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Accomplishment Report for the 16th Congress

The Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food headed by Senator Cynthia Villar, passed two bill that became laws, the are : Republic Act (R.A.) No.10659 or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015 (signed by President Aquino on March, 2014); and R.A. 10654 or the act to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing that amended the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1986.

There are four major bills that are awaiting the President's signature after they completed bicameral meetings. They are -

The Farm Tourism Development Act of 2015 was passed on December 1, 2015 at the Senate,

Per Committee Report No. 289.

Senate Bill No. 2831, the “Halal Bill,” under Committee Report No. 175, which seeks to institute the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Program; Entitled Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act of 2015, the bill, will give the Philippines a very good position to excel in the halal trade industry with the economic integration of the Southeast Asean Nations (ASEAN).

According to a Dubai Chamber of Commerce study, the halal food market would be worth $1.6 trillion by 2018. At present NCMF’s scope is limited to the domestic market and has nothing to do with export and trade. The Department of Trade and industry shall be the in-charge of international trade promotion of Halal products for the Philippines.

Senate Bill No. 2923, “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Bill,” under Committee Report No. 215 or “declaring large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage;” .

This bill will remove the biggest threat to increase the farmers and fisher folks income and their livelihood.The proposed Anti-Large Scale Agricultural Smuggling Act hurdled Congress deliberation but now awaiting the President’s signature.

While some acts of smuggling are already punishable under the Tariff and Customs Code, the proposed measure should be passed into law to impose stiffer penalty against large-scale agricultural smuggling.

Under the bill, the amount of smuggled agricultural product subject to economic sabotage is equal or more than P10 million for rice, and equal or more than P1 million for other agricultural products like sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables.

Violators, would face a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided.

More than three year after several senate hearings, which she preside, the probe against alleged smugglers David Bangayan and Leah Cruz, formal charges have yet to be filed by the Department of Justice.“Economic saboteurs deserve to be severely punished under this new law.

Senate Bill No. 2951, under Committee Report No. 251, “An Act Amending the Period of Collection and Utilization of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or ACEF.” This bill changes ACEF by giving 80percent of the fund to small and micro enterprises allowing them to borrow up to P5 million pesos to start or expand their business with minimal collateral and managed/evaluated by Land Bank of the Philippines. Ten percent of the fund shall go to research for the improvement of Agriculture and the remaining 10% to scholarships in agriculture related courses. Both scholarship and research shall be managed by the Commission on Higher Education.

Villar also sponsored 10 local bills promoting fisheries and aquatic resources (shrimps crustaceans etc.) in areas where they can be propagated. These are Senate Bill Nos. 1948, 4432, 4458, 5645, 5650, 5651, 5652, 6085, 6086, and 6088 under Committee Report Nos. 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, & 349 respectively. All local bills passed Congress too.

The Committee on Agriculture and Food found strong allies in other Senators who supported the passage of this bills and laws. They are Senators Ralph Recto, Sergs Osmeña III, JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara, Sonny Trillanes, Grace Poe, Miriam Santiago, Loren Legarda and Lito Lapid.

Senator Cynthia Villar believes that the committee has pursued and passed into law important and priority legislations referred to it. We believe that their enactment into law will make a real positive difference in the lives of many Filipinos,” Villar said.

“This is in keeping with my promise to those who voted for me in 2013 that I will help ease poverty in our country. With my chairmanship of the Agriculture committee, I am already helping two-thirds of our country’s population who are involved directly and indirectly in agriculture,” she said.

She lamented that fishermen posted the highest poverty incidence for nine basic sectors in the Philippines at 41.4 percent, followed by farmers at 36.7 percent, citing the latest official poverty statistics.

These are higher than the poverty incidence among the entire population in the Philippines at 26.5 percent, Villar noted.

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