ORANI, Bataan: Rep. Geraldine Roman of Bataan’s First District has voiced great concern for Filipino farmers and fishermen whom she equated to poverty.
“Ang pagiging magsasaka o mangingisda ay katumbas daw ng pagiging mahirap. Hindi ito katanggap-tanggap (It is said that being a farmer or a fisherman is equivalent to being poor. This is unaccepatable,” the first transwoman member of Congress said on Monday at the Farmers and Fishermen Summit that she had initiated.
She added she was not implying that nothing happened in the past years of agrarian reform but that there were still many things that government should do to help farmers and fishermen.
“Maraming trabaho ang nasa aming kamay, kaming mga lingkod bayan. Marami pa kaming daang tatahakin pero kailangan namin ang tulong ninyo. Kailangan naming pakinggan kung ano ang inyong mga hinaing. Kailangan ninyo itong ipaabot sa amin upang magawan ng paraan (We have a lot to do, we public servants. We also have a lot to learn but we need your help. We have to listen to your grievances. You need to let us know what those concerns are so that we can act on them),” Roman said.
She asked the farmers among those at the summit if they like the Rice Tariffication Law and the response was a thunderous “No.”
Roman said she would file a bill in Congress — the Filipino Farmers First Act — in answer to the Rice Tariffication Law.
“Kapag maraming imported rice, bumabagsak ang presyo ng bigas, kaya hihikayatin natin ang kapwa natin Pilipino na bumili ng local o (If there is a lot of imported rice, rice prices drop, so let us persuade our fellow Filipinos to buy local rice or) Filipino-produced rice,” the congresswoman added.
Under the bill, she said, retailers are obliged to label grains as Filipino rice.
“Sino ba ang tutulong sa ating Filipino farmers kundi ang kapwa nating Pilipino (Who will help our Filipino farmers but we Filipinos ourselves)?” Roman added.
She said she would want for the National Food Authority (NFA) to have enough palay (unmilled rice) dryers in its buying stations to encourage more farmers to sell their produce to the agency.
Secretary John Castriciones of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and visitors from different government agencies attended the Farmers and Fishermen Summit.
Held in Orani, Bataan, farmers and fishermen from the towns of Dinalupihan, Hermosa, Orani, Samal, Abucay and Morong attended the gathering.
“Suportahan natin ang magsasaka, ibigay sa kanila ang suporta na dapat mapasakanila upang talagang umunlad ang kanilang pamumuhay (Let us support the farmers, give them the support that they deserve so that they would have a better life),” Castriciones said.
He added that in the 30 years of existence of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), 4.8 million hectares have benefited 2.8 million farmers.
President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed DAR to finish placing under CARP the remaining targeted areas in the country before his term ends in 2022, Castriciones said.
Among the officials in the summit were representatives from the NFA, Land Bank, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Castriciones and Roman led in handing out Certificate of Land Ownership Awards to 51 beneficiaries of land reform in Hermosa.
They also distributed farm machinery funded by the Agrarian Reform department like farm tractors, hand tractors, water pump engines and solar panels.