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The Plight of Filipino Farmers

Filipino Farmer

Ever since the farmers chose this profession, they most likely knew and understood that it was never an easy road as the seemingly long hours of cultivating soil, raising crops, irrigation, and harvesting fully take over their day to day lives. Agriculture is most often regarded as one of the busiest tried and true sectors that has always faced challenges throughout the years. However, as time goes by, the rise of new challenges still seems to outweigh the issues being remedied that may concern most local farmers. Hence, as one of the Philippines’ most valuable assets for national growth and sustenance, it would be unwise to overlook the issues surrounding this matter. It is only logical that we provide this avenue the enough attention it requires to sustain itself; rather even, to continue to thrive and flourish.

After analyzing the arising situations of the local farmers, two primary problems emerged that are present during these modern times. First is the challenge of selling their products in the local markets, and second is the low purchasing price. In a related report by ABS-CBN in March 2020, we may remember from the news that farmers from Benguet went back home with their vegetables facing dismal earnings because of the low demand even though they are selling their goods for a meager price. In accordance with this, the expected profit they will use for the next production of the vegetables went down, leaving them with a vast income loss or, even worse, bankruptcy. Hence, in times like this is where an individual should discern in what course of action, we should partake in to help, even in the simplest ways.

Although, this will not be an easy path as we have been grappling with these issues that concern these Farmers for decades already and a sufficient solution is yet to be made. In regard to this, one major factor would be that one may argue that it is already a dying path and we should shift our attention to other sectors for supposedly better horizons such as modern infrastructures and technology. However, in a study by Madayag, W., & Estanislao, H. (2021), they show plenty of evidence that rather than the sector regressing, it is actually progressing through implementation of new laws and policies, further integration of advancing techniques and utilization of new and innovative technologies within the profession; it is time we bury the stereotype of a farmer’s image being primitive and poor. While the study also highlights issues, such as climate conditions, increasing population, land conversion and low interest due to low income, this does not mean that it is a lost cause; rather, it may foreshadow the future of agriculture once we are able to tackle said issues. Another concern that may arise is that while there may be potential in this field, a lack of interest can derail future investments and future farmers who seek to live a successful life. Yet, this is again contradicted by the study by Madayag, W., & Estanislao, H., as it also highlights the amount of investment already present in this specific sector; implying that even business owners see its potential.

The government must focus on strengthening the country’s local agriculture to meet food security, a better life for farmers, and prevent the diminishing number of farmers and farmlands. The Philippines is known for its rich agricultural lands and stretches of water which is why foreign invaders were lured to seize the land. However, behind the country’s wealth hides the plight of those who provide for the table. It is a paradoxical notion that the country still chooses to import products rather than condescending its own, backlashing against the country’s agricultural sector. Farmers, known to be one of the country’s backbones, were still considered as vulnerable and belonged to the country’s poorest sector (Catienza, 2020). When the Rice Tariffication Law was signed in 2019, it was deemed the silver lining that the farmers had been waiting for since it aims to promote food security by strengthening and magnifying the country’s agricultural potential. However, the fund allocated to this law never benefits the farmers. According to Tobias (2019), the country still imports rice due to its lower price than domestically produced. Aside from rice, other farmers reportedly threw out their products due to “oversupply.” However, the oversupplying of goods is not because the domestic farmers had produced too much; instead, the country had imported too much, which explains why its prices remain high despite the oversupplying of goods. In return, farmers were left with debt and bankruptcy caused by the soaring price of farm necessities such as gasoline and fertilizers that are all imported from other countries. In order to reproduce again, they needed to borrow from lending institutions at a very high rate, with hardly anything left to them because they needed to pay their debts (Carbon, 2019). Hence, this phenomenon leads us to dig into what lies beyond the poverty rooted in the heart of the agriculture sector. There is more than providing policies and increasing funds for farmers to unleash the country’s agricultural potential. It is a challenge that seeks collaborative efforts of all the concerned parties, which also tells whether the country is ready to meet and overcome future challenges like the current issue.

Aside from the given undesirable circumstances of the farmers, the physical and mental health of the farmers should also seek attention in today’s society. With the constant change in our environment, the well-being of the farmers can impact the food production as well as the sustainability of our agriculture. According to Yazd et al. (2019), there are some risk factors when it comes to the farmer’s physical and mental health, which includes exposure to pesticides, climate changes, and financial challenges. Pesticides are neurotoxic which can be dangerous for the person’s neural system since it can result in mental illness. It also has organophosphates which can result in harmful effects to the body when inhaled, examples are dizziness, vomiting, irritation, dementia, and so forth (Elahi et al., 2019). Climate changes can also affect the farmers’ health since the Philippines is known for its floods and droughts. Talukdur et al. (2021) stated that farmers are not provided with enough proper protection for severe weather conditions from the government which is why it affects the security of the food supply as well as the overall health and safety risks of the farmers. Not only that, but financial difficulties can negatively impact the lives of the farmers. During a financial crisis, farmers may be dealing with high debts, high production cost, decreased product sales, taxes, living expenses, and so on considering that they do not receive a fair income. It challenges the farmers in sustaining their agricultural livelihood in providing for their essential needs which contributes additional stress to their mental health. These risk factors become the chronic stressors for the farmers that can lead to anxiety and depression. It may result in lack of self-confidence, loss of appetite, loss of social communications, difficulty in focusing, fatigue, insomnia, and many more. Therefore, the government should provide accessible health care services and systems, implement a better public health policy, and build infrastructures for unpredictable weather events, to ensure the well being as well as the safety of each farmer are well taken care of in order for our agriculture to continually develop and progress.

