Mr. Chairman, my dear colleagues:
If a rice farmer will plant a hectare by his lonesome, it is said that he has to bend forward 200,000 times to punch palay seedlings into the soil.
But first, he must plow the land, slogging 40 kilometers, kasing haba ng marathon, in knee-deep mud, with one hand on a heavy iron plow, and the other on a one-ton carabao.
Kaya kung bilib tayo sa workout ng ating Pambansang Kamao, mas lalo pa dapat sa ating mga magsasaka.
If farming is the hardest occupation in this part of the planet, the toughest job in the Cabinet is that of the DA Secretary.
Justice can be delayed, but eating is not postponable. The country can even survive without a president, but not without food.
People will queue, patiently, for an MRT ride, a passport, an NBI clearance. But once you make them line up for rice, the Republic will fall.
Yet, while those in charge of national security have the armed forces under their command, the one in charge of food security operates under market forces.
His performance depends as much on God, as it does on good governance. Failed crops can be caused by El Nino, but the worst is wreaked by a drought of funds.
Hindi siya pwedeng tamad. Because while other Cabinet members get their performance measured in annual surveys, the DA secretary faces a referendum every morning in public markets.
And every day his constituency expands. In fact, the goalpost he must hit moves every minute.
For example, if we will be in plenary for 40 minutes, then by the time we adjourn, 136 babies would have been born.
Paglaki ng mga iyan, mahilig yan sa unli-rice, kasi nga may rice-loving gene in our DNA. Each Filipino on the average eats 119 kilos of rice annually.
The 136 Pinoys will thus devour 16.1 tons of rice yearly. To produce this, we have to open up 7 hectares of land to irrigation, the size of about 166 basketball courts, at a cost of P1.4 million.
But we produce babies in industrial scale. About 4,400 are born every 24 hours, 15 times the membership of the House.
For 2017, our population will grow by about 1.603 million. By 2020, there will be 109.26 million of us.
In ten years, there will be 120.1 million crowding this sliver of land that typhoons hit first but investors choose last.
We are adding the population of one Singapore every 3 years and 4 months. In 10 years, our population will grow by 17.5 million, or the population of Denmark, Finland and Norway.
On rice, 17.5 million more mouths to feed means we have to ramp up rice supply by 2.1 million metric tons a year.
To achieve this, we can increase imports or, per one study, irrigate more lands at a rate of 77,000 hectares – or more than three times the size of Camiguin – every year, until 2027.
17.5 million also means 645 million additional kilos of fish every year, and 178 million kilos more of poultry products.
While this can be seen as a challenge, it should be viewed as a huge market and jobs opportunity, if we grow the food we import.
Sa noodles nga lang, ang pambansang pagkain ng GNP – or Gutom na Pilipino – 34 na pakete kada taon ang hinihigop ng kada Pinoy, pampito sa buong mundo.
We imported 16.5 billion pesos worth of pork in 2015 kasi mahilig tayo sa humba at adobo na hinaluan ng Lipitor.
Sa kape, we imported 92 million metric tons, not because we are addicted to caffeine, but because we love free planners.
Sa bawang at sibuyas, higit tig-isang kilo bawat Pilipino ang inaangkat natin taun-taon.
Halos tatlong daang bilyong piso ang ating food import bill, yung deklarado, hindi kasama ang smuggled, tulad ng pinuslit na pusit.
The list goes on and on.
Ano ang punto ko? Food production and rural development must remain national priorities, and the national budget must reflect so.
Agriculture absorbs 27 percent of jobs, and is home to 40 percent of the poor. It is Ground Zero in the war against poverty.
We will graduate 1 million poor from poverty every year by 2022. Nasaan ang karamihan sa kanila? Nasa agrikultura.
In the war against hunger, food eats up 60 percent of the budget of the bottom 30 percent of families, so keeping it affordable minimizes the pressure for wage hikes.
Kaya ang gusto ng tao, makatikim ng murang pagkain at hindi lang mura mula sa Pangulo.
Mr. Chairman, my dear colleagues:
Manny Piñol is born of the soil, from a hardy clan of settlers, who battled disease and pestilence to carve farms out of frontier fastness.
The crops and livestock he had grown since he was a young boy are as varied as his resume.
He taps rubber, grows sugar cane, plants rice, corn, banana, and even non-edible ones like mahogany trees. He does not sing Bahay Kubo. He plants every vegetable in that ditty.
He is an expert in raising animals for food. His famous goats are sought after for their meat and milk – and uric acid by citizens of Papaitan Republic.
Which brings me to his greatest asset as a DA Secretary. He has always been a farmer who at times in his storied life was only forced, by circumstances or by the citizenry, to moonlight as a journalist, and even as a governor.
The legend is that he was actually born a mestizo, and only got his perpetual tan from farming.
With this farmer at the helm, the DA, the Kagawaran ng Pansakahan, will truly become a Departamento ng mga Magsasaka.
But more than confirming his appointment, let us support his program, the DA programs, in a manner that would truly make an impact, meaning budgetary and policy support.
Especially policy support because agriculture is under siege by theorists who believe that it would be better for other nations to feed us, enamored as they are by the thought that because a rose smells better than camote leaves, it would make a better soup.
I vote to confirm the appointment of Emmanuel Pinol the gentleman-farmer from M’lang, North Cotabato as Secretary of Agriculture.