MANILA -- Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan is pushing for a program that aims to provide temporary employment to qualified individuals of poor households in rural areas.
In his Senate Bill 776, Pangilinan seeks to establish the Rural Employment Assistance Program (REAP), which will allow rural people to earn not less than 75 percent of the prevailing minimum wage for each day of work.
"Layon ng panukalang ito na mabigyan ang mga Pilipino ng pagkakataon para sa makatarungan at sapat na pamumuhay na tutugon sa kahirapan lalo na sa mga kanayunan (The goal of this bill is to provide Filipinos with opportunities for just and sufficient means of livelihood in order to address poverty especially in the rural areas)," Pangilinan stressed in the Explanatory Note.
If enacted into law, the veteran lawmaker believes that it will help bridge the disparity between urban and rural areas in terms of development.
In the past three years, Pangilinan pointed out that the poverty and underemployment rate in the country is seen to be decreasing substantially.
Poverty incidence among Filipino families was projected at 16.1 percent in the first semester of 2018, lower than the estimated 22.2 percent during the same period in 2015.
In the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), unemployment rate has declined from 5.5 percent in April 2018 to just 5.1 percent in April 2019.
Despite all these improvements, Pangilinan said the overall development in the country has been uneven, with rural areas lagging behind.
"Karamihan sa mga mahihirap ay nakatira sa mga lugar na ito at nagtatrabaho sa sektor ng sakahan at pangisdaan. Mula 2006 pinakamaraming mahihirap ay galing pa rin sa sektor ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda (Most of the poor live in these areas and work in the agriculture and fisheries sector. Farmers and fishermen have consistently registered the highest poverty incidence among basic sectors since 2006)," he emphasized.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), blamed the lag in economic growth and higher rates of underemployment in rural areas to limited or lack of access to market, productive capital, as well as knowledge and technology.
In addition, the rural poor also have a small number of options for generating off-farm income.
The former food security secretary pushes for a modernized agriculture as the way to become a progressive Philippines.
For the 18th Congress, Pangilinan has filed 14 other agriculture- and environment-related bills. They are: Senate Bills 31 on Coco Levy Trust Fund, 32 on creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, 33 on Post-Harvest Facilities, 34 on Organic Agriculture, 35 on Expanded Crop Insurance, 36 on Rainwater Management, 38 on National Land Use, 40 on Single-use Plastic Regulation, 256 on Agricultural Land Conversion Ban Act, 257 on Urban Agriculture and Vertical Farming, 263 on Solid Waste Importation Ban, 423 on Food Waste Reduction, 638 on Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Incentives, and 639 on National Mangrove Forest Protection and Preservation.
Source: Senate of the Philippines