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Senate OKs Farm Tourism Bill

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The Senate on Monday (Dec. 14, 2015) approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to develop and promote farm tourism in the country.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 3002, said the proposed measure seeks to alleviate poverty and spur development in rural areas.

Villar said farm tourism would also solve the problem of mass migration to urban centers.

“About half of the country’s population lives in rural areas, where poverty is also most pronounced and widespread. Agriculture is the primary and often only source of income for poor rural people, many of whom depend on subsistence farming and fishing for their livelihoods. Farm tourism would contribute to rural development,” Villar said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon added that the measure will help the country maximize the benefits from both the tourism sector, which represents 7.8 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP) last year, and the agricultural sector, which grew by 4.8 percent in the last quarter of 2014.

“The development of farm tourism can serve as the catalyst for the economic development of our local agriculture and fishing communities, and help provide additional income for our farmers, farmworkers and fisherfolk,” he said.

The bill proposes the formulation a farm tourism strategic action plan which will be integrated with the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP). The plan will provide specific programs and activities that shall be done by government agencies and industry stakeholders.

“We have what it takes to take a strong lead in farm tourism in the region and even globally. All we need is an enabling environment, including a clear legislation and a proper tax and incentives system,” Villar stressed.

“A sustainable tourism is an opportunity for business development and job creation, as well as for stimulation of investment and support for local services,” she said.