THE Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food on Monday approved in principle a measure that will promote integrated urban agriculture and vertical farming in metropolitan areas.

“We’ll go plenary,” Senator Cynthia A. Villar, who chairs the panel, said in a briefing Monday. “We’re writing the bill based on the hearing.”

The Committee tackled Senate Bill Nos. 257, 280, 587 and 1264, which all sought to institutionalize urban agriculture and vertical farming. Urban agriculture is the practice of food production and distribution within a town or city; while vertical farming concerns indoor agriculture in modern buildings.

The measure proposed to include both methods in the academic curriculum for the secondary and tertiary level of both public and private institutions.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) supported the measure, which it sees as consistent with its goal of food security “with prosperous farmers and fisherfolk.”

The DA particularly favored provisions that required agencies to conduct comprehensive studies on urban farming practices and the increased participation of local government units (LGUs).

“The Department, through ATI (Agriculture Training Institute), will partner with LGUs and other related entities and agencies in promoting new trends and technology in urban agriculture,” Undersecretary Rodolfo V. Vicerra told the panel.

Mr. Vicerra also recommended that the panel adopt the appropriation provision in the bills written by Senators Francis N. Pangilinan and Manuel M. Lapid.

These bills “do not put specific percentages on urban agriculture and vertical farming funds,” Mr. Vicerra said.

“This gives a free hand to appropriate funds as necessary in close coordination with local government units.”

Another bill author, Sen. Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, prescribes funding for implementation to be set at 2% of the budget of the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

The DA also proposed to create an urban agriculture and vertical farming program and a new office under the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to serve as the body that will implement all projects and programs.

Ms. Villar, however, countered that the creation of a new office highlights the BPI’s failure to develop programs, despite having research funding.

“Never suggest na mag-create ako ng office sa National Government. Ang i-suggest niyo sa akin, mag-create ng program para sa mga tao (You must never propose that I create a new national government office. What you need to propose are programs),” Ms. Villar said.

Ang daming research… wala namang application (Much research has been done… but with no application).”

Ms. Villar said she will also propose a provision that will require LGUs to allocate 10% of their budgets for the program. — Charmaine A. Tadalan