VIRAC, CATANDUANES – The first leg of the series of provincial orientation for the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) in Bicol region started here on December 4, 2017. The island province of Catanduanes is one of the most typhoon stricken provinces in the country due to its geographical location in the eastern part of Luzon facing the Pacific Ocean where the typhoons are brewed. Thus Catanduanes is called the “Land of the Howling Winds.”

Catanduanes is one of the three Bicol provinces included in the 10 SAAD priority provinces for 2018. The other two provinces are Masbate and Sorsogon.

Speaking before the Municipal Agriculturists and Local Chief Executives of SAAD sites in Catanduanes, Program Director Bernadette F. San Juan said that SAAD is one of the strategies Secretary Manny F. Piñol introduced upon his assumption of DA’s top post to alleviate poverty and achieve food security. It started in 2016 in the 10 poorest provinces of the country, looking into the weaknesses of these areas, and their potentials in food production and livelihood programs. Each year from 2017 to 2022, SAAD will focus on 10 marginal provinces. The SAAD program anchors on Social Preparation and Food Production and Livelihood as tools to reduce poverty. To achieve greatest impact, Director San Juan explained that this program will reach the poorest of the poor in far flung areas who have not received any interventions from the regular programs of the Department of Agriculture.

 

Engr. Teodoro Eleda, Superintendent of Catanduanes Hilly Upland Development Station who presented the profile of of Catanduanes said that the program will be piloted in six municipalities namely: Gigmoto, Baras, Bato, San Miguel, Bagamanoc, and Panganiban. Mary Grace Rodriguez, ACC II presented DA's interventions under SAAD.

The SAAD program based its selection from 2015 Philippine Statistics Authority data which reported the 43.4% poverty incidence in Catanduanes in that year. While poverty incidence of the country is 25.2 and 27.5 in the entire Bicol in the same year. Reports also confirmed that approximately 130,000 people in Catanduanes are living below the poverty threshold. These families do not meet the minimum P9,140 monthly income to meet the basic food and non-food needs such as clothing, housing, transportation, health and education expenses.

To alleviate them from poverty the identified beneficiaries will first undergo training on crops and livestock production, value adding activities and enterprise development before they will receive the program interventions which will be in the form of upland rice seeds, fertilizers, garden tools and equipment, and goat, native pig, native chicken and ducks. The Department of Agriculture is optimistic that these interventions will boost the agricultural landscape in Catanduanes which is presently dominated by abaca, coconut, rice, root crops and banana aside from aquaculture.

Provincial Administrator Lemuel Sortida represented Governor Joseph Cua who is in Naga City to receive the Salud Bicolnon award from the Department of Health. He extended his appreciation to the national SAAD directorate and DA Bicol regional executive director Elena B. delos Santos for the numerous projects poured in Catanduanes. He rallied the municipal agriculturists present to actively take part in the SAAD program.

OIC Provincial Agriculturist Nelia Teves said the provincial LGU commits to help achieve the thrusts of the national government on food security and poverty alleviation. “The presence of the Municipal Agriculturists of the six municipalities is a great expression of their strong conviction to really develop the local agriculture and fishery sectors being the most vulnerable sectors,” she added.

Also present during the orientation were Mayor Leo Rodriguez of Bato; Agricultural Program Coordinating Officer (APCO) Edgar Ollet and the hired area coordinators who will officially start on their jobs in January 2018. The SAAD team of Catanduanes will hold office at the Catanduanes Hilly Upland Development Station (CHUDS) in Casoocan, Virac, Catanduanes (Lovella P. Guarin/ RAFIS DA 5)