GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/03 March) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) released on Tuesday nearly P1 billion worth of agriculture-based projects and equipment to various farmers’ organizations and local government units in Region 12.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Senator Cynthia Villar led the “mass distribution” of the farm machineries, postharvest facilities and project funds in a grand ceremony held at the Tupi Seed Farm