PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a measure instituting the enterprise development program for farmers and fishermen in the country, in a bid to achieve sustainable modern agriculture and good security.
Republic Act (RA) 11321, or the Sagip Saka Act, is aimed at "helping the agricultural and fishing communities reach their full potential, increasing farmers' and fishermen's incomes, and bridging gaps through public-private partnerships, thereby improving their quality of life."
The law signed by Duterte on April 17 establishes the Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program, a comprehensive set of objectives, targets, and holistic approach in promoting the establishment of enterprise involving agricultural and fishery products.
The program, according to the law, will be integrated and made consistent with the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan, and the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Development Plan.
"The program shall make use of science-based technologies in the identification and prioritization of agricultural and fishery products that will be covered," RA 11321 read.
Forms of assistance provided under the enterprise development program include improvement of production and productivity; improvement of producers' and enterprisers' access to financing; provision of access to improved technologies; and provision of business support and development services.
The program covers agricultural and fisheries production; acquisition of work animals, farm and fishery equipment and machinery; acquisition of seeds, fertilizer, poultry, livestock, feeds, and other similar items; and procurement of agricultural and fisheries products for storage, trading, processing, and distribution.
It also covers the construction, acquisition, and repair of facilities for production, processing, storage, transportation, communication and marketing supporting agriculture and fisheries; working capital for agricultural and fisheries graduates; agribusiness activities; working capital for long gestating projects; and credit guarantees on loans without collateral.
Qualified beneficiaries of the program are existing producer groups whose products are included in the priority commodity value chains; farmers and fishermen who can produce marketable surplus; operational producer groups of growers; and micro, small, and medium scale processors, consolidators, and exporters.
"Farmers and fisherfolk must be members of any organization operating in the priority commodity value chain for them to be eligible either as a member of the proponent group or as supplier to the enterprise," RA 11321 stressed.
The Department of Agriculture (DA), as the program implementor, is directed to tap the assistance, expertise, and resources of concerned government agencies.
The said concerned agencies are Philippine Coconut Authority, National Dairy Authority, Bureau of Soils and Water Management, Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Mechanization, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Agricultural Training Institute, Agricultural Credit and Policy Council, and the Bureau of Agricultural Research.
The law also orders the DA to collaborate with and secure the technical support and assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Sagip Saka Act also allows farmers and fishermen's partnership with the private sector to improve market access of producer groups.
The Agriculture and Fishery Councils of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries is mandated to provide the mechanisms for private sector's participation in the development processes at the regional, provincial, city or municipal levels.
To oversee the implementation of the program, the law creates the Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Council, which will be chaired by DA Secretary or his duly authorized representative who is at least an undersecretary.
Members include one representative each from the DTI, the DILG, the Department of Finance, the Cooperative Development Authority, a national organization of farmers cooperatives or associations, and a national organization of fisherfolk cooperatives or associations; and two representatives from the agriculture, food, restaurant and business sectors.
the DA, through the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service, is tasked to maintain a Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Information System to assist the government in formulating plans and programs on enterprise development.
National and government agencies are likewise directed to directly purchase agricultural and fishery products from accredited farmers and fishermen cooperatives and enterprises, in an effort to promote and support the program.
The law also grants tax exemptions for gifts and donations of real and personal properties; facilities for the storage of farm inputs and outputs with a value not exceeding P3 million; and income arising from the operations of the enterprise.
Palace released a copy of RA 113321 on Monday, May 27, 2019. (SunStar Philippines)