President Rodrigo Duterte approved into law the Sagip Saka Act or An Act Instituting the Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program of the Department of Agriculture (Republic Act 11321) last 17 April 2019. The law is based on HB 8857 by Rep. Jose Panganiban, Jr. and SB 1281 by Sen. Francis Pancratius N. Pangilinan, which seeks “to achieve sustainable modern agriculture and food security by helping the agricultural and fishing communities to reach their full potential, increasing farmers and fishermen’s incomes, and bridging gaps through public-private partnerships, thereby improving their quality of life,” according to the law’s declaration of policy.
The law specifically identifies the establishment of the farmers and fisherfolk development program with “comprehensive set of objectives, targets, and holistic approach in promoting” for businesses that cater to agricultural and fishery products.
The beneficiaries of the program include the following: 1) existing producer groups of priority commodities; 2) farmer and fisherfolk; 3) producer groups or cluster growers and; 4) micro, small and medium scale processors, consolidators, exporters and other enterprises.
According to Sen. Pangilinan, the Sagip Saka Act empowered LGUs to purchase rice, vegetable, poultry for their feeding programs, even during calamity and relief operations directly to the farmers groups without the need for bidding.
“This is a combined multi-sector approach of the government, private sector, LGUs, and groups of farmers and fisherfolk. This will lessen red-tape and a higher income for the farmers associations,” added Pangilinan on his recent press statement.
For purposes of seeking some ideas from the Sagip Saka Law, we sought feedback from an ISSI alumna and a farm consultant regarding the passage of the law.
“I want to focus on the marketing aspect,” said Maria Concepcion M. Arcega, a PRO-FIT Diploma in Food Safety Management graduate of UP ISSI.
“Ang mga farmers, mas gusto, tinatanim palang nila may market na sila. Kaya ang production at marketing, mag-asawa po. Marketing po siguro ang pinakamagandang tingnan ng government kasi marami tayong mga maliliit,” added Arcega, also a President of the Florida Lubao Organic Farmers Association, Inc. (FLOFA).
(The farmers want to have ready market for their produce. Production and marketing should be teammates. Better if the government gives emphasis on marketing since we have members that only have small capital).
Arcega expounded that “as a whole the law has a good intention for the farmers and fisherfolks and the SMEs, only that we have to be sure that they (government) focus on details and they do research to help small entrepreneurs like us.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Cristopher P. Dela Cruz commented that, “There is a weak point on the implementation. How could the government identify the legit beneficiary?”
Dela Cruz, a farm consultant, distributor of farm equipment and vet drugs, and Alquest Corporation President from Albay cautioned about “possible corruption” if the government will be lax in identifying the legit farmers and fisherfolk.
“The government, however, will help augment the income of the farmers since they will buy the produce directly from them,” added Dela Cruz.
With more than 10 million farmers and fisherfolk (as per the Philippine Statistics Authority, 2015) feeding the whole country, the law is a big step towards the attainment of their higher income since the middlemen will be eliminated in the process of the procurement from the food producers.
The law is but a long-delayed mechanism to better the lives of those who feed us. We owe it to our farmers and fisherfolk our nourishment as individuals and as a nation and it is just apt that they gain from the implementation of law.
Let us help with the successful implementation of the Sagip Saka Law. The Law is what our farmers and fisherfolk have been waiting for so long and it is but timely it has been passed for the betterment of their economic status.
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