By Manny Piñol

The greatest challenge that the administration of President Rody Duterte faces is the very high expectation of the Filipino people.

The 16-million Filipinos who voted for him, including those whose votes were credited for somebody else, are hoping to see real change coming soon.

In the Department of Agriculture which I will lead, I have already laid down a plan on what to do during the first 100 days.

This roadmap was crafted after the rigorous nation-wide journey called the Biyaheng Bukid which, except for a few remaining island provinces, brought me to almost all parts of the country.

What did I learn from Biyaheng Bukid?

There is pervasive poverty in the agriculture and fisheries sector. In Mindoro island, I met fishermen who were renting bancas just to be able to catch fish.

In Tarlac, right in the front yard of the incumbent president, farmers are still using carabaos and crude farming methods.

There is so much potential in both fields but the DA has lost focus spending huge government resources on programs which are not essential to food production.

There is so much idle lands and so much water flowing through the rivers. In fact, we have 247 large rivers which cuold be used for water supply.

The agricultural statistics gathering vital to effective planning is flawed.

The country’s agriculture and fisheries sector is very poor in research and development. So much money is wasted on trainings with virtually no results.

Technology transfer and information dissemination, especially farmers’ access to vital data, are markedly poor.

The country could achieve rice sufficiency in two to three years but we have to implement massive interventions i.e. repair and rehab of existing irrigation facilities; use of water pumps in areas with shallow water level; support of high-yielding seeds, fertilizers and farm inputs for the next two cropping seasons; idenification of key rice production areas where water is readily available.

There is great potential for high value crops, especially in coconut production areas where these could be intercropped i.e. coffee, cacao, abaca.

I talked to Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) officials and I was assured we could plant 600,000 hectares to coconut over the next six years based on their available seedlings.

The country could be self-sufficient with beef, pork, chicken but there has been to a massive development in the farming sector which produces feed materials like corn, soya and even malunggay.

With support from government, the country’s high value crops sector could bring in much-needed foreigh exchange and create jobs in the countryside.

There is a disconnect between agencies diretly or indirectly involved in food security i.e. DA and DENR in relation to identification of watershed areas for protection to ensure sustainable agriculture and mining permits in areas where agriculture could be affected.

The agriculture and fisheries sector registered a negative performance of -4.4% during the first quarter of this year.

There is an urgent need for life-saving efforts to lift up farmers and fishermen and those who depend on agriculture for their livelihood and business.

So, for the first 100 days of the Duterte Presidency, the Department of Agriculture will undertake the following measures:

– Nation-wide orientation and mind setting for all officials and employees of the DA to ensure that they are guided on the priorities of the Duterte Presidency in agriculture and fisheries and the road map for the mission to provide Available and Affordable Food for the Filipinos is clearly explained;

-Cash for work program for farmers and fishermen affected by the El Niño. Work includes manual repair and rehabilitation of irrigation facilities for farmers and cleaning of coastal waters of garbage and planting of mangrove trees for fisherfolk;

– Start of the national mapping to determine which crop or agricultural activity would be best in a specific area based on geographic, climatic and soil type conditions. President Duterte calls this the Color-coded Agriculture Guide Map;

– Start of the National Food Consumption Quantification Survey whcih would determine what kind of food and the volume of food commodities consumed by the Filipinos. This would also project the food consumption of the country in relation to population growth;

– Nation-wide inspection of irrigation services, dredging of silted dams and provision of shallow tube wells to ensure sufficient supply of water for the next rice planting season;

– Support in the form seeds, fertilizers, farm inputs two planting seasons in the form of calamity assistance;

– For the fisherfolk, distribution of fishing boats and nets;

– Nation-wide face-face interaction between the DA secretary and the stakeholders in the agriculture and fishery sectors to address their concerns;

– Project Management Teams will also be organised in coordination with the local government units of the country’s 10 Poorest Provinces to ensure that the DA’s food production program would also result in Poverty Alleviation;

– A special project titled Pagkain Para sa Masa will be launched in Metro Manila establishing arrozcaldo feeding stations to ensure that the street dwellers and the homeless will not go to sleep on an empty stomach. This project will be implemented jointly with the Dept. of Health, Dept. of Social Welfare and Development and the LGUs in Metro Manila.

Pagkain Para sa Masa will serve as the first step towards ensuring that the street dwellers, urban poor and the homeless will be identified and later trained for vegetable growing using the Israel Green House technology;

– Another special project, the Bantay Dagat, will engage the Badjaos in cleaning the waters of coastal communities to make them productive;

– In cooperation and coordination with the DOH, DSWD and Dept. of Educaton, the DA will also spearhead the launching of a community-based milk feeding program in areas where farmers are involved in dairy production.

– In preparation for the La Niña which is expected to hit the country by November or December 2016, the DA secretary will direct the Philippine Crop insurance Corp. to include in the crop insurance program farmers in the high risk areas.

– The National Food Authority (NFA) will also be directed to pre-position sufficient rice and food supplies in areas expected to be affected by La Niña.

– Inter-agency connectivity between the DA and the Bureau of Customs will also be established during the first 100 days of President Duterte to ensure that the smuggling of rice, meat products and other agricultural products like Onion, Garlic and even Ginger will stop.


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