Agri research center in Cotabato getting an upgrade

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23 January)—Facilities of an agricultural research center are getting an upgrade to further boost the farmers’ productivity in North Cotabato, officials said over the weekend.

Amalia Datukan, Department of Agriculture Region 12 director, said the provincial government of North Cotabato has extended financial assistance to help upgrade the Central Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CEMIARC).

The research center operates a soil and a tissue culture laboratory in barangays Amas and Balindog, respectively, both in Kidapawan City, the capital of North Cotabato.

Datukan said that North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza extended P4.4 million for the agricultural research center’s improvement.

Of the amount, P3.4 million is allotted for needed facilities of the soils laboratory and P1 million for the tissue culture laboratory.

“The DA [regional office] will provide free laboratory services [to  farmers] within three years,” Datukan said, citing a memorandum of agreement forged with the North Cotabato provincial government.

As this developed, Datukan said the Agriculture department is trying to rebuild the image of the agency, particlarly the trust of the farmers.

She admitted the DA’s image has been tarnished with the many anomalies that rocked the agency during the past administration, citing among them the fertilizer fund scam.

The P728 million fertilizer anomaly was exposed by erstwhile DA regional worker turned journalist Marlene Garcia Esperat.

Esperat, a resident of Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat, was killed inside their house in 2005 in front of her children.

Datukan said that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala wanted reforms in the agency in line with President Benigno C. Aquino III’s election campaign promise of “Daang Matuwid” (straight path).

To initiate reforms in the regional DA office, Datukan noted she has recomposed the bids and awards committee.

Also, a monitoring team was constituted “to ensure that no ghost projects would happen and only quality agricultural materials are extended to farmers” across the region, she said.

“Farmers will never be successful if people in the DA, including those other key players in the agriculture sector, are not sincere in the implementation of projects,” Datukan said.

According to her, Region 12 was instrumental in helping reduce the country’s rice importation last year from two million metric tons to 860,000 MT, pegging the area’s contribution at 7.44%.

Region 12 is one of the top rice producing areas in the country, contributing almost 7% to the national rice production and about 31% to the total rice production in Mindanao.

Earlier, the Agriculture department targets the country to attain self-sufficiency in rice production by 2013. (Bong