Supporting farmers in little ways can positively affect the community in various ways. According to Cherkashyna in 2021, it positively affects job opportunities and tax control, financial support for the community, environmental issues, health improvement, animal support, seasonal goods, unique variety and tips, community connection, and support for the future. In order to help farmers, it is the government who shall shoulder the support for them. Alburo stated back in January 2022 that the government enacts laws for farmers and provides them with tax incentives which are geared towards supporting and increasing agricultural production and activity. This means that the government provides incentives for farmers and agricultural folk to have more farmers in the future and to make agriculture a productive activity, as well as to encourage the notion that people can earn from farming. The Republic Act No. 11321 or the “Sagip Saka Act of 2018” established the “Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program” in order to achieve sustainable and modern agriculture and food security by helping agricultural and aquaculture folk to increase their production and income. The 12th section of the act enumerates the available tax exemptions and incentives which are as follows: one, gifts and donation of real and personal properties shall be exempt from donor’s tax; Two, the local government unit shall exempt structures, buildings, and warehouses utilized for the storage of farm inputs and outputs from real property tax, provided that the assessed value of the property does not exceed P3,000,000.00: thirdly, the Land Bank of the Philippines shall provide preferential rates and a special window to accredited farmers and fisherfolk; fourth, exemptions from income tax may be provided for income arising from the operation of the enterprise, provided that the farmer and the fisherfolk cooperatives and enterprise shall register as barangay micro business enterprise pursuant to Republic Act No. 9178 (Barangay Micro-Business Enterprise Act of 2002). These incentives are rather appealing to farmers—however, with the rising rates of groceries, it is hard to earn for a daily living and still have extra income for education and hobbies. Considering that they are the ones providing our groceries, it might be a good idea to include a grocery pass as an incentive and as compensation for agricultural and aquaculture folk.

To conclude, the challenges of being a Filipino farmer in this day and age, which is often seen as a steep path to take, is rightfully justified by the numerous evidence of their hardships and unfair treatment. Despite this sector having one of the most potential in improving and nourishing the nations’ overall state and the many Filipino lives that are affected by this, it is still plagued by neglect, discrimination, and insufficiency. We can only start to realize agriculture and its farmers full potential once we take the first step in solving the relevant and urgent issues circling the sector for generations; hence, to be able that first step, we must first address the issues and concerns themselves through a just and prudent lens.

MISSION

Our mission is to find efficient while effective ways to spread the word and encourage readers to aid Filipino farmers by highlighting their needs and encouraging them to brainstorm new and innovative responses to these needs. Further, we aim to bring the agricultural world into the spotlight and convince more people that it is not a dead-end path to take; to fully inspire them to see the future held from within the roots of this seemingly neglected sector.

VISION

Our vision is to successfully spearhead the long-deserved rise of the Filipino farmers wherein we finally recognize their hardships and start taking steps in aiding them. In addition, we envision a world where local materials and products are fully utilized and the career of being a Filipino farmer is made the standard for many all over the nation.


We are consist of six Accountancy, Business, and Managements Senior High School students of the University of Santo Tomas namely, Maria Mangabat, Mikeila Sta. Ana, Jacques Santos, Ashley Cordero, Alexa Del Rosario, and Rize De Ocampo. Moreover, our paper tackles a topic that is relevant to the times today. Agriculture, being one of the largest sectors of the Philippines, is a topic that is often riddled with misconceptions and often lacks sufficient attention. Specifically, the dire state of farmers has been a long-standing issue within the nation that has yet to get a proper resolution. Our paper aims to spearhead the call for action in this regard; being in the forefront of the momentum we aim to begin.


REFERENCES:

Carbon, A. (2019, January 3). Agriculture: A Dying Sector in the Philippines?

Catienza, K. (2020, May 5). The Philippines is an agricultural country—but why do we import rice?. Noli Soli.

Elahi, E., Weijun, C., Zhang, H., & Nazeer, M. (2019). Agricultural intensification and damages to human health in relation to agrochemicals: Application of artificial intelligence. Land Use Policy, 83, 461-474.

Madayag, W., & Estanislao, H. (2021). A SECTOR STUDY ON PHILIPPINE AGRICULTURE IS IT GROWING OR DYING?

Talukder, B., Loon, G., Hipel, K., Chiotha, S., & Orbinski, J. (2021). Health impacts of climate change on smallholder farmers. One Health, 13.

Tobias, A. (2019, May 23). The Philippine Rice Tarrification Law: Implications and Issues. Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region.

Yazd, S., Wheeler, S., & Zuo, A. (2019). Key Risk Factors Affecting Farmers’ Mental Health: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(23), 4849.

Alburo, J., S. (2022). Tax incentives for food providers. Business World

Soriano, M. (2020). Cordillera farmers throw away veggies due to lack of buyers amind Covid-19 quarantine. ABS-CBN News.

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