Barangay Balatas used to be known as the “smokey mountain” of Naga City because once was located here the open dumpsite of the city where a number of families made a living from the heap of garbage piled up everyday. But today, this Barangay assumes a new face – the unsightly view and the foul odor is gone and two new buildings, a multipurpose building and a training hall and a green house have recently been constructed just a few meters from the dumpsite. The barangay is now being developed as the hub for modernized urban agriculture.

It is here where the Department of Agriculture – Bicol in partnership with the LGU of Naga City and the barangay officials will establish a showcase for a modernized urban agriculture and community gardens. Thus, it was here that the DA recently turned over to the City of Naga three projects worth over Php 3.6 million under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Program. The projects include 5 packages of supplies, tools including a multi cultivator and assorted vegetable seeds for community garden projects worth PhP 2,305,390; a package of supplies, assorted vegetables, tools and green house worth PhP 911,570 to showcase modernized urban agriculture and another 2 packages of supplies, tools, equipment (humidifier) and mushroom house with a total worth of P432,765 for urban mushroom production.

Mayor Nelson Legacion together with Vice Mayor Cecilia “Nene”, de Asis, the City councilors and the barangay officials of Balatas (where most of the projects will be implemented) and the officers/officials of the farmers association and barangays identified as beneficiaries received the package of assistance during the turn-over ceremonies held at the interior part of the barangay. The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the DA and the recipients formalized the turn-over Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez, Chief of the Field Operations Division and regional coordinator of the High Value Commercial Development Program represented DA Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla.

The occasion also marked the blessing and inauguration of the two completed infrastructure projects for the said barangay namely: the Multipurpose Building and the Urban Gardening Training Hall. Said infrastructures were funded by the Office of 3rd district Representative Gabriel H. Bordado Jr. through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Congressman Bordado was represented by his son George. Engineer Romeo Doloiras, DPWH 3RD District Engineer graced the occasion and delivered a message. He was accompanied by Assistant DE Ric Ragrario.

Brangay Kagawad Ferdinand de Hitta who represented Bgy. captain Pedro San Juan, Jr. thanked the DA, the city Government, Rep. Bordado and the DPWH for the realization of the projects they once dreamed of but now a reality in their barangay. “Pangangatamanan mi ining marhay (We’ll take good care of these),” he promised.

The seven (7) recipients of the DA projects were also present. For the urban community garden projects they were: the Panicuason Highland Vegetable Growers represented by Adelbert Enriquez; Pacol Cut Flowers Association represented by Diosdado Ador; Pacol Magsasaka Prime Cooperative represented by Anghel Dolor; and Naga City Urban Poor represented by Danilo Ludivice and the Naga City Organic Farmers Association represented by Oscar Orozco.

The two recipient organizations for the Urban Mushroom Production Projects were: the Bicol Entrepreneurs Association for Bicol (BEAM) represented by Basil Caning and the Concepcion Pequeña Farmers Association represented by Marilyn Ponce.

Marilyn Ponce was delighted and very thankful: “Salamat na marhay sa DA sa tabang na ini. Makaka recover na kami sa mga losses mi dahil sa bagyo saka pandemya.”

Basil Caning seconded, saying: “Nagpi-pick up na kuta negosyo mi (mushroom chips, and chicharon) pero puon maglockdown dai ko na nailuwas su mga mushroom products mi. Kadakul kuta orders. Tapos nagbagyo pa lalung na distruso negosyo mi. Pero ngonian pwede na naman magpadagos. Salamat sa DA”.

After the turn-over ceremonies a lecture and techno demo was conducted for the projects beneficiaries by a resource person from the DA.

Aside from these recently turned over projects in Naga City sixteen more associations/barangays from 5 more cities will be receiving the same package of assistance for Urban Community Gardens allocated as follows: 3 in Iriga; 2 in Ligao; 3 in Tabaco; 3 in Legazpi; and 5 in Sorsogon.

Likewise, three more farmers associations from Iriga, Ligao and Legazpi will also be provided a mushroom house by the DA. (EMILY B. BORDADO/DA-RAFIS 5 photo credits: Jhun Collantes & Emil Pasumbal)