Piñol: PH lack farmers because of 4Ps

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Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said an apathy towards farming pervades the farm sector because farmers can get money anyway from the Conditional Cash Transfer program even without much hardwork.

The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, also known as 4Ps or the  Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program is a poverty alleviation program that provides poor families with regular cash dole-outs and monthly rice allowance.

While the Secretary acknowledged that 4Ps may be a quick fix to poverty in the countryside, it also adversely impacts rural productivity.

In a recent post in his Facebook account, Piñol shared that during the Biyaheng Bukid Forum the department recently conducted in Brooke’s Point, Palawan, rice farmers sought urgent help from the DA for rice transplanters and combined harvester-thresher as the province does not have enough farm workers anymore.

“Dati marami kaming trabahante. Pero ngayon, mag-ani lang ng isang araw, aayaw na kasi may 4Ps,” a farm owner said during the forum.

Piñol said that this issue has been previously been raised in almost all of the rice and corn production areas where the Biyaheng Bukid forum was held in the past.

The issue is not a mere observation as data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) confirmed that the total number of employed people in the agriculture sector declined by 2.89 percent to 10.985 million in 2016, from 11.312 million recorded in 2015.

Of the figure, 9.719 million workers are in the agriculture, forestry and hunting subsector, while the remaining 1.266 million are in the fisheries subsector.

The beneficiaries of the program refuse to undertake hard farm work as the government already provides them monthly financial support.

The dilemma, said Piñol can be viewed two ways: first, it could be an indication that farm workers are offered oppressive wages after a hard farm work or it could be a danger sign of a growing mentality of mendicancy and dependency of the poor families on the anti-poverty program – which, he said, is the most plausible reason.

Review 4Ps

Pinol said the government, particularly the Department of Social Welfare and Development, should review the 4Ps program.

DSWD should add more qualifications and requirements for the poor families so that the program will not be abused and the money will not be used for the wrong reasons.

The 4Ps Program which was implemented during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is patterned after the anti-poverty programs in many South American countries, including Brazil where it is called Bolsa Familia.

The program was then continued and funds for it were expanded by Duterte’s predecessor,  Benigno Aquino III and now by the Duterte administration.

The program is envisioned to break the intergenerational poverty cycle by investing in the health and education of the poor children by providing a P500 monthly stipend for poor families identified by a National Household Targeting System and P900 for the three children of beneficiary families who are in grade school and/or high school.

In exchange, the CCT beneficiary families must make sure that pregnant women and children aged 0 to 5 must undergo regular medical examinations and their children must attend classes regularly.

They are also required to attend family development sessions and must train to operate their preferred livelihood projects.

Though current program standards seem ideal they are not realistic with what is happening on the ground.

Piñol said while he was still governor of North Cotabato, he already saw these danger signs in the said program.

“Families who line up in front of the Land Bank of the Philippines to withdraw their cash dole-outs from the ATM would later be seen in Jollibee and the department stores buying cellphone loads,” he said.

He said 4Ps offered an avenue for corruption especially in many poor areas in Mindanao where the beneficiaries’ ATM cards are controlled by local officials who offer “cash advances” to the families and later collect a portion of their money.

Mechanization

Pinol also suggested that in view of the lack of farm workers, he issued a directive that rice and corn program budgets for 2018 should allocate more funds for farm implements like tractors, transplanters, harvesters and dryers.

The mechanization program will also take into consideration the farm workers who have opted to work in the agriculture sector and who may be displaced by the use of machines.

In M’lang, North Cotabato, Mayor Russel Abonado and Vice Mayor Lito Piñol designed a program that organized the farm workers into the M’lang United Transplanters and Harvesters Organization (MUTHO).

Last year, the group got a combined rice harvester from the DA which has become a source of livelihood for the former farm workers who operate the equipment.

Pinol said this concept will be replicated in other parts of the country.