DILIMAN, Quezon City—As a proposed bill that champions the needs of agricultural extension workers (AEWs) continues to find its way in the national legislative priorities, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) widens its doors for more dialogues to further enhance the said policy initiative.
The proposed Magna Carta for AEWs seeks to improve the economic and social well-being of agricultural development workers engaged in agri-fishery services. They are those employed in the Department of Agriculture (DA), including its bureaus and attached agencies; agri-related national government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporation; local government units (LGUs); state universities and colleges; and other concerned government institutions.
It aims to address the challenges faced by AEWs since the devolution of the extension function to LGUs, which include having low salaries and compensation, no assurance of security of tenure, lack of a structured career development path, and generalist roles and assignments not related to their expertise.
The draft bill, developed through various multi-stakeholder consultations, has been filed and re-filed in Congress several times since 2011. In 2020, the DA has included the said legislative proposal in its priority agenda in line with the New Thinking for Agriculture paradigm.
Forums and consultations are being spearheaded by the ATI, through its Policy and Planning Division, to further enhance the draft bill and draw up strategies to promote and raise awareness about its provisions.
“I appreciate the intention and the efforts in putting forward a bill to help our extension workers. There should be a wide participation of various relevant agencies,” Prof. Judith Intong from Central Mindanao University said during one of the consultations held with various public and private institutions.
During the activity, ATI Director Alfredo Aton stressed that the passage of the bill will be very timely with the full devolution of extension services in the LGUs under the Mandanas-Garcia ruling. He assured the stakeholders of the Institute’s full support in lobbying for the recommended legislation and in its implementation once it is signed into law.
Likewise, he encouraged everyone to share the importance of the Magna Carta with their respective local chief executives and gather support for the said proposal to be able to empower and provide AEWs an enabling environment as they fulfill their roles and duties.
The said consultation was participated by representatives of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Farm Home Extensionists Association of the Philippines, League of Municipal Agricultural Officers, Municipal and City Agriculturists of the Philippines, Inc., Philippine Extension and Advisory Services, Inc., Philippine Veterinary Medical Association, and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines.
Agri-fishery extension and development expert Evelyn Aro-Esquejo served as the resource person for the activity which was held last March 2, 2021 via Google meet. (with reports from Roy Son R. de la Cruz)