BuCor backs legislation for prison livelihood farms

By Benjamin Pulta

November 29, 2023, 6:00 pm

MANILA – Prison officials on Wednesday echoed their unequivocal support for the proposed legislation mandating prisons and penal farms to implement agricultural livelihood programs for inmates.

In a statement, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. said he is supporting House Bill No. 3541, which mandates all penal institutions with areas suitable for agriculture to implement agricultural livelihood programs for prisoners.

HB 3541 filed by Benguet Lone District Rep. Eric Go Yap and Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte would institutionalize the ongoing pilot project being undertaken at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan under the Reformation Initiative for Sustainable Environment for Food Security (RISE Project).

Catapang said a law mandating this program can help assure food security and sustainability for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), "as well as those living near our operating prison and penal farms nationwide."

Yap and Duterte claimed that food security must be afforded not just to the free folk but also to those in the penitentiary institutions who likewise have the right to proper sustenance. However, due to budget constraints and the growing number of inmates, penal institutions continue to struggle to provide food for all the prisoners.

The bill also mandates prisoners to undergo agricultural training to properly cultivate the land within the perimeter allowed and be more productive.

Under the proposed measure, the chosen prisoners shall work voluntarily and will be paid the prevailing minimum wage rate in the area where the penal institution is located. The compensation shall be paid from the Prison Agriculture Revolving Fund which will be established in every penal institution implementing the agricultural program where the earnings derived from the program will be kept.

The fund shall also be used for the acquisition of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, among others, and for the improvement of the prison facility.

The Department of Agriculture earlier announced that the pilot technology demonstration farms developed by inmates in the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) in Palawan will be ready for harvest next month.

The 4.5-hectare demo farm in Iwahig is expected to yield 96.8 metric tons of rice, watermelon, melon, eggplant, tomatoes, red chili pepper, pole sitao, cucumber, okra, squash, patola, ampalaya, and sweet corn in December with an estimated gross income of PHP7.3 million.

Proceeds from the farm will be used by the BuCor to expand its agricultural development activities by using idle lands to support government’s food security campaign. (PNA)