(Message delivered by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman on 27 October 2021 during the Department of Agriculture and PhilRice’s Seed Distribution for the 2022 Dry Season)
The great Black American educator and author Booker T. Washington once said that “No race can prosper until it learns there is as much dignity in tilling a field as there is in writing a poem.” We should recognize and acknowledge that everyone plays an indispensable role in nation building – from farmers to Presidents – we all play a part and are all important.
For Filipinos, rice it life. It would be very difficult for any of us to go without rice even for a single day. They say that Eskimos who live in the coldest parts of the world have more than 20 words for “snow”.
Here in the Philippines, where snow is a foreign concept and hot, sweltering weather is more the norm, linguistic experts say that we have at least seven words for “rice”, among them are “palay” for unmilled rice, “bigas” for milled rice, “kanin” for cooked rice, “lugaw” for rice porridge, “tutong” for burned rice; “bahaw” for leftover rice; and “sinangag” for fried rice.
As a nation whose staple food is rice, it the single most important agricultural crop in the Philippines and is therefore a major source of income for millions of Filipino farmers. We rely heavily on rice farmers like you to not only to feed millions but also to fuel the economy. As our economy is largely powered by human capital, a well-fed and healthy citizen will be more productive, motivated, and contribute more to growing the economy.
You may not be aware of it but the product that you spend almost the entire year tending is the most important human food crop in the world. Rice directly feeds more people than any other crop and nearly half of world’s population of 7.9 billion rely on rice every day.
It is also one of the world’s most ancient food as rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop and now thousands of rice varieties are cultivated on every continent in the world except Antarctica. Given this information, it is not surprising that a fifth of the world’s population or around 1.6 billion people rely on rice farming for their income.
With the help our partners led by the Department of Agriculture and PhilRice, we hope to be able to continue supporting our rice farmers in all the stages of rice production and provide you with safety nets you need should crops fail because of typhoons, pests or diseases, and human practices that affect the environment.
You are feeding an entire nation and we are in your debt. One way we can repay this debt is by ensuring that we import less rice from other nations and invest in developing local rice production.
I would also be very interested to hear your thoughts on the controversial rice tariffication law and how my office can be of further assistance.