LIBON, ALBAY – With the Bicol region having the highest death toll and damage on agriculture, Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol of the Department of Agriculture rushed to the region on the first working day of the year to personally inspect the areas heavily affected by Typhoon Usman and confer with local officials and farmers. He was accompanied by Ret, Commodore Eduardo B. Gongona, Undersecretary for Fisheries and Jocelyn Alma Badiola, Executive Director of the Agriculture Credit Policy Council (ACPC).
He first went to Masbate City where he interacted with some 500 farmers and local officials as part of his “Byaheng Bukid” or provincial sorties where he intends to bring the government closer to the people. He then turned over agri -assistance consisting of production inputs & farm equipment amounting to over P16 million. He was met there by DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Elena B. de los Santos and the two Regional Technical Directors- Edgar Madrid and Rodel Tornila, Masbate City Mayor Rowena B. Tuason and provincial Executive Assistant Florentino S. Atazar who represented governor Antonio T. Kho who is out of the country.
From there the team flew to Libon, Albay and conferred with mayor Wilfredo Maronilla and interacted with about a thousand farmers leaders, local officials heads of DA attached agencies, and municipal agriculturists and extension workers who gathered at the municipal gymnasium here.
For the Albay province Piñol committed an additional P50M to be accessed by small farmers/fisherman as loan under the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) Programs which is being implemented by the ACPC. Under the Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE) Loan Program, an emergency loan assistance of P5,000 will be immediately provided to farmers affected by a calamity to buy their basic needs. An additional P20,000 recovery loan assistance will likewise be provided to be used by farmers to purchase the needed inputs so they can immediately start again their farming/fishing operations and recoup their losses. He urged the farmers to avail of these loan assistance which he said he conceptualized and promised to be back after one year to one and a half year to see the impact of this program on those farmers who availed of this special window.
Sec. Piñol also presented his pet project – the Solar Powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS) which are now operational in some parts of the country including the four units in Camarines Sur. He underscored the benefits of this irrigation system which is the best option for areas where big irrigation systems cannot be feasible. It is worth only about P6.5 million and can irrigate 10 to 20 hectares of rice field. He added that it is also not expensive to maintain because it is not dependent on gasoline or diesel or electric power. He further explained that the technology is also very practical as this system uses pipes set up above the ground thus it is appropriate for any types of land terrain. This caught the interest of many of the farmers present who expressed their intent to avail of this project.
In response to the complaints of farmers that they get low price for their palay, he immediately ordered the NFA provincial manager Alexander C. Parerra to start going around the province through mobile buying facilities to buy palay from farmers instead of just waiting for them to bring palay to their buying stations.
On same occasion the DA turned over interventions and assistance to 15 municipalities and 3 cities agricultural interventions and assistance totaling to over P3.5 million. These include certified palay seeds, open pollinated variety white corn seeds, assorted vegetable seeds; ducks, cattle, turkey, and native pigs.
As of this writing the partial damage report wrought by Typhoon Usman in the agriculture sector for the six provinces of Bicol is valued at almost P600 million with 29,114 farmers affected covering an area of 30,240 hectares of these 23,953 hectares are rice areas; 5, 686 are corn areas and 550 hectares are vegetables and high value crops.
On his second day in Bicol he had also a meeting with Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, who is also the Regional Development Council (RDC) chair. He also met with the regional executive directors from the four affected regions that is: CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, Bicol and Eastern Visayas together with Christopher Morales, DA chief, Field Programs Operations and Planning Division to firm up the rehabilitation plan for the affected farmers and fisherfolk. He later joined President Rodrigo Duterte who came over to Camarines Sur to also visit the affected areas and meet with the local officials. (Emily B. Bordado- DA-RAFIS -5)