SAN AGUSTIN, PILI, CAMARINES SUR – Bernadette “Bidi Bidi” de los Santos, farmer, entrepreneur, artist and owner of La Huerta De Rosario farm in Baao Camarines Sur assumed as the new Chairperson of the Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council (RAFC) in Bicol on March 16, 2022.

She was appointed by Agriculture Secretary William Dar together with the new RAFC Chairpersons of other regions of the country pursuant to the approved Omnibus Guidelines of Agricultural and Fishery Councils.

De los Santos expressed her gratitude for the trust and confidence bestowed on her by her RAFC peers and by Secretary Dar, saying that being the first and only woman to hold the highest post in RAFC Bicol makes her more determined to exemplify what an empowered woman is.

“I follow in a line of remarkable leaders. When I joined RAFC in 2007, it was under Sir Dave Canet. I remember being in the ceremony just like this when Mr. Alfredo Rillo and more recently with Mr. Jimmy Cordero, who was still incumbent when he passed on just last week. Just like today, they must have pondered what the year ahead would hold at the helm of this busy and dynamic council. Each made important and lasting contributions to our common enterprise in upholding the deepest values and highest aspirations of the farmers and fisherfolks of our region, Bicol, and of our country,” she said.

De los Santos received DA’s National Most Outstanding Rural Woman Award in 2008. Her farm, which she turned as an Agritourism destination and a learning site for Agri students was the first GAP certified farm in the region. “My farm, and myself adapted new practices and engaged in other entrepreneurial activities but I never veered away from my first love, that of being a farmer. And it is my being that, that will steer the course of my leadership of this council, it is that, that will enable me to have the heart to listen and resolve issues that affect the plight of our farmers and fisherfolks,” she added.

“I have deep respect and admiration for the able, dedicated and courageous men and women who serve this agency, the Department of Agriculture. Day in and day out, often in the face of self-sacrifice, I have seen and been with you through the years. As the new Chair, I will embrace your dedication and hear the appeals of our farmers and fisherfolks,” she added.

De los Santos officially assumed office on March 16, 2022, and she was welcomed by DA RFO 5 officials, RTD Luz R. Marcelino; Aloha G. Bañaria, RAFC Executive Officer and Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Chief and other division chiefs; RAFC officials and sectoral committee chairs through a simple luncheon program at PMED office. She was also welcomed virtually by PCAF Manila officials and staff as well as provincial and municipal AFC chairpersons and coordinators.She will serve the council within 1 year and for a maximum of 3 consecutive years.

The RAFC Bicol has endorsed two other nominees to the RAFC Chair post, namely; the multi-awarded Agta Tabangnon Chieftain Rebecca Purisima and Engr. Raul Careras, a national Gawad Saka outstanding sugarcane farmer in 2003 and PENSUMIL Development Council President. He served as acting RAFC Chair following former Jose “Jimmy” Cordero’s passing.

The RAFC is composed of volunteer representatives from various sectors serving as frontline mechanisms for private sector participation in the development processes in agriculture and fisheries. The RAFC officials and members also act as consultative, integrative, and monitoring bodies for regional and local agri-fishery initiatives. (Lovella P. Guarin DA –RAFIS 5)