To support Bicolano rice farmers and promote agricultural development and modernization in the region, the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol delivered agri interventions worth a total of P75.03 million to rice farmers, cooperatives and associations and local government units under its Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Program.

DA Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. led the awarding and distribution ceremonies during his first official visit in the region on April 12, 2024 at the Fuerte CamSur Sports Complex in Pili, Camarines Sur. About 2,128 rice farmers received P5,000 Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) each with an aggregate amount of P10.64 million. Meanwhile, the DA Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) turned over 28 units of four-wheel drive (4WD) tractors amounting to P64.39 million under the RCEF Mechanization component to 26 farmer cooperatives and associations and two LGUs from the five districts of Camarines Sur.

In his message, Secretary Tiu Laurel encouraged the Province of Camarines Sur to further boost its rice production. Currently, the province ranks 6th nationwide.

“Sa aking paningin ay kaya pang iangat ito para kayo ay maging number 5 or number 4 sa future. Tutulungan kayo ng Department of Agriculture para makamit ito,” he said.

Secretary Tiu Laurel also announced that he already laid out the DA’s four-year plan to attain its vision of “Masaganang Bagong Pilipinas.” This is to achieve the agency’s major goals of achieving food security, boost food production, and ensure accessibility to affordable and nutritious food. The DA Secretary also shared his plan to expand and improve available agri-fishery areas as well as promote mechanization and modernization to increase food production. He added that the DA will also improve postharvest system and infrastructure to raise farmers’ income. He also assured the farmers that DA will continue to provide agricultural inputs, hybrid seeds, fertilizer discount vouchers and technical assistance.

“Makakaasa po kayo na mas lalo naming pagbubutihin ang aming serbisyo sainyo sa ilalim ng aking pamumuno. Nais ko pong sabay-sabay tayong umasenso at magkamit ng masaganang ani at maayos na kita para sa masaganang Bagong Pilipinas,” he added.

Camarines Sur Governor Vincenzo Renato Luigi Villafuerte thanked Secretary Tiu Laurel for his support to the agriculture sector in the province. He recognized the Secretary’s efforts to know and resolve the issues and concerns of the top 10 rice-producing provinces in the country immediately after his appointment.

“Ang maganda po kay Secretary Kiko, bako lang po taram, bako lang po plano, may aksyon na ginigibo… It is a huge honor that you decided to visit Camarines Sur in your few months na pag-upo niyo po. It really shows your love for Camarines Sur,” he said.

Romualdo Jamer, one of the rice farmers who received the P5,000 financial aid under RCEF-RFFA expressed his gratitude to the DA and to DA Secretary Tiu Laurel saying, “Nagpapasalamat po ako ta pag pag nagpoon na po ang pag-oran ngonian na May, igwa na po akong nakatagama na pambakal ning krudo tapos abono galing sa DA. Nagpapasalamat po ako kay Secretary Laurel sa ibinigay pong ayuda ngayon.”

Jejomar Aguilar, Chairman of Monte Calvario Smart Farmers Association (MOCSFA) in Buhi, Camarines Sur, related that the 4WD tractor that MOCSFA received under RCEF Mechanization will greatly benefit its members.

“Nung una, mahirap talaga kasi ‘yung ginagamit namin mostly sa land prep ay ‘yung aming mga kalabaw at tao. Mahirap magbilad sa init. Sa ngayon, maganda na ito, malaking tulong na kasi ‘yung makinarya ay mas malaki ang puwedeng gawin sa field. ‘Yung maliliit naming mga palayan, puwedeng dahil dito ay mapalaki namin ng mas madali,” he said.

Undersecretary of the DA’s Masagana Rice Industry Development Program Christopher Morales, PhilMech Director Dionisio Alvindia, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairperson Senator Cynthia Villar, represented by Hilda Pasis, DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel Tornilla, OIC-Regional Technical Director for Operations Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez, DA Bicol Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division Chief Adelina Losa, Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte of the 2nd district of Camarines Sur, and other officials of the DA and its attached agencies and bureaus as well as the provincial and LGU of Camarines Sur attended the event.

Aside from gracing the DA RFO 5 Awarding and Distribution of Interventions, Secretary Tiu Laurel also served as one of the keynote speakers during the 2nd Metro Naga Young Leaders Forum in Naga City, Camarines Sur. He also visited the Sustainable Agriculture and Fishery Enterprises (SAFE) Innovation Hub for Coconut and Other By-Products in Brgy. San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur, a P230 million-worth processing and marketing facility funded by the DA in partnership with the Philippine Coconut Authority. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V)

Photo Credits: Paulo Quizana, DA SAAD V and Eduardo D. Collantes Jr., DA RAFIS V