Capitol Convention Center, Virac, Catanduanes—“I did not know that attending this kind of activity is enjoyable and educational, too, plus a lot of freebies and give-aways!”

This is how 57-year-old Emmanuel Sicio, a newly-retired Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) employee described the one-day culminating celebration of the Farmers’ and Fisherfolks Month.

He described himself to be a new farmer developing his 1,000 sq. m farm in Virac where he devotes his time after his retirement.

Sicio is one of the 350 farmers and fisherfolks who attended the Farmers and Fisherfolks Day on May 30, 2018 here to close the month-long celebration of May as the Farmers and Fisherfolks Month with the theme “Maunlad na pagsasaka at pangingisda, pagkain abot kaya at sapat para sa lahat.”

It also capped the celebration of the week-long Abaca Festival 2018 considering that Catanduanes is the abaca capital of the Philippines. Catanduanes supplies 45% of the abaca industry in the country and 30% in the world market.

According to Catanduanes Governor Joseph C. Cua, abaca generates 150M pesos per month for the province. By accelerating the development of the abaca industry, the economic growth of the province and our country be propelled. Thus the motto adopted by the province is “Sulong Catandungan, Sulong Pilipinas!”

Cua also commended the Abaca Farmers for making the province number one in terms of repayment for the Agrikultura: Kaagapay ng Bayang Pinoy (AKBay) program for Bicol Region.

AKBay is a poverty-reduction program funded by the Japanese Government, under the Japan Grant Assistance for the Food Security Project. The program is primarily intended for marginalized households that are engaged in farming, fishing and related livelihood based on the data provided by the provincial planning and development office.

He assured the farmers and fisherfolks that the government will continue to focus its programs in the strengthening of the agriculture and fishery sector.

On some occasion, 70 Akbay recipients from the different municipalities of Catanduanes received Php10,000.00 pesos as loan without interest and collateral and payable in two years. Salve Eleuterio from Baras said that the amount of loan will be used in procuring the necessary inputs in her vegetable and abaca farm.

Also, 13,529 abaca farmers also received their Abaca Rehabilitation Assistance from the Department of Agriculture-Bicol; and PhilFIDA. The assistance is part of the 50M pesos Abaca Rehabilitation Fund handed to the provincial government this year.

Farmer Elsie Burac from Gigmoto received Php4678.00 because her 585 abaca suckers were heavily damaged by Typhoon Nina.

According to Catanduanes OIC-Provincial Agriculturist Nelia B. Teves, the abaca farmers in the barangays of Bato, Baras, Gigmoto, Virac, San Andres and San Miguel will be receiving same amount as Burac. The farmers in Viga, Panganiban, Pandan, Caramoran will be receiving Php2,400.00 because their 300 abaca suckers were considered moderately damaged. The farmers from Bagamanoc with 250 abaca suckers will only receive Php2,000.00.

Aside from these financial assistance, the 11 LGUs received Php3,532,240.00-worth of certified palay seeds for seed exchange projects and hand tractor from DA-Bicol Rice Program.

Under the Organic Agriculture Program of DA-Bicol, farmers associations and individuals from Virac, San Andres, Panganiban, Caramoran, Baras, and Bato received 1,719,700-worth of multi-tilling machine, shallow tube well, solar pump, small scale composting facility, and African night crawlers.

The High Value Crops Development Program also awarded Php786,332.00-worth of Organic Fertilizers, Power Tiller, Rainshelter, Water Pump and Peanut planting materials to the the municipalities of Baras, San Andres, San Miguel, Virac and Pandan.

The Livestock Program also dispersed Php364,835.00-worth of goats, native pigs, cattle, carabaos, and mallard ducks to the LGUs of Virac, Bato, Pandan, Viga, Baras and Bagamanoc.

A total of Php 6,403,107.00-worth of farm inputs, livestock and machineries were distributed by the DA-Bicol during the culminating activity.

According to Engineer Ted Eleda of the Catanduanes Hilly-Upland Development Station (CHUDS) who represented the Regional Executive Director Dr. Elena B. De Los Santos, DA-Bicol implemented the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) to lower the poverty incidence in Catanduanes. SAAD allocated 9M pesos fund to establish food production and livelihood projects.

DA-Bicol will also be constructing farm-to-market roads (FMR) worth 37M pesos. The ongoing Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) is targeting the construction of FMRs worth 127M so that the residents in the province can establish enterprises on Abaca, Mangrove Crab, Commercial palay, and Broiler Production worth 17M pesos.

Because of the ongoing implementation of agricultural programs and projects in the province, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) noted the decrease in poverty incidence in Catanduanes. It is expected to further lower the poverty incidence because of the upcoming projects to be implemented by DA-Bicol.

As a special treat to farmers and to make the celebration more memorable, DA-Bicol allotted Php178,000.00-worth of raffle items like 15 bags hybrid rice palay seeds; 11 bags registered palay seeds; 50 laminated sacks; 10 wheelbarrows; 10 knapsack sprayers; and 10 sets of garden tools.

Fisherman Bernardo Santelices of Pandan also received 2000 fingerlings of Tilapia to be cultured in his 1.5-ha fish pond. As Vice-Chairman of the Municipal Fishery and Aquatic Resources Management Council, Santelices looked forward for this annual celebration because they get to meet their other counterparts.

Games were conducted simultaneously in the afternoon. For Palay Henyo, Catalino Guerrero of Baras emerged as champion with Php1,550.00 cash prize. For Edible Dish Garden, Rodolfo Torsolino of San Andres bested four other contestants with Php1,300.00 cash prize. For Sex Identification of Tilapia, Webster Bernas of San Andres won first place besting the other 10 representatives with Php1,300.00 cash prize. For the Di Pa Kami Laos Singing Contest, Myrna Bisar’s winning rendition of “Paano kung wala ka na” bested the other five contestants and received a cash prize of Php1,300.00.

Indeed, the Farmers’ and Fisherfolks’ Month celebration ended with a big bang! (jaysonmgonzales)