Current status of the
Philippine Agricultural and Fisheries (AF) Sector

 

The Philippine AF sector has been assessed as underperforming and
highly unpredictable relative to its growth and contribution to the economy.
The sector lagged behind compared to its neighboring ASEAN countries such as
Vietnam and Thailand despite the increase in yield for most of the critical
commodities. The country accounts for the lowest Index of Comparative Advantage
(ICA) as a result of low yielding export crops.

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It was observed that the other foot of the agricultural sector, who
are generally better off producers/farmers/fisher folks, were gaining and
reaping benefits from the sector much more than those who belong to the poorer
population of the sector. Ironically, the lower income generating population
were persistent in rural areas, which were supposed to be the center of areas
where agriculture and fishery could be on its maximum utilization.

 

Fingers are pointing to weak and inefficient agriculture bureaucracy.
Experts recommended a structural, program, and budget reform to the Department
of Agriculture towards an improved quality of governance and accelerated
development of the agricultural sector.

 

Agricultural Devolution and its
current implications on AF sector

 

Republic
Act No. 7160, known as the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991, was enacted by
Congress and signed into law in October 1991 taking effect January 1992. The
LGC represents a comprehensive policy instrument of the Corazon Aquino’s
administration to further its “people power agenda.” It aimed to
reverse the centrist tendencies of Marcos’ and other previous administrations,
the Code incorporates all three forms of decentralization.

 

The LGC is an attempt to more
regularly involve people, through their organizations, in governance. It aims
to reverse centuries of centralism believed to cause grass-roots
underdevelopment and make up for the government’s failure to deliver basic
services. The Code decentralizes governance by devolving powers and functions
of LGUs and by strengthening the mechanisms for people’s participation in
governance.

 

However, the enactment of the LGC further complicated
the dynamic agriculture and fisheries extension delivery in the Philippines.
The agricultural decentralization allowed the Local Government Units (LGUs) to
supervise and facilitate extension and training activities. This system
surfaced persistent issues and concerns that directly affects the farmers and fishers
at the grassroots.

 

The DA now operates only at the
level of Regional Offices, now working directly through each LGU at provincial
and municipal levels. This resulted in ineffective coordination between
agricultural development plans at national and local levels.

 

Moreover, the inadequate and low salaries, disparity
in remuneration between high and low-income cities/municipalities and inability
to discharge functions of extension workers properly due to lack of funding
directly affects the quality of services delivered to the farmers and fishers
from the LGUs. The extension workers were demoralized due to lack of support
from the local chief executives. Consequently, this deters the younger
population to engage on a career in agriculture resulting to aging extension
workforce.

 

Provincial LGUs as
operational unit for AF sector planning

 

As mandated by AFMA, the
LGUs shall be responsible for delivering direct AFE services. On the other
hand, most municipalities/cities are too small operational units to facilitate
agriculture and rural development. Considering that such development should be
agro-ecological systems-based, the province is viewed as the most critical
point of entry of interventions and shall
integrate the operations for the agriculture extension services of all its
municipalities/cities.

 

Due to the inadequate capacity of municipalities/cities
to hire the needed services of planning consultants to prepare plans for them,
establishing a pool of experts among provincial government functionaries is a
more cost effective approach to technology transfer. Sectoral
planning experts trained at the provincial level can serve as mentors to their
municipal counterparts.

 

Ideally, the complementation of plans between
the province and its component municipalities/cities should take place. At the
provincial level, proper coordination, solicitation and consolidation of
support for programs, projects and activities is deemed pragmatic to reap
mutual and/or common benefit of all LGUs within the territorial jurisdiction of
the province.

 

In reality, because the
physical framework plans at the national, regional and provincial levels are
merely indicative plans, PLGUs does not seem to have the authority to provide
policy direction, allocate extension resources, coordinate/supervise and
monitor the implementation of agricultural extension programs over its
constituent municipalities/cities. 

 

Strengthening the National
Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System

 

Chapter
1 and 2 of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1977 (AFMA)
Implementing Rules and Regulations contained in the Department of Agriculture
(DA) Administrative Order No. 6, Series of 1998 stipulates the roles and
responsibilities of the different extension service providers constituting the
National Extension System for Agriculture and Fisheries (NESAF), namely:
National Government Agencies (NGAs) along with the State Universities and
Colleges (SUCs), Local Government Units (LGUs) and the private sector.

 

The
Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), is mandated to orchestrate all AF
extension delivery system in both public and private sectors. Currently, the
ATI is now being further strengthened to provide central direction, set
standards of performance of extension programs and ensure institutionalized
financial and technical support to the LGUs. Senate Bill No. 681 (introduced by
Senator Loren Legarda) a.ka. Extension Bill is being pushed as one of the
legislative proposal that renames the ATI to Philippine Agriculture and
Fisheries Extension Agency (PAFEA).

 

Conduct of
Extension Policy Symposium 2016

 

Agricultural policy analysis is deemed very timely.
This will challenge and revisit the discipline of extension with all the
persistent and arising predicaments that hamper quality extension service
delivery. Several policy recommendations were being tackled and carefully assessed
by the agricultural extension community to come up with a more responsive AFE
services to the present and future AF sector.

 

The conduct of the Extension Policy Symposium
for FY 2016 will be a venue for different stakeholders of AF to discuss and assess
these proposed policy reforms. Preceding consultations with other pillars of
extension shall be conducted to generate substantial outputs and points of
discussion for the symposium. Thus, these activities.

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