Biggest first national summit on agriculture and fisheries held

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, February 14, 2011-The biggest two day national summit on agriculture and fisheries was held at the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo spearheaded by Senate Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Food Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Congressman Mark Mendoza who co-chairs with Pangilinan the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM), and Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, together with former DTI undersecretary Ernesto Ordonez representing the private sector dubbed as Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries 2025 which aims to craft a vision of where the country’s agriculture and fisheries sector ought to be in 25 years.


Roberto Amores, President of Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization Inc. (PhilFoodex) and one of the biggest mango processor in the Philippines and Karding Tolentino, a supplier of mangoes from the north is sitting in on a discussion on the state of fruits and vegetables sector turned out that they have been doing business for 20 years, but it took them this long and this opportunity to finally meet face to face.


“One of the aims of the agriculture and fisheries summit is to have the biggest gathering of various players in the agricultural and fisheries sector from the farmers to the processors, traders, business decision makers, and the government agencies,” the Senator said.


Ordonez who now spearheads the Alyansa Agrikultura, a coalition of farmer-fisherfolk federations and organizations said that the vision and general direction for agricultural development should go beyond a sitting president’s six year term for us to achieve stability, continuity, and effectiveness, thus the 25-year perspective for the agriculture and fisheries sector is worthy of support.


The Department of Agrarian Reform’s Undersecretary Jerry Pacturan believes that the discussion on agriculture and fisheries is a discussion on rural development saying that there is a need to shift the work from small livelihood programs and agriculture productivity to something that has scale and the need to think big now.


“Thee mango sector is expecting a decline in production of mangoes for 2011 because of La Nina,” Amorez said, adding that the demand for Philippine mango variety continues to increase, yet we are having difficulties meeting demands. “Something has to be done to mitigate this,” he said, explaining that the Philippine mango is the best in the world and unique in its texture, taste, and aroma.


Sharon Tan, who is the president of the RFID Technology and Research Institute, said that the summit’s 15 year vision for agriculture and fisheries is the right way to go, citing the Singapore’s blueprint crafted for their education was for 15 years and made their students to become computer-literate. “Nowadays, they have software competitions, incubation parks and get venture capitalists,” Tan said, and hoping that the outcome from the recent summit was the same.


To address the issues hounding these agricultural subsectors, the summit provides a forum for discussions on the state of rice production, fisheries, fruits and vegetables, commercial crops, and poultry and livestock, and craft solutions. The biggest suppliers and manufacturers discussed their views with magnates and representatives from government agencies in a “war” room discussion then steered towards crafting a vision and policy recommendations to address the issues.


Secretary Alacala said that the summit goal here is to combine all efforts and develop what has been given to us so we may be able to feed the country in the years to come,” saying that the DA is ready and willing to listen to local farmers and suppliers believing that the government cannot do this alone and the need to have true private-public partnerships to fully realize food security for the citizenry.


Back to Pangilinan, he said that the summit is just the beginning of the hard work ahead aspiring goal to create an adhoc committee that will collate all the recommendations given in the 2-day summit and ensure that there will be follow-through here. The next step is to take the summit to various regions in the country believing that each region has their own unique needs.


“There is a need to employ new methods of approaching the issues, saying that we cannot use the same worn-out, outmoded formulas and expect to see real change in agriculture and fisheries,” Pangilinan said, adding that there is a need to re-imagine what needs to be done.


“We must be willing to move away from our comfort zones. We need to learn to experiment more, to take more risks and employ new techniques and new methods if we wish to see change happen,” Pangilinan furthered.


"It is timely for us to discuss and to seek solutions to our decades-old problems facing Philippine agriculture and fisheries, the time to synergize what we have to attain the status of a well developed nation," Pangilinan ended. (Jason de Asis)


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