LOS BAÑOS, Laguna –– Senator Cynthia A. Villar has expressed support to initiatives of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), in collaboration with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO SEARCA), for a recognition process among selected Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States (AMS) that implement competency certification for agricultural workers.
She, however, noted that in the Philippines, agricultural workers comprise the small farm owners who, together with the fisher folks, remain the poorest sectors of the population.
"I am focused on removing all barriers that prevent them (small farm owners and fisher folks) from being competitive and profitable," the Senator said, citing a study that "these barriers are the lack of technical expertise, inadequate access to cheap credit and financial literacy."
She said that as a lawmaker, she helped enact laws to uplift the plight of the agricultural sector, and through improved competencies and skills training, will help them to be recognized and certified to become competitive in the Southeast Asia market.
"Establishing competency standards of agricultural workers in Southeast Asia seems to be the next step in our bid to develop not only the competence but also the competitiveness of agricultural workers and landowners," she said.
Meanwhile, TESDA Secretary Gulling Mamondiong recognized the need for greater productivity of the agricultural sector, but also stressed the need for high level of competency and skills of the farm workers.
He vowed to transform the 122 TESDA centers in the country as centers for agricultural excellence through competency certification, aside from devoting the resources of the agency to agriculture skills development.
Likewise, the Farm Schools numbering 1,900 established by Villar in almost all cities and municipalities in the country will get accreditation from TESDA for continuing education and in promoting farm eco-tourism in the country.
Dr. Bessie M. Burgos, program head for research and development of SEAMEO-SEARCA, explained that the four sessions of the workshop were aimed at initiating mutual recognition of competency certifications issued by AMS to their agricultural workers, and developing recommendations for the Southeast Asia-Technical vocational Education and Training (SEA-TVET) High Officials in time for their Fourth Meeting in September this year in Manila on the promotions of skills recognition of agricultural workers in the region.