MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan on Saturday, October 12, called for a thorough study of the government proposal to shift 23 provinces from rice farming to other crops and agricultural industries.
"The government's proposed industry road map to make 23 provinces shift from planting rice to other crops and hog raising should be carefully studied," Pangilinan, a former presidential adviser on food security and agricultural modernization, said in a statement.
The senator, who runs a farm, said rice farmers can still plant other crops without necessarily dropping the staple.
"Puwede namang sabay at hindi isa lang ang pagpipilian (It can be done at the same time without having to choose just one crop)," he said, adding that farmers with extra money to spare have been doing this practice.
Pangilinan was reacting to a BusinessMirror report on the draft Philippine Rice Industry Roadmap, a comprehensive plan of the government to boost the rice production sector. Among its proposals is to shift 23 provinces from rice farming to cultivating other crops.
Under the proposal, the provinces would be transitioned from rice farming to other crops and industries to make them more productive. These include crops like abaca, banana, cassava, coconut, and high value vegetables; livestock and poultry; and rubber.
These provinces are Abra, Apayao, Basilan, Batanes, Batangas, Benguet, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Camiguin, Cebu, Dinagat Islands, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Mountain Province, Marinduque, Northern Samar, Rizal, Romblon, Siquijor, Surigao del Norte, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte.
The PRIR was mandated by Republic Act No. 11203 or the rice tariffication law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 15. The draft PRIR was crafted under the watch of then agriculture secretary Emmanuel Piñol, and will still be finalized before it is presented to Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
Pangilinan stressed the importance of supporting all rice farmers in the country with the influx of more imported rice (READ: Faster importation of rice seen under tariffication law)
"Policy makers must be able to understand this concept too, especially in its thrust to strengthen local production for food security and self-sufficiency. The entry of imported rice should all the more prompt the government to boost the rice farmers’ production and well-being," he said,
"Hindi kumpleto ang araw ng Pilipino kung walang kanin. Kaya ang tanong: Papano pa tayo kakain ng kanin kung hindi na magtatanim ang ating mga magpapalay (A Filipino's day is not complete without rice. So the question is, how can we eat rice if our rice farmers stop planting)?" Pangilinan added. – Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com