Agriculture and Fishery Extension Bill seen to improve better extension seervices
by Susan Aro
La Trinidad, Benguet (29 November) -- The Agriculture and Fishery Extension Bill may yet be one of the solutions in filling the gaps in the agriculture sector.
Agricultural Training Institute Director III Dr. Evelyn A. Esquejo, who was the Guest of Honor and Speaker during the opening program of the Agro-Industrial Trade Fair in line with the 108th Benguet Foundation Day, said they are lobbying for the passage of the bill to improve the delivery of extension services.
Authored by Senator Edgardo Angara Senate Bill No. 2331 otherwise known as the Philippine Agriculture and Fishery Extension Act of 2008, aims to strengthen the national extension system to accelerate fisheries and development.
Esquejo said a similar measure, House Bill 4909 through the initiative of Congressman Ramon Mitra, Jr. was also filed at the Lower House.
One of the root causes of agricultural problems in the country is weak research and development extension services critical in achieving the goals of the Agriculture and Fishery Modernization Act (AFMA), Esquejo said
AFMA goals which were not seemingly attained according to Esquejo are food security, farmers' prosperity, competitiveness and sustainability.
Statistics validate the true picture of the lives of the Filipinos. Thirty two percent of children under five years of age are underweight and the bottom 40 percent of the population are spending about 61 percent of their income on food; one of every two rural Filipinos continue to live in poverty; the country has one of the lowest average growth rate in agriculture growth value add (GVA) and exports; and sustainability continues to be threatened by loss of critical watersheds, erosive cultivation techniques and loss of agriculture biodiversity.
The Extension Bill according to Esquejo will address the crisis in the Philippine Agriculture and Fishery such as the high cost of food, shortage of food, high rural-poverty and food safety.
There are other reasons why the Extension Bill is being pushed such that extension and research and development have the highest rate of investment, agriculture and fishery is central to growth and development, agriculture growth comes from knowledge intensive practices, knowledge intensive agriculture is dependent on extension and that the proposed bill addresses problems of agriculture and fishery extension for greater efficiency and responsiveness.
Among the features of the bill is for the province to serve as the administrative unit of operation as it has the most viable for agriculture and fishery development planning and implementation utilizing the agro-ecosystem approach.
However, salaries and wages of personnel will be paid by the national government at par with national wages.
The bill professionalizes Agriculture and Fishery services based on performance standards and less politics, Esquejo said. An apex agency shall also be created to orchestrate, set standards, oversight, institutionalized technical and financial support.
Municipal extension becomes better linked to provincial programs and provincial employees will be detailed in towns and non-chartered cities through a memorandum of agreement.
Extension Services Programs, state universities and colleges as partners of the Department of Agriculture and veterinary services will be strengthened with the approval of the bill. (PIA) [top]