To provide the much-needed assistance to the country’s farmers, Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure seeking to grant free tertiary agricultural education, and other related courses, to all dependent children of registered indigent farmers in the country.
In filing Senate Bill (SB) No. 853, De Lima said a free tertiary agricultural education will not only open more opportunities for qualified farmers’ children but will also encourage them to consider agriculture as their alternative career and prepare them for advanced agricultural jobs.
“This bill proposes free tertiary agricultural education to their qualified dependent children [i]n recognition of the indispensable role of farmers in the Philippine economy, and the country’s way of showing gratitude to them for their sacrifices in providing food security for our people,” she said.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) 2015 Poverty Statistics for Basic Sectors report, farmers and fishermen and children are the sectors with the highest poverty incidence, among the nine basic sectors identified in the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act or Republic Act No. 8425.
Specifically, the poverty incidence for the sector of farmers was recorded at 34.3 percent, noting that the sector of farmers is consistently registered as one of the three top sectors with the highest poverty incidence in 2006, 2009 and 2012.
“Naturally, families of farmers are adversely affected by this economic fallback. As a grim consequence, children of farmers face the risk of not being able to attend school for lack of sufficient funds for their education,” De Lima noted.
While the Philippine economy posted a 6.1 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2018, De Lima lamented that the agricultural sector has greatly suffered a major setback in the recent years caused by environmental damage, the rampant conversion of agricultural land into golf courses, and residential subdivisions, among other factors.
“Farmers hold a distinct and important role in the country as the main driver of economy. However, it is often ironic that farmers, as food production workers, are the ones suffering from extreme hunger and food insufficiency,” said De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
Under SB No. 853, students whose parents have no visible means of income other than agriculture, as identified by the standards set by the Department of Agriculture (DA), is qualified to avail of the free tertiary agricultural education provided for in the Act.
De Lima, a known human rights and social justice champion, noted that qualified dependent children intending to enroll or already enrolled in an agricultural course or any related field offerings in state colleges and universities, such as agro-forestry and agricultural engineering, shall be exempt from payment of tuition and other school fees.
These dependents, De Lima continued, shall be entitled to such other incentives or subsidies, including living and transportation allowance, provided they meet the admission requirements of the schools where they intend to enroll in.
If enacted into law, De Lima’s proposed measure “will accelerate agricultural growth and higher productivity, not just in the countryside, but the whole nation as well,” because there will be more informed citizenry on agriculture.