Solon seeks farmers’ inclusion in SAP

THE chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food on Tuesday appealed to his colleagues in Congress to include rice farmers, vegetable growers, coconut farmers, fisherfolk, and farm workers in the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

In his privilege speech, Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, the panel chairman, stressed that "the COVID 19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic has affected all sectors of society in many different ways," among them are the aging farmers and fishers of our country, whom he describe as part of the most vulnerable persons due to health and economic risks" of the coronavirus and are registered to have the highest poverty incidence.

Fortunately, Enverga said President Rodrigo Roa Duterte made a timely statement, assuring all, especially the most vulnerable sectors of the much needed help from the government.

"The first tranche of the Social Amelioration assistance is truly responsive to the needs of our people, especially among the low- income households. However, I speak today to appeal the plight of our farmers in the countryside, most specifically those belonging to the below poverty thresholds,” the House panel chairman added.

However, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar earlier said most of the farmer-beneficiaries of the DA's cash assistance for rice farmers --the Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers (FSRF) -- were not included in the first tranche of the SAP.

"The FSRF is an existing program before the ECQ and it covers only rice farmers. It is a one-time assistance only to farmers who are included in the identified provinces with low palay buying price and those tilling one hectare and below. Those that are not from the priority provinces were not included," said Enverga.

Enverga added that the P3 billion FSRF Fund is earmarked under the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

"It is very clear that not all farmers are recipients or beneficiaries of the FSRF. Thus, those who are not FSRF beneficiaries must receive the regular social amelioration program (SAP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)."

The Quezon province solon cited the case of his congressional district where 3,676 farmers have availed of the P5,000 cash assistance from the DA thru the FSRF program, but sadly, most of them were denied of the SAP despite the fact that these farmer-beneficiaries are marginalized rice farmers in the area.

"While we are most appreciative of the government’s initial and quick release of the financial assistance, we feel that we can do more to make the interventions more responsive and effective and truly felt by the most vulnerable sectors, especially our farmers who have been continuously putting food on our table despite the risks of COVID 19," Enverga said.

"The crucial role of the food and agriculture sector is even more highlighted at this most trying time, we depend so much on our farmers to be able to survive this ECQ. The farmers and food producers' commitment to provide for our needs is shown by the continued food production despite the very difficult situation," he added.

"I plead on behalf of our farmers nationwide, our rice farmers, our vegetable growers, our coconut farmers, our fisherfolk, and farm workers. Please include them, as they rightfully should be included, in the second release, representing the month of May cash assistance of the DSWD," Enverga implored.

"Huwag po natin silang kalimutan na isama sa mga susunod pa na mga ayuda hinggil sa COVID 19 cash assistance program. Tayo po ay maghawak-kamay, magkapit-bisig upang patuloy po natin mapalago ang ating agrikultura at masiguro natin na tayo ay food secure,” the Quezon congressman concluded.