House panel approves bill promoting urban agri

10 October 2017 Philippines

The House Special Committee on Food Security on Tuesday gave its nod to the substitute bill promoting integrated urban agriculture to boost the country’s food security.

Party-list Rep. Orestes T. Salon of AGRI, one of the principal authors of the proposed Integrated Urban Agriculture Act, said the measure seeks to avert “a possible crisis brought about by food insecurity”.

Under the bill, an Office of Urban Agriculture (OUA) shall be established by the Department of Agriculture. The OUA will formulate implementing guidelines, programs and operating principles consistent with government policies and the objectives of the measure.

The office will also study and make recommendations regarding the impact of urban agriculture and vertical farming in metropolitan communities, carry out the implementation of the law and submit and report to Congress its findings and recommendations.

The bill added the OUA shall develop the research agenda on urban agriculture in the country’s metropolitan areas, in coordination with the departments of Science and Technology,  Environment and Natural Resources and  Health.

It also provided that idle and/or abandoned government lots and buildings owned by either the national or local governments, or available land within state colleges and universities will be considered for use in urban agriculture.

The program encourages the use of indigenous materials for agricultural inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers and agricultural machinery and other implements.

The measure indicated that local governments will be required to formulate policies on the practice of urban agriculture and on utilizing urban spaces, unused spaces and idle lands, consistent with existing policy on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning ordinances. The designated spaces, however, shall not be prime lots or areas suitable for investments.

Local government units (LGUs) in cities and urban areas shall be required to enact local legislation institutionalizing urban agriculture as a regular component in their annual appropriations.

If passed, urban agriculture will be included in the academic curriculum for elementary-, secondary-, and tertiary-level students of both public and private schools. A course curriculum on urban gardening will be developed and included in the regular curriculum of both elementary and secondary levels.

Urban agriculture shall also form part of the required period dedicated to the National Service Training Program, or the Citizens Military Training, in universities and colleges.

A nationwide information campaign will also be conducted by the OUA with the assistance of the Philippine Information Agency to raise public awareness.

Salon urged the leadership of the House of Representatives to prioritize the passage of the bill.

“Besides helping bridge the gaps in the country’s food supply, urban agriculture could positively impact employment and income generation for urban settlers,” he said in a statement.

Salon noted the Philippines ranked poorly in the 2017 Global Food Security Index recently released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Citing the report, he said out of the 113 countries ranked by the EIU, the Philippines garnered a score of 47.3 and placed 79th. In Asia Pacific the Philippines was 17th out of the 23 countries assessed.

The EIU considered three core pillars of food security—affordability, availability and quality and safety in its assessment.

In terms of the three pillars of food security, the lawmaker said the Philippines ranked 77th on affordability, 80th on availability and 69th in quality and safety.

“The urgency of addressing our nation’s food security should guide us in our actions,”
Salon said.