MANILA, Philippines — Vice Presidential aspirant Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Monday said that under a Robredo-Pangilinan tandem, farming opportunities in the Philippines will be strengthened for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) seeking an alternative livelihood after they retire.
According to Pangilinan, he and his running-mate, presidential candidate Leni Robredo, already have a clear plan for the OFWs who would like to venture into agriculture.
“Of course sa OFWs natin, we really need a no non-sense reintegration program. Marami ang nagti-text sa akin na gusto nila din mag-umpisa ng farm but they don’t know where to start,” he said.
“Yung DA [Department of Agriculture], [when we] win it, we will put together the program so that overseas Filipinos na nakaipon na ay pupwede nang mag-umpisa ng maliit na pagsasaka and enterprise and provide them the necessary support so that they can come home,” he added.
The former food security secretary also suggested that adopting or establishing a farm enterprise will help these OFWs match the earnings they get from working abroad. For Pangilinan, Filipinos are seeking greener pastures overseas because the wages offered in the country are not enough to live a comfortable life.
“Yung average income ng farmer natin monthly is about a little under P7,000. Mababa talaga, so pag meron kang alternative na mangibang bansa at kikita ka ng P50,000 [doon], di ba, obviously sa baba ng kinikita, doon na [lang] ako [sa abroad],” Pangilinan said.
“But if you have farm enterprise that will earn you a hundred, 70 or 60, 50 thousand a month na hindi naman kasinglayo, hindi naman ganoon kalaki pero hindi naman ganoon kalayo, I think many of our kababayans will opt to stay,” he added.
The overseas absentee voting is set to start this Sunday, April 10.
The duo earlier promised to double the budget of the DA in order to be at par with other neighboring countries that are strengthening their agriculture sector.
Aside from this, if elected, Robredo vowed to pour in P100 billion cash assistance to small and medium enterprises to match the budget of the agriculture sector.
“Vice President Leni has committed to a P100 billion cash assistance sa small and medium enterprises by this year, ire-realign kasi bugbog sarado ang SMEs dahil sa Covid and the doubling of the budget,” Pangilinan said.
This, according to Pangilinan, is part of Robredo-Pangilinan’s platform of governance of reintegrating OFWs back into the country and investing their hard-earned money to build small businesses, which will then help the economy thrive.
As a farmer himself, Pangilinan is a staunch advocate of the agriculture sector, even becoming instrumental in the passage of the Sagip Saka Act in 2019.
By virtue of the Sagip Saka Act, local government units and different government agencies are compelled to purchase goods directly from farmers and fisherfolk cooperatives in order to strengthen and improve the livelihood of local farmers.
Pangilinan sees this landmark legislation as a way of putting an end to the decades-long problem of farmers getting low income even if they are the ones feeding the entire nation.