STABLE jobs and low prices of basic commodities should be the last focus of the outgoing administration, particularly in the agricultural sector which was adversely hit by the pandemic and other circumstances.
Albay Representative Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means . cautioned the government that while March employment numbers showed an increase of about two million new jobs, “most of these jobs are still rather weak and impermanent.”
“Unstable income and high prices could still lead to high poverty this year, even if the economy recovers to pre-pandemic levels.
“The formula for poverty reduction is simple: stable jobs plus low prices equals low poverty. The mark of real, genuine economic recovery is if we can reduce poverty levels to pre-pandemic rates, and recover the momentum reached on reducing poverty further,” Salceda said.
“We particularly need to look at agriculture, where most jobs are ‘part-time.’ 3.7 million out of the 7.2 million workers in the agriculture sector are part-time. So, they’re probably not earning enough,” added Salceda citing March figures.
The veteran solon advised President Duterte and his team to focus on agricultural jobs and farmer income, as well as stable and cheap food production, in the final lap of his term.
Salceda proposed a three-pronged approach to creating stable jobs in the agriculture sector while also reducing food prices for the average consumer.
“First, we need to make sure our defensive strategies are strong. We have to defend from existing threats, such as ASF and avian flu, expedite the introduction of hybrid rice seeds especially in typhoon areas, and accelerate the rollout of training and other programs on biosafety, natural and artificial pest control, and more climate-resilient farming. We also have to take measures to ensure that irrigation will be adequate during this year’s dry season.”
“Second, we need higher value in crops that are labor-intensive. That will create new jobs and new sources of income. That’s coffee, cacao, abaca, and heirloom varieties of rice and other cereals.
These crops pay the farmer very well, if successfully harvested, and they tend to need more manpower. My problem with mechanization in rice, corn, and other crops, is that while we have successfully increased yield, on the ground, we are seeing signs of labor displacement, especially seasonal labor,” Salceda added.
“Third, we need agri-entrepreneurship, so that farmers can take care of a business side of things when they are done with cropping. That means food preservation facilities and training, packaging, and other value-adding processes,” Salceda explained.