The Department of Agriculture is at the frontline of ensuring food availability, accessibility and affordability amidst the continuing threat of COVID 19 pandemic that has compelled the government to enforce Enhanced Community Quarantine and General Community Quarantine in most part of the country. It has aligned all its programs and instituted measures and strategies to immediately respond to the current crisis and its after effects via the “Ahon Lahat, Pagkain Sapat(ALPAS) Kontra Covid” also known as Plant, Plant, Plant Program.

To carry out its task and commitment the DA Bicol has set up 7 KADIWA ni Ani at Kita outlets and 9 KADIWA-on Wheels. Six of these KADIWA outlets are based at the DA outreach stations in the 4 provinces and the regional office and 1 at the LGU in San Fernando Masbate. The BFAR also participated. Out of the 9 KADIWA on Wheels, 3 are being operated by the DA regional office, 3 by farmer coops/groups and 3 by LGUS. To date, the sales generated from these KADIWA totals to about 57.2 million while the KADIWA on Wheels generated sales of over P50 million.

To ensure unhampered movement of all cargoes, agriculture and fishery inputs, food products and agriculture & fisheries personnel an aggregate total 2,599 food passes have already been issued to date by the DA regional office and the Research Outreach Stations in Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate, Sorsogon, Albay and the BFAR.

Meanwhile the Regulatory Division processed applications for 91 transport  carrier accreditation, 84 handler’s licenses, 1 veterinary drug and product outlet(distributor), 1 feed ingredient supplier license and 1 feed establishment license endorsed to BAI.

In compliance with Memorandum Circular No. 6 and No.9 which prescribed an unhampered operation of agricultural production and marketing activities the Administrative and Finance, Field Operations and Regulatory Divisions released 1, 862 IATF IDs to farmers tilling farms outside their municipalities, farm laborers, caretakers of livestock and poultry farms, feedmill workers, employees of agriculture supplies stores, animal clinics and DA and other attached agencies’ skeleton workforce.

Through the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division delivery of some agricultural products from the region to specific drop off points has been facilitated. These include pineapples from Camarines Norte – 797 MT to Balintawak Market, 15 MT to Pasig City; 23.25 MT assorted vegetables and fruits from Agri-preneur Farmers Producers Association from Libmanan, Camarines Sur and Sto. Domingo Albay to Cainta and Balinntawak market respectively; 169.5 MT watermelon from Camarines Norte and Libmanan  to Q-mart Q.C., Divisoria, Lipa City and Tanawan Batangas.

A total of 37,000 pcs. of coconut from Vinzons, Camarines Norte were also delivered to Nueva Ecija and another 7,000 pcs. Urdaneta Pangasinan.

Another 143 MT tons of pineapple from Camarines Norte were sold/delivered locally to Naga City, Legaspi, Camarines Sur and Albay towns.

Continuous price monitoring was also undertaken to  ensure implementation of price freeze and consumer protection.

Implementation of programs/projects and delivery of services by DA Bicol also proceeded unhampered even with the enforcement of the ECQ and GCQ.

To help farmers and tide them over and their families during this COVID crisis the DA, Bicol through the Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers the DA Bicol distributed the P5,000 cash assistance to 5,118 beneficiaries from Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon. These are the also the beneficiaries of the Survival and Recovery(SURE) Aid. Also 6,090 farmers from Camarines Sur were endorsed to be provided with cash assistance and 45,229 farmers from Albay, Masbate, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon were endorsed and submitted for over the counter payment by the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Under the Expanded SURE Aid Recovery Project for Agri-Fishery Based Micro and Small Enterprise, 6 cooperatives which applied for loan totaling to P43M were approved by ACPC and 5 more coops which also applied for loan amounting to P50.5M were endorsed to ACPC. Under the Expanded Sure Aid Recovery Project for Marginalized Small Farmers and Fisherfolk, a total of 2,338 applicants were endorsed to ACPC.

Aside from the cash assistance the Rice rogram distributed a total of 3,878 bags of hybrid seeds, 27 bags of certified, 3,035 bags of fertilizers, 24,830 kgs. of Zinc sulfate and 835 packs of Plant Growth Enhancer to the four provinces of the region (Albay, Camarines  Sur, Sorsogon and  Camarines Norte).

The corn program on the other hand distributed 1,458 bags corn seeds and 128 bags fertilizers in the corn producing provinces of Camarines  Sur, Masbate, Albay and Sorsogon.

The High Value Commercial Crops Program aggressively campaigned for community and household vegetable production as it distributed over 4, 327 kgs. of assorted vegetable seeds cascaded down to the municipal and provincial LGUS, farmers association, individual farmers or households. About 2,780 hectares is expected to be planted with these assorted seeds.

Under the Special Assistance for Agricultural Development (SAAD)  Program 748 kgs. of assorted vegetable seeds. 106 pcs. garden tools, 4,000 plastic seedling trays, 50 pcs. HDPE pipes and 134 knapsack sprayers were distributed to 48 farmers groups the low -income municipalities in Masbate, Sorsogon and Catanduanes.

The Organic Agriculture Program on the other hand distributed 95,000 kilograms of organic fertilizer to 12 farmer groups and 95 farmer individuals.

Meanwhile a total of 6,000 heads of free-range chicken were distributed  to the three outreach stations at 2,000 each for breeding and multiplication.

As promised the DA Bicol fast tracked the  payment of indemnification to hog raisers in areas infected with the African Swine Fever who surrendered their pigs for depopulation as a control measure to arrest the spread of the disease. Cash payment amounting to P26.07M was given to 1,079 backyard hog raisers for a total of 5,215 depopulated swine from the initial 6 municipalities affected by the ASF where depopulation has already been conducted. This will help affected backyard hog raisers recover their loss by engaging in alternative livelihood while their area is not yet declared ASF free.

Information and communication support  were sustained through issuance of and posting of 65 news releases and 42 photo releases gathered via   short messaging services, phone interviews, chat, fb interaction and other digital means, social media and face to face contact and actual coverage of activities strictly observing social distancing. Radio and local tv interviews via phone patch was intensively utilized undertaken resulting to 61 media interviews.

Despite the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine and  the General Community Quarantine, the DA Bicol has ensured the continuity and unimpeded service to its client and the general public pursuant to the Administrative Order No. 08 issued by Secretary Dar through alternative working arrangements such as work from home, compressed work week, staggered work hours and assignment of skeleton  workforces. DA Bicol is strongly committed to carry out its tasks in good and bad times. (Emily B. Bordado/ DA-RAFIS 5)