Angara eyes jobs in countryside

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SEN. Edgardo Angara appealed to his colleagues to prioritize a bill he filed that aims to generate employment in the countryside.

“In 2009, we expect the effects of the global financial crisis to hit our homes. It is therefore imperative for us to initiate efforts toward providing jobs in the countryside and increase spending power of the poor in the rural sector,” he said.

Angara said the Rural Employment Generation program which he proposed late last year will develop idle lands and stir economic activity in rural areas.

“Through the enactment of the Rural Employment Generation bill which I filed, one million hectares of idle and underutilized lands will be converted into modern productive agricultural resources. In the process, it is expected that one million rural jobs will be created, with annual farm incomes of at least P25,000 per hectare being generated,” he said.

Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, noted that as many as five million Filipinos in the rural sector are either unemployed or underemployed. “Although employment in the rural sector is largely seasonal, much of the unemployment and underemployment can be attributed to underutilization of agricultural lands throughout the country,” he said.

Through the bill, corn, cassava and high value commercial crops shall be planted throughout the country with the Department of Agriculture serving as lead agency. “Tie-ups between the private sector and government will be necessary, including collaborations between agribusiness companies and farmer-beneficiaries,” he said.

The DA shall undertake the development of a total of 845,000 hectares of idle or underutilized agricultural land, to be planted with hybrid corn, cassava and high value commercial crops over a period of two years.

The program will generate rural employment valued at P10.354 billion and private sector investments of P10.605 billion. It aims to develop modern technology systems in farming, production of credit support to farmers, and improve human resource development through training of farmers.

Angara also said an Agricultural Development Fund will be established through this bill, in the amount of P5.551 billion for the first year and P4.078 billion in the second year of the Program.