The House of Representatives led by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has expressed optimism that the proposed “Sagip Saka Act” will soon get enacted.
This came after the Senate adopted House Bill HB 8857 which institutes the Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program to be under the Department of Agriculture, as an amendment to Senate Bill 1281.
The House unanimously approved on third and final reading HB 8857 with 185 votes last Jan. 31. It requested last Feb. 6 for the formation of a conference committee with the Senate. However, the Senate adopted on the same day HB 8857 as an amendment to SB 1281.
House Bill 8857, principally authored by Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairman Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr. of party-list ANAC-IP, states that it is the declared policy of the State 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 the quality of their life.
Pursuant to this, the State shall strengthen the farmers and fisherfolk enterprise development program by 1) establishing a comprehensive and holistic approach in the formulation, coordination and implementation of enterprise development initiatives; 2) consolidating the roles of different government agencies involved in farmers and fisherfolk development enterprise development, and 3) intensifying the building of entrepreneurship culture among farmers and fisherfolk.
The bill provides for the establishment of the “Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program” which shall refer to the comprehensive set of objectives, targets and holistic approach in promoting the creation of enterprises involving agricultural and fishery products.
The program shall be integrated and be made consistent with the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan, and the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Program.
The Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program shall make use of science-based technologies in the identification and prioritization of agricultural and fishery products that will be covered.
The forms of assistance under the program are: 1) improvement of production and productivity, including agricultural extension services, skills development, provision of production inputs, equipment, facilities, and infrastructure for production and post-production activities; 2)improvement of producers’ and enterprises’ access to financing in the form of credit grants and crop insurance; 3) provision of access to improved technologies through research and development; and 4) provision of business support and development services, particularly in the areas of access to markets, marketing, and networking.
Areas covered by the program shall include, among others: a) agricultural and fisheries production, including processing of fisheries and agri-based products and farm inputs; b) acquisition of work animals, farm and fishery equipment and machinery; c) acquisition of seeds, fertilizer, poultry, livestock, feeds and other similar items’ d) working capitals for agriculture and fisheries graduates to enable them to engage in agricultural and fisheries related economic activities; e) working capital for long gestating projects; and f) agribusiness activities which support soil and water conservation and ecology enhancing activities.
Possible proponent groups and beneficiaries of the program are existing producer groups whose products are included in the priority commodity value chains and have the potential to raise their marketable surplus.
Other possible beneficiaries are farmers and fisherfolk who have the potential to produce marketable surplus and demonstrate willingness to voluntarily adopt, clustering with other groups and forge contracts or formal marketing arrangements with buyers or public intermediaries.
Other possible beneficiaries are 1) producer groups or cluster growers who are either operational and/or show a willingness to undergo capacity building on enterprise development and management; and 2) micro, small and medium scale processors, consolidators, exporters, and other enterprises who are willing to assist producer groups in vertical clustering or joint business planning, and forge contracts and formal marketing agreements with such groups.
Farmers and fisherfolk should be members of any organization operating in the priority commodity value chain for them to be eligible as members of the proponent group or as suppliers to the enterprise.
The Department of Agriculture shall be the implementing agency of the program. It shall tap the assistance, expertise and resources of the Philippine Coconut Authority, National Dairy Authority (NDA), Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Mechanization, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), and the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).
To oversee proper implementation of the program, the Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Council shall be created to be headed by the DA Secretary. Its members shall include authorized representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Finance (DOF), Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), a national organization of farmers cooperatives or associations, a national organization of fisherfolk cooperatives or associations, and the agriculture, food, restaurant and business sectors.