Thank you very much to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to this Farm Tourism Luncheon, which is part of ‘The Ambassador’s Tour’. I am glad that Philippine Service Posts in the USA, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the other groups behind the project included this event in this year’s program.
I would like to welcome all of you there in the Philippines, especially the tourists and the Filipino- Americans or the balikbayan. I hope you are enjoying your time here in the country.
As the author of the Farm Tourism Development Law o Republic Act (RA) 10816, I am also glad that the DoT launched a campaign called “Farm Tourism: More Fun in the Philippines” because it will help even more the ultimate beneficiaries of the law—the Filipino farmers, farm owners as well as farm communities who are facing poverty and other challenges.
As the current chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, that is my priority. And the farm tourism law is now providing them with opportunities to increase their income by having alternative sources.
Three sources actually: from their produce or crops; from their farm when they convert it into a farm tourism site and as a learning site or farm school. All of which are encouraged under the law.
The key essence of Farm Tourism Development Law is for the government to “recognize that tourism, coupled with agriculture extension services, can disseminate the value of agriculture in the economic and cultural development of the country; serve as a catalyst for the development of agriculture and fishery communities; and provide additional income for farmers, farm workers, and fisherfolks”.
The combination of agriculture at tourism really is really a potent and effective one in helping the agricultural development in general and improving the plight of farmers at fisherfolks. And the involvement and interest, and of course investment, of people like yourselves will also help fast-track the further growth and development of the sector through farm tourism.
We are sure that many of you have invested on a plot of land or farm here in the country, particularly in your hometowns. Besides the harvest that you earn from in those farms, there are other ways you can profit from it, which I cited earlier include converting it as a farm tourism site and/or farm school.
The law also provide support to those who intend to do that. For ease of doing business, under the new law, the Department of Tourism and Industry’s Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development and the Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion and the DA’s Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service shall assist farm tourism operators and practitioners in the marketing and distribution of their products, and link them with consumers’ cooperatives and organizations, and retailers. That is very important, especially to new farm tourism sites.
It also provides support in training since TESDA and Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), under the law, “shall encourage farm tourism camps to become learning sites and accredited extension service providers, and the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority or TESDA shall accredit farm tourism camps as technical vocational institutions for agriculture and tourism courses”. I understand that later on ATI will present to all of you their role in the implementation of the Farm Tourism Law. So, I will just let them explain that aspect to all of you.
Personally, I also actively encourage farm owners to convert their farms into farm schools, learning sites or training centers. The establishment of which in every town in the Philippines is also supported by TESDA.
The Farm Tourism Development Law also seeks “to promote environment-friendly, efficient and sustainable farm practices”. Now more than ever, we have to prioritize environment protection through sustainable agriculture. Our very own survival and security demand it. For farming and food production to be more sustainable and to be able to meet growing food demand, there should be lower use of agricultural inputs such as water and chemicals.
Agro-ecology, especially it’s most popular and practical application—organic farming is the only way to go. Majority of farm tourist sites here promote and practice organic agriculture. It is also provided under the law that we “shall showcase farm tourism camps and activities as a way of promoting sustainable agriculture”.
The core of the law, I believe, is the “formulation and implementation of the Farm Tourism Strategic Action Plan”. The Plan covers investment promotion and financing; market research, promotion and development; accreditation of farm tourism camps; agriculture and fishery R&D and extension; institutional and human resource development; and infrastructure support. And that is what we have been doing in initiatives such as this one with the Ambassador’s Tour.
As part of the Farm Tourism Strategic Action Plan also, the DOT and the DA are encouraging the establishment of at least one farm tourism camp in every province in the country. And we are happy to say that farm tourism has really become a “sunshine industry”. The interest has been tremendous. Farm tourism sites have been mushrooming all over the country and they are doing really well.
In fact, I personally initiated the publication of a Directory of Farm Schools, Tourist Farms & Learning Sites in the Philippines that summarizes farm tourism destinations all over the country and serves as a reference guide for farm enthusiasts, interested trainees and tourists. In the first edition of the book, we only 300-plus entries and we have to keep on revising because now we have nearly 2,000 entries already, and it keeps on growing. I myself have put up not only one, but two farm schools. I do practice what I preach. But unlike other farm schools, we provide free training courses.
Having said all of that, I think you will all agree with me that exciting times are really up ahead for farm tourism in the Philippines. It is the type of impetus that an agricultural country such as ours need now. And the Philippines—blessed with abundant natural resources, biological diversity and cultural heritage—has what it takes to take a strong lead in farm tourism in the region, and even globally.
So now is really the perfect time to look into and seize the numerous opportunities in farm tourism in the Philippines. Besides that, as Filipinos, the balikbayans here are really in the best position to promote it further in the US. You are the best tourism ambassadors. So join us as we continue to make farm tourism more fun in the Philippines! Good afternoon to all of you.