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Planting the seeds of recovery

"Survive, reboot, grow."

In a little over a month, Jose Mari Chan’s classic Christmas song will be hitting the airwaves, signaling the start of the “ber” months, the final turn of the year. Surprisingly, it seems we have yet to feel the year 2020. Except maybe for the numbers surrounding the COVID-19 cases, the surge in inflation effected by this never-ending quarantine, and the worsening economy, 2020 has yet to make its presence felt.

But even if we are to let ourselves believe the Year 2020 did not actually happen, we have to accept the fact the current situation has driven the global economy to the doldrums. And the challenge that confronts us is how to reverse the situation in the shortest period of time in order to reclaim the old normal we have been used to.

So, as we the world awaits the development of the various vaccine touted to neutralize the contagion, every government around the world is now laying the foundation for the recovery of each country.

In the Philippines, the government is still bullish on its Build, Build, Build program, confident it could jumpstart the economy which has stagnated since more than 90 percent of the country was placed on quarantine.

However, this Build, Build, Build program, though creating jobs, would only tend to pump-prime the economy short term if the larger sector of the society is left behind – the agriculture sector.

According to statistics, 60-70 percent of the population is still dependent on agriculture for their source of livelihood.

And as such, no less than Agriculture Secretary William Dar is batting for the agriculture sector to play a major role in pursuing a socio-economic response framework to the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts.

According to Dar, for the Philippines to rise stronger from this COVID-19 crisis, “the government must encourage the development of an agriculture-driven economy.”

Dar furthers that economic growth in agriculture is more effective at reducing poverty and food insecurity than growth in other sectors. Investments in agriculture can help revive food production and create jobs, following a crisis, and enable rural communities to recover, adding that agri-fishery sector is bound to play a key role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic on food production, market access, and rural employment.

As everyone is expecting it would take time to return to the old normal. Dar says that even when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, business unusual is the new normal. Thus, the need to to focus on three guiding principles: survive, reboot, and grow.

To roll out immediate interventions for food production and availability, food accessibility and affordability, and food price stabilization, Dar has proposed a P66-billion stimulus package under the Plant, Plant, Plant program is contained in the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act which has recently been approved.

“We need to improve efficiencies in production, and enhance projects and activities to ensure affordability and availability of food supply,” Dar says as he added, stressing that all Filipinos must be involved in government-led actions to prevent food scarcity.

“This is where our eight paradigms under the ‘new thinking for agriculture’ come into play, namely: modernization, industrialization, export promotion, farm consolidation, infrastructure development, higher budget and investments for agriculture, legislative support, and roadmap development,” he said.

These paradigms, Dar says, will serve as the guiding light to speed up the implementation of the Plant, Plant, Plant Program to boost local food production and ensure food accessibility and affordability.

And with the support of the private sector and the local government units, Dar expects to improve productivity and food supply chain through farm consolidation and clustering, provision of accessible financing, stronger linkages between production and marketing, and establishment of more post-harvest and processing facilities.

Infusing life to the largest sector of our society is a sure-fire formula to lift the economy from a flat line. This is the seed we need to plant en route to recovery.

**

The other day, I had a discussion with a friend regarding how subdivisions and villages have attended to this pandemic. I’m so proud of my village homeowners’ association, for even if our barangay is one of those considered hotspots in Quezon city, landing in the Top 5 barangays with most Covid-19 infection, we have so far  maintained zero infection so far (And I pray we stay that until the end of this pandemic).

Other villages, especially Teachers Village and UP Village, which are barangays themselves, have also effectively managed the contagion, registering only one infection each to date.

Posh subdivisions, expectedly, are mum on the subject. Except for the case of Senator Manny Pacquiao who was put on the PUI list, we have yet to hear from homeowners’ associations of these high-end subdivisions if some of their residents have tested positive for the virus.

Anyway, speaking of posh villages, it was only from my friend that I learned that Forbes Park, Dasmariñas Village and Ayala Alabang have already been knocked out by Hillsborough Village as the ultra-executive village in the country.

Accordingly, Hillsborough, although registering two COVID-19 cases, has been strictly implementing quarantine protocols, even banning any business activity inside the village, leaving it the only subdivision along with the City of Cebu to be closed to any construction activities.

I’m not sure if this is still in compliance with the IATF regulation as Alabang, which is in Muntinlupa city. Is no longer under ECQ or MECQ unlike Cebu City.

But as long as their policies have no great impact on their residents and as long they help contain the spread of the virus, then maybe it’s just fine.

Topics: Charlie Manalo , COVID-19 , Agriculture Secretary William Dar
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