January 27, 2017

“Kung typhoon-resilient na ang enterprise hindi na maaapektuhan ang mga abaca farmers kasi hindi na bababa ang buying price ng abaca.” This is how Romeo C. Aquino of PPMIU-Catanduanes views the possible impact of the Abaca Processing and Trading Enterprise projected to be implemented in Virac, Catanduanes in 2017 under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP).

According to Aquino, five municipalities with abaca plantations namely Gigmoto, Baras, Bato, San Miguel, Virac, and San Andres in Catanduanes were severely devastated by typhoon Nina. He said that this will surely affect abaca farmers due to reduced quality and buying price.

Jerome Pedrocillo shares the same wish as the temporary decorticating area being used by the Tunay Tapat Lahing Pilipino Cooperative for the Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise’s operation was also damaged by the typhoon which hit Bicol, particularly Catanduanes, Albay and Camarines Sur on December 25, 2016.

“Umaasa kami na sa lalong madaling panahon, ma-award na yung project para makinabang na yung mga kasamahan namin na umaasa sa proyektong ito,” he said.

As of January 5, 2017, the Department of Agriculture’s final damage report due to typhoon Nina has recorded P5.1 billion production losses in Bicol. About 86,619.80 hectares of agricultural area in the region was devastated affecting 86,735 farmers and fisherfolk. 

At the RPCO I-REAP 2016 Year-End Assessment and 2017 Action Planning Workshop on January 19-20, 2017, PRDP-Bicol Deputy Project Director and enterprise development (I-REAP) component head Adelina A. Losa reassured the proponent groups and local government partners of the Project’s support and extra effort to fast track the implementation of I-REAP sub-projects. She also sought the respective LGUs’ commitment in facilitating the procurement process saying that the PRDP is an opportunity to uplift the lives of their constituents.

Currently, Bicol has the highest number of I-REAP sub-projects in the South Luzon cluster with P68.1 million-worth regular and microenterprise sub-projects under procurement and P32.2 million-worth of proposed sub-projects. These sub-projects are projected to engage 10,699 farmer-beneficiaries towards full market integration by developing and supporting provincial champion commodities like coco geonets in Albay, abaca in Catanduanes, coco sap sugar in Camarines Sur, coco geonets and pineapple in Camarines Norte, and seaweeds in Sorsogon.

According to Aquino, the Pinoy Lingap Damayan Multi-Purpose Cooperative’s dry run operation of the Abaca Processing and Trading Enterprise has sold 630,142.55 kilograms of abaca fiber amounting to P38.2 million from April 1 to October 31, 2016. He noted that once the sub-project starts its operation in Catanduanes, it will improve the standard of living of abaca farmers and change the province’s economic landscape.

Empowering rural women, expanding opportunities in the countryside

Meanwhile, I-REAP’s microenterprise sub-projects for typhoon-stricken areas in 2015 are also empowering and expanding rural women and fisherfolk’s opportunities in Masbate and Sorsogon. In 2016, a total of P13.5 million microenterprise sub-projects were approved for typhoon-affected areas in Bicol including Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate.

Erma C. Yap, I-REAP Component Head and Rural Improvement Club Coordinator in Esperanza, Masbate, considers the P1.8 million-worth Coco Charcoal Briquette Production an opportunity for rural women in her municipality to “think outside the box.”

“Malaki itong oportunidad sa kanila upang makaisip ng mas maraming ideya. Sa ngayon pa lang, na-eempower na sila. Awakening ito para sa kanila na hindi pala sila pinapabayaan ng gobyerno at may pagkakataon silang ma-uplift ang kanilang living condition,” she added.

Roberto Salgado, president of the Samahang Mangingisda ng Tomalaytay in Castilla, Sorsogon, on the other hand, testified that seaweed farmers and fisherfolk in his community are now more enthusiastic in propagating seaweeds. In fact, they now have an estimated stock of 35 to 40 tons from 1,000 kilograms of seaweeds that they have planted after typhoon Nona, which ravaged Sorsogon in December 2015. From January to December 2016, they have sold 30-35,000 kilograms of seaweeds equivalent to over P500,000 to local buyers and government agencies engaged in other rural development programs in Sorsogon.

“Umaasa kami sa magandang resulta na idudulot ng PRDP. Sana sa pamamagitan ng mabuting ugnayan at monitoring, mas tumaas pa ang aming production at mas maging aktibo ang aming mga mamamayan,” he added. 

I-REAP is considered as the “heart of PRDP,” a DA-implemented development program which is now on its third year of implementation. With the active engagement of local government units and proponent groups, I-REAP follows a “down-top” approach in enterprise planning and implementation to achieve the Project’s objective of raising farmers' income and establishing an inclusive, more market-oriented, and climate-resilient agri-fishery sector in rural communities nationwide. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-PRDP RPCO V InfoACE Unit)