TESDA Central Office, Taguig City January 9-10, 2020 | 8:30 A.M.

Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat.

First of all, I would like to thank the Department of Agriculture under the leadership of Secretary Dar for making this event a reality.

As mentioned by Deputy Director General Rose Urdaneta, I consider this crucial, because this will be the start of more things to happen to implement the provisions of the law, Republic Act 11203.

I am happy to see you all this morning.

This is an excellent way to start the year, to plan our activities for the coming months with regard to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, and to ensure that these are well-coordinated and in line with the thrust of the administration.

The signing of Republic Act No. 11203 and the subsequent creation of the rice fund can well be the savior of our agricultural sector, if we work closely together in its implementation, in particular the Rice Extension Services Program (RESP) component.

The fact that the law compels several agencies to join forces indicates the urgency of the situation.

Even as early as 2003, the food and agriculture organization had already observed a growing crisis in Philippine agriculture in the previous 2 decades.  This was caused by significant decrease in productivity, high production cost, cheaper food imports, and low government support.

The World Bank also issued statistics that showed that the country’s agricultural sector’s percentage share of employees fell from 34.16% in 2008 to 25.19% in 2018.

While the services industry’s share of employees grew by more than 5% during the period, agriculture exhibited a negative compounded average growth rate.

TESDA’s National Technical Education and Skills Development Program 2018-2022, attributes this decline to the sector’s continuing “vulnerability”.

According to the National TESD Plan, agriculture workers in general only earn about half of what workers in the services sector.  Underemployment in agriculture is also high, due partly to the seasonality of work and the sector’s susceptibility to the effects of natural calamities.

The National TESD Plan presented that increasing farm productivity and diversification of crop production as well as agri-entreprenuership can help solve this problem.

The problems and issues long been confronting the agriculture sector should merit our undivided attention and aggressive actions to mitigate the negative impact. 

No developed nation attained its status without first ensuring that they are self-sufficient in terms of food production. Developing countries like the Philippines should work on achieving the same status.

On our shoulders – both the Department of Agriculture and TESDA – rest the noble but challenging task of attaining food security for the nation. 

Hopefully, this 2-day session will allow us to more carefully examine the issues that prevent the smooth implementation of the various components of the RCEF.

The more we understand what is expected of us, the better we can coordinate our plans and address the concerns that have cropped up.

TESDA’s guiding principle, “abot lahat” calls for our involvement with all the industry sectors.  However, under my leadership, TESDA has made the provision of agriculture and related training programs as the top priority.

And there is no changing on that position, it will always be agriculture.  It is about food security.

Our stand to focus on the agriculture sector is further indicated in the President’s signing of RA 11203 which fortifies this position.

In accordance with TESDA’s two-pronged strategy, the first which is global competitiveness, TESDA is working hard to train our agri workers with the most technologically advanced techniques in farming as well as to educate them on how to make the most use of available technology and machinery.

Soon after, because of their training, they should see improvements in their production, and eventually start earning to live comfortably and lift them from poverty.  This addresses our second strategy which is social equity and poverty reduction.

Among others, these initiatives are geared towards ensuring national food security and self-sufficiency. 

Our President has categorically expressed this in his last state of the nation address, and called for the full realization of the Rice Tarrification Law which will save our agricultural sector and protect the livelihood of our small farmers.

With the renewed support for the agri sector, we hope to see even better implementation of existing laws such as RA 8435 or the “Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997” and RA 10601 the “Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization (AFMECH) Law”.

With RA 8435 alone, or the AFMA law, TESDA is tasked to formulate and develop a post-secondary education program under the national agriculture and fisheries education system. Together with the department of agriculture and other agencies, it is high time that we revisit this law to implement whatever is necessary to forward our advocacy for food security.

The Duterte administration has repeatedly stressed its intention for all Filipinos to be sufficiently fed, educated and live comfortably.  

These plans that we shall be developing in this workshop for the next two days must aim to bring us even closer to the realization of this dream.

I look forward to a very productive year ahead, starting with this workshop.

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat, maraming salamat!

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