BAGUIO CITY – Agricultural development will be the top priority of the ” Partido Galing at Puso” tandem of Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero once they are elected into office in the May polls.

Sen. Poe who is running for president said here on Tuesday that her new administration would not impose payment of irrigation services to small farmers.

She promised to abolish irrigation fees for farmers whose land yields only 40 cavans of palay. but pay an estimated P4,500 per hectare annually in irrigation service fee to the National Irrigation Administration.

The government should repair irrigation facilities, increase the number of water catchment system and post harvest facilities, she said.

Agriculture development, she explained, is crucial to include farmers in rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth. While majority of the population depends on agriculture, farmers remain one of the poorest sectors of society, with some earning nothing more than P20,000 annually.

Poe also maintained there is a need to build the agro-industrial sectors, where farmers would be able to market their products and also generate income.

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares of the Makabayan bloc, who is running for senator under “Partido Galing at Puso, ” lamented that it is only in the Philippines among Association of Southeast Asian Nations that farmers pay irrigation fees.

“The government must focus on local agriculture and its products,” Colmenares said. He warned of the dangers of legalized smuggling with entry entry of foreign products via the planned ASEAN integration.

Once these products gain entry, local products would be strangled especially those without government support.

Vice-presidential bet Sen. Escudero said that they will overhaul the agriculture program such that 10 percent of the P300-billion allotted for Philippine agriculture will be spent for small irrigation facilities and a national transmission line for water services.

Meanwhile, lawyer Lorna Kapunan Lorna Kapunan who is also running for senator under “Partido Talino at Galing” proposed a law that would criminalize smuggling and hoarding of basic commodities. She said she was worried that food that are not fit for human consumption in other
countries are being dumped in the country via smuggling. THOM F. PICANA/northboundasia.com