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Lifestime pension for farmers, fishers pressed

June 20, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 157 views

A neophyte solon is pushing for the passage of a measure that seeks to establish a fund that would provide lifetime pensions for the country’s 9.7 million small farmers and fisherfolk, most of whom live in poverty.

Bicol Saro Party-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan said House Bill 7963 aims to establish the Agricultural Pension Fund (AFP) to be managed by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).

According to Yamsuan, the measure stands to benefit at least 708,000 workers in the Bicol Region who are employed in the agriculture sector, citing the latest available data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

“Our farmers and fisherfolk are among the poorest of the poor in our society. Despite their hard work and sacrifices to ensure that we have food on our tables, they retire without expecting any lifeline aid from the government. Providing them with pension benefits when they reach old age is a long-overdue measure that Congressman LRay and I hope will be approved in this Congress,” Yamsuan said.

The measure “recognizes that universal access to comprehensive and adequate social protection systems is an important tool to prevent and reduce poverty and inequality.”

Under the bill, the PCIC is tasked to create a pension plan for retirees in the agriculture sector, and manage and invest the AFP to ensure its sustainability.

The PCIC, which is an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), is also authorized under the measure to determine the criteria for eligibility of the potential agricultural pensioners, in coordination with other relevant government agencies.

PSA data as of 2019 show a steady decline in the number of workers in the agriculture sector over a five-year period. From 11.294 million workers in 2015, the number of employed in the agriculture sector fell to 11.064 million in 2016; 10.261 million in 2017; 9.998 million in 2018; and 9.698 million in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

The Bicol region accounts for the most number of agricultural workers , with 871,000 in 2015, which dropped to 841,000 in 2016 and 698,000 in 2017.

In 2018, the number of agricultural workers in the region rose slightly to 741,000.

But in 2019, only 708,000 workers were reported by the PSA as having been employed in the Bicol Region’s agriculture sector.

Yamsuan said providing lifetime pensions for farmers and fisherfolk should be included in the roster of measures that the government aims to implement to encourage more workers to stay in, or shift to, the agriculture sector.