Innovating the country’s agriculture sector is necessary to ensure food security amid the COVID-19 pandemic and to improve the sector’s resilience to other risks.
This is the key message of this year’s 6th Mindanao Policy Research Forum (MPRF), which is jointly organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU). The virtual forum, which is slated for September 18, will be hosted by AdDu through its University Research Council.
The 6th MPRF carries the theme “Bouncing Back in the New Normal through Countryside Development and Agricultural Resilience” to underscore the significant role of the agriculture sector in sustaining food production and in improving economic recovery during crises like the novel coronavirus outbreak.
report recently published by the World Bank noted that the country’s agriculture sector has exhibited resilience amid the pandemic. It grew “by 1.6 percent in the second quarter of the year” and the only sector that thrived during the period.
While this is good news for the sector, PIDS President Celia Reyes said it is crucial to implement reforms in agriculture to be able to maintain these gains and withstand the adverse impacts of future shocks and hazards. 
Mindanao is known for its strong agriculture-based economy, with a third of the region’s land area devoted to agricultural activities.
"Agriculture will be our backbone as we speed up efforts in rebuilding Mindanao's economy post-pandemic,” MinDa Chair Emmanuel Piñol said.

Based on the data of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in the Philippines, the region “supplies over 40 percent of the country’s food requirements and contributes more than 30 percent to national food trade”.
“Given Mindanao’s strength on agricultural production, the region will play a key role in sustaining food productivity and availability as the government continues to undertake measures to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic,” Reyes pointed out.
Piñol urged government agencies, local government units, and the private sector in Mindanao to “focus [their] efforts on the region's agriculture and fisheries sectors over the next five years to counteract the economic slowdown” brought by the coronavirus outbreak.
More topics related to the possible contributions of the region in strengthening the sector as well as the challenges and constraints it may encounter will be presented during the MPRF.
The forum will start with a presentation titled “Innovating Governance: Building Resilience Against COVID19 and other Risks: Focus on Agriculture” by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Sonny Domingo.

This will be followed by a discussion of various topics such as the “Socio-Economic Impact of COVID19 Pandemic in the Philippines/Mindanao” by Dr. Enrico L. Basilio, “Rapid Assessment of Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security, Rural Livelihoods, and Agricultural Market Chains in Mindanao” by Dr. Roehlano Briones, and “Enhancing Internet Connectivity and Social Inclusivity in the New Normal Using Satellite Technology for a Better-Connected Agriculture Development in Mindanao” by Dr. Rogel Mari Sese.
Panelists were also invited to share their insights and provide recommendations on how Mindanaoans can move forward and bounce back from the pandemic. Among those who will be joining the panel discussion are Hon. Khalid Dimaporo, Chair of the Committee on Mindanao Affairs; Dr. Jesus Antonio G. Derije, President, Central Mindanao University; Mr. John Carlo B. Tria, President of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc.; Dr. Hussein S. Lidasan, Dean, University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning; Ms. Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, Lead Convenor, Better Broadband Alliance; Bai Tinangkil Herminia Saway, Member of the Talaandig Council of Elders (Tribal Community from Bukidon); and representatives from the National Telecommunications Commission/Department of Information and Communications Technology, as well as from farmers’ groups. Dr. Vida Mia Valverde of AdDU will moderate the sessions and Secretary Piñol will close the forum.
Launched in 2015, the MPRF is part of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) celebration led by PIDS every September, as mandated by Presidential Proclamation No. 247. The DPRM aims to promote nationwide awareness of the significance of policy research in crafting evidence-based policies, plans, and programs.
This year’s DPRM theme is “Bouncing Back Together: Innovating Governance for the New Normal”, or in Filipino, “Makabagong Pamamahala para sa Sama-samang Pagbangon sa New Normal” to highlight the importance of innovating governance across all sectors of society to be able to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and other possible threats. ###

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