Reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara is urging the government to put in place measures that would create more jobs and increase productivity in the agriculture sector to encourage young people to venture into farming.
“Kailangan nating palakasin ang sektor ng agrikultura at palakihin ang kita ng mga magsasaka para mahikayat natin ang mga kabataan na magsaka,” said Angara, who joined the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) campaign caravan in Negros Occidental, which is home to at least six universities and colleges offering various courses in agriculture.
Angara issued the statement after the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), citing the results of the January 2019 Labor Force Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), reported that the agriculture sector suffered 1.7 million job losses, which primarily contributed to the decline in the actual number of employed Filipinos in January this year compared to the same period last year.
The survey showed that the total registered employment decreased by 0.9 percent to 41.1 million in January, or equivalent to 387,000 fewer workers, compared to the previous year.
NEDA said this was mainly due to the 1.7 million employment loss in the agriculture sector, which overshadowed the combined 1.3 million additional jobs in industry and services sectors. The country’s labor force is comprised of those 15 years old and above, whether employed or unemployed.
According to Angara, the lack of support services from the government to farmers has led to the poor state of agriculture in the country, which makes the industry unappealing to pursue as a career.
“The seeming lack of government support to the agriculture sector is one of the most compelling reasons why we find it so hard to encourage young people to consider farming as a career, and why farmers and farm workers are leaving the field for better paying jobs,” Angara said.
The agriculture sector, the PSA said, currently employs 9.158 million individuals. The average daily wage of agriculture workers is P265, according to a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies or PIDS.
Angara noted that the waning interest in agriculture among the youth was evident in the sharp decline of enrollees in agriculture courses from 2015 to 2018, which dropped by almost 30 percent.
The Commission on Higher Education reported that 142,182 students enrolled in various institutions offering agricultural courses all over the country for school year 2015-2016. The enrollment fell to 127,287 for school year 2016-217 and further went down to 100,922 for 2017-2018.
To boost the agriculture sector, Angara said the government should strengthen support services for farmers by providing better irrigation facilities, institutional credit, proper marketing facilities, and other farm subsidies needed to increase their productivity.
The senator, who is running under the platform “Alagang Angara,” has filed with the Senate a bill seeking to develop and strengthen the agriculture education and training in the country, through the institutionalization of manpower development for agriculture entrepreneurship, also known as “agripreneur,” in vocational schools.
Angara has been urging the government to focus on improving the agriculture sector to help the country achieve inclusive growth and food security.
Aside from infrastructure development, Angara said, the nation needs nothing short of an “agriculture revolution,” which the Duterte administration can spearhead alongside its “Build, Build, Build” program.
An agricultural revolution is necessary to help revive the agriculture sector and improve the lives of impoverished farmers, who belong to 60 percent of the country’s poorest, he said.
Citing government records, Angara said the agriculture’s relative contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) had been declining over the years.
From 1998 to 2009, the sector accounted for 13 to 14 percent of the total GDP. This steadily declined to 10 percent in 2017.