Agriculture secretary William D. Dar led the initial roll-out of the P5,000 Cash assistance to Bicol rice farmers who qualified to the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance Program (RFFA) under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program.

The first 100 farmers from the 3 districts of Albay province received the cash assistance of P5,000 after they were issued their respective Interventions Monitoring Card (IMC). The Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines are the conduit banks for this project. The IMC card will also serve as identification card and cash card.

For Albay province alone a total of 28, 296 farmers who are tilling a rice area of 2 hectares and below and are enrolled in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture are eligible to avail of the cash assistance amounting to P141, 480 million. For the entire Bicol a total of 111,880 farmers are eligible with a total amount of over P559 million.Sec. Dar said that although the Rice Tarrification Law was met with a lot of resistance it is actually a game changer and rice farmers are now benefitting from it. He explained that the funds for the RFFA were taken from the excess amount from the yearly P10 billion RCEF fund allocated to help rice farmers through provision of seeds, fertilizers, capability enhancement or extension services and credit.

Secretary Dar also announced that the requested funds for the rehabilitation of the abaca industry in Bicol which was severely affected by the series of typhoons last year has already been released by the DBM. Of the P110 million released for the rehab, P70 million is allocated for Catanduanes and P40 million is for Albay.

Secretary Dar likewise led the distribution to individual beneficiaries and associations /cooperatives of production inputs, machines and other interventions worth P45.79 million provided by various attached agencies of the DA. These include abaca planting materials and vermicasts from PhilFIDA worth over P508 thousand; check incentives for the Participatory Coconut Planting Projects from PCA worth over P444 thousand; 4 units motorized bancas complete with accessories ; 72 sets bottom set sets gill nets ; 16,200 pcs seaweed seedlings and processing area for sea urchin, abalone, sea cucumber and other fishery commodities with equipment and accessories from BFAR al-in-all amounting to over P2.5 million ; 13 units threshers from PHilMech amounting to over P2million; and 52,940 bags of inbred palay seeds worth over P40 million from PhilRice.

He thanked and commended the farmers for being the heroes of our times as they continue producing food for the Filipinos even amid the pandemic and urge them not to lose hope as he avers “ Ang ating bansa ay babangon. Ang ating agrikultura ay babangon.”

During his interaction with the local media he explained that the DA is now taking measures to address or cushion the effects of the increasing cost of fertilizers and fuels which have big impact on agriculture. He said that DA is promoting balanced fertilization strategy which recommend the combination of organic, inorganic and bio-fertilizers. Also he bared that the DA management team has written President Duterte requesting additional budget from unutilized funds of the national government to be used by the DA for fertilizer subsidy.

Sec. Dar added that DA management is also considering the granting of fuel subsidy for farmers and fishers and he has written the senate to formally request for additional budget. The secretary was accompanied by Assistant Secretary for Operations Arnel V. de Mesa and Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications Noel O. Reyes. Also present during the event were Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara; vice-governor Edcel Greco Alexandre Lagman, Fernando T, Cabredo, representative, 3rd district; Alfredo A. Garbin, Jr. representative AKO Bicol Party List; Jose J. TEVES Jr., representative, Talino at Galing ng Pinoy (TGP) partylist ; Jun Bandal,-senior vice-president, DBP; Mayor Andy Mariscotes of Polangui, Albay. Provincial Agriculturist Cheryl Rebeta and all the regional heads of the DA attached agencies . (EMILY B. BORDADO/DA-RAFIS5/Photos by RAFIS staff)