SONA 2020: Gov’t promotes robust agricultural sector amid Covid-19 crisis

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte highlights the major role of the agriculture sector in propelling the country’s economy, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The growth of our economy depends on a robust agricultural sector,” the President said during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), before the joint session of Congress, at Batasang Pambansa, in Quezon City, on July 27, 2020.

He cited the P66-billion stimulus package — dubbed as Plant, Plant, Plant Program — proposed by the Department of Agriculture to both Houses of Congress to help the country’s agriculture and fishery sector recover from the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We aim to provide adequate, accessible, and affordable food for every Filipino through the Plant, Plant, Plant Program,” the President said.

Commending the DA officials, led by secretary Dar, the President said the Plant, Plant, Plant program is easier to achieve than the ‘Build, Build, Build,’ adding that with good men and dedicated workers, they could make the program a success.

For his part, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he hopes Congress will approve the P66-B agriculture sector stimulus package as part of the ‘Bayanihan to Recover as One Act’ or Bayanihan Part 2. This is on top of the regular 2020 DA budget.

“The Plant, Plant, Plant program does not only cover rice, corn, and major commercial crops, but also livestock, fisheries, and other agri-fishery related commodities and interventions — to attain food security and increase the incomes of farmers, fishers and agripreneurs,” said secretary Dar.

During his SONA, President Duterte also urged both Houses of Congress to pass a version of the bill establishing the coconut farmers’ trust fund.

“We must utilize the coco levy for the welfare of our coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry,” the chief executive said.

He added that “Congress should look again and try to sort out how best the money can be utilized.”

He also requested Congress to pass the “Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development Financing Enhancement Act of 2020,” that amends RA 10000 or the “Agri-Agra Credit Act of 2009.”

The President also directed the DA and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to come up with agri-business and entrepreneurship projects to help displaced OFWs rebuild their livelihood.

Further, he asked the LANDBANK and other government financial institutions to continue providing low-interest loans to OFWs, farmers, and fisherfolk.

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