely interact with agriculture stakeholders for feedback and consultation. In fact, inilalapit ko ang Senado sa mga tao. I have conducted public hearings in provinces all over the country, na affected ng mga issues—we assessed the sugarcane industry in Bacolod; tackled halal policies and amendments to the Fisheries code in General Santos City; checked on the plight of Filipino coconut farmers in Davao del Sur; consulted garlic and onions growers in Ilocos Norte and Nueva Ecija.

Tinututukan ko rin ang mga issue at mga problema na humahadlang sa pagsulong ng agriculture sector at  nagpapahirap sa mga magsasaka at mga mangingisda.  Among those are smuggling cartels, unwarranted price hikes in farm produce (i.e. garlic, onions etc.), the Philippines’ entry into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), coconut infestation, halal food accreditation, and others.

As I have pointed out earlier, I am glad that I got the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, because I want to contribute to the best of my ability in bringing about changes that will spell a difference in the lives of farmers and fishermen and contribute to the growth and development of the agriculture sector. Let us continue to work together and combine our efforts towards our collective goal and shared vision for the agriculture sector.

Maraming salamat muli, happy anniversary and more power to PCAARRD!