Thursday, February 26, 2009
Early Passage of National Agricultural Extension Bill Pushed
Sen. Loren Legarda wants Congress to fast-track passage of the National Agricultural Extension Bill as ineffective extension services currently offered by the government limit the productivity of Filipino farmers.
“It remains a puzzle to many Filipinos why the Philippines still has to import 10 percent of its rice needs each year despite hosting for decades now the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the source of many rice-farming innovations and research,” Legarda said in sponsoring the bill at yesterday’s session.
According to her, the output of many agricultural research institutions are also not fully used in the fields as local government units (LGUs) find it difficult to provide farmers extension services like transfer of technology, credit and marketing assistance.
“Our extension services fail to translate the technologies from our research stations into actual field practice by our farmers or agriculture producers,” she said and noted that its downside is that agriculture’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product has been shrinking through the years.
“For example, Vietnam and the Philippines have the same technology in rice. Yet, the difference in yield is about one ton per hectare. If we increase Philippine yield by one ton per hectare in the irrigated areas alone, it is enough to wipe out the annual average total rice imports of the country,” the senator said.
She explained that the bill she is pushing for seeks to transform the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) into the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Agency (PAFEA), expanding ATI’s limited mandate. The PAFEA, she added, will be tasked to plan, make policies and manage knowledge resources, as well as provide other extension services such as demonstrations, mass media and human resource development.
According to her, the bill also proposes that grant aid be given by the national government to increase the resources of LGUs, especially the fourth- to sixth-class municipalities.
These grants, she said, will be used to defray the cost of personal salaries and leverage against the provision of funds of operations by the LGU concerned. “This addresses the often-cited problem that municipalities provide funds for personal salaries, but do not have resources to finance operations, severely limiting the productivity and usefulness of extension workers,” she added.
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