Villar urges displaced miners to go into farming, construction

BAGUIO CITY – Senator Cynthia Villar urged displaced small-scale miners to look at agriculture and construction as alternative livelihood due to the closure of mines in the Cordillera after the typhoon-induced landslide that claimed numerous lives in Itogon town, Benguet province last month.
On the sidelines of the Convention of the Philippine Society of Animal Nutritionists here on Wednesday, Villar said agriculture and construction are now the “in-thing” in the country, considering the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration.
Two days after the landslide incident in mid-September, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ordered a halt to all small-scale mining activities in the entire Cordillera region, and canceled all mining contracts earlier approved by the department.
The move economically displaced more than 12,000 small-scale miners in Benguet.
Villar said the displaced miners can avail themselves of scholarships offered by farm schools that teach organic farming.
She also urged farmers in the highland region to take advantage of the country’s farm tourism law.
The law, she said, would greatly benefit the farmers as it would give them higher income, free education for themselves and their families, and ultimately food security for the whole country.
“As of today, we have 1,855 farm schools that are accredited by the TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority). Actually, in all provinces, we also have construction schools that can teach them skills, so they can be employed,” Villar said.
Farm tourism is defined under the law as “the practice of attracting visitors and tourists to farm areas for production, educational, and recreational purposes.”
It involves any agricultural or fishery-based operation or activity that brings to a farm visitors, tourists, farmers, and fisherfolk, who want to be educated and trained in farming and its related activities.
It also provides a venue for outdoor recreation and accessible family outings, a sort of an experiential tourism activity.
“Farm tourism also gives the farmers a competitive edge in their agricultural production because of added knowledge and more potential buyers and traders for their produce,” Villar said.
She added that through the farm schools, the children of farmers could also study and acquire education on farm management and production, which could boost the country’s agriculture industry in the long run.
TESDA will shoulder the tuition of those who will enroll under the program.
“I appeal to those farmers. Venture in farm tourism. Aside from the production, you can also convert your houses into homestays for the tourists, and also you can convert your farms into school farms. You will be paid by TESDA and you will earn as well,” she said.
Villar also cited a pending bill at the Senate which seeks government allocation of PHP10 billion as competitive enhancement fund that will help rice farmers mechanize.
“Apart from the PHP10-billion fund, we have passed the Coconut Farmer and Industry Development Law that will provide PHP15 billion a year to help the coconut farmers,” she added.
She said lawmakers are inclined to pass the Livestock, Poultry, and Dairy bill that will mandate the government to give PHP10 billion a year for the development of each of the sectors.
As for construction schools, Villar said these also hold mobile teaching and can help displaced workers.
She said the demand for workers in the construction industry is in a boom.
The government has poured in billions of pesos for its “Build, Build, Build” program to put up massive infrastructure facilities nationwide, raising the demand for construction workers. **Pamela Mariz Geminiano/ PNA

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