New guidelines for govt to buy directly from farmers will address hunger: Pangilinan

THE new guidelines for government to buy directly from Filipino farmers and fisherfolk will raise the income of local food producers and address hunger in the country, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Monday.

“Kung merong magandang bunga ang pandemya at pagtumal ng ekonomiya dahil dito ay nakikilala na ng marami ang kahalagahan ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda,” he said.

Pangilinan, a farmer himself, welcomes the new guidelines issued by the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) putting preference for domestic bidders and small businesses when possible to ensure rapid procurement under Republic Act (RA) 11494, or the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Bayanihan II).

The GPPB issued Resolution No. 18-2020 dated September 16 and released over the weekend, directing government procuring entities to “exert all efforts to secure the most advantageous price”, and reminding them to buy agricultural and fisheries products directly from farmers and fisherfolk.

“Kapag bumili nang direkta ang mga sangay ng pamahalaan sa ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda, hindi lang tataas ang kita nila, maiibsan din ang gutom ng marami nating kababayan,” Pangilinan said.

The latest Social Weather Stations survey showed the hunger incidence at new record high of 30.7 percent or equivalent to over 7 million families.

“It is unacceptable that millions are going hungry when we have our local farmers who produce nutritious and affordable harvests,” said Pangilinan, who has consistently urged the direct purchase from farmers and fisherfolk.

Citing the Department of Agriculture, Pangilinan said that during the various types of quarantines, local government units have bought some P6 billion worth of crops and catch for their ayuda and feeding programs.

Direct purchase is a key feature of Pangilinan’s Sagip Saka Law enacted last year. LGUs like North Cotabato and a village in Arayat, Pampanga have been among those who used the Sagip Saka template during the pandemic.

“Buying local and buying direct from farmers will result in greater access to lower food prices for the consumers, and at the same time higher incomes for the Filipino agricultural workers, who remain among the poorest sectors in the country,” said Pangilinan, who at a budget hearing last week also urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to directly purchase from farmers and fisherfolk for their food-related programs.

The senator said all stakeholders, including private companies and civic organizations, must continuously work together in providing the necessary intervention in production, marketing and transport of local food products to make them accessible to the wider market.

“We should persist with initiatives that will shore up our farmers’ and fisherfolk’s produce and income even beyond the pandemic,” Pangilinan said.