Senate to pass more poverty alleviating agricultural measures

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

SENATOR Cynthia Villar expressed Saturday confidence that the 2nd Regular Session of the 16th Congress, which will open on July 28, will find more agriculture-related bills passed in the Senate.

Villar expressed the belief that the five pending measures in agriculture that are now in advanced stages and can be tackled by the plenary as soon as possible will have a major impact in alleviating poverty in the countryside.

"In the past year, we saw that there are urgent matters in agriculture that need to be addressed. That is why we held hearings and convened technical working groups even during recess to fine-tune legislative measures we are pushing for early enactment," Villar said.

Among the bills in the pipeline is Senate Bill 312 or the Philippine Halal Act, which Villar authored. The bill seeks to create the Philippine Halal Accreditation and Regulatory Board, which will be responsible for the formulation, drafting, management and implementation of programs relevant to manufacturing, production, distribution, preparation, handling, storage and verification of halal-approved food, non-food merchandise and services.

"Halal food producers in the Philippines should take advantage of the thriving global halal market, which is estimated to be worth $2.3-trillion. There are an estimated two billion Muslim consumers abroad and a growing demand for halal products among non-Muslims," Villar said.

The senator is also pushing for the bill that will enable about 3.5 million coconut farmers to benefit from the P100 billion coco levy fund.

"On the average, coconut farmers earn P50 a day. With this bill and intercropping, which we are introducing to them, we hope to be able to help them augment their earnings later on," Villar said.

Also for the benefit of coconut farmers, Villar is studying a legislative measure that will prevent a repeat of the widespread damage caused by "cocolisap" infestation.

"We learned that the cocolisap infestation damaged a lot, over one million trees in Region 4 alone, due to the absence of standard operating procedures and a pin-pointed task group that will be activated in the early signs of insect infestation or similar emergency cases. This law should make sure money is immediately available and a group will be in-charge to manage and minimize the damage," Villar said.

To prepare the agriculture sector for Asean Integration in 2015, Villar's committee is also working on a bill that will create a fund that will help the sugar industry more competitive.

"As it stands, we are self-sufficient in sugar but we are anticipating stiffer competition with cheaper sugar from abroad," Villar said.

"We will also amend the Fisheries Code to make our fishing industry more sustainable. A technical working group convened on this bill last week and we should be able to submit the committee report this month," Villar said.

Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code will be amended to help the country observe treaty obligations on food safety and to curb illegal, unreported, unauthorized and unregulated fishing, and to comply with conservation and management measures. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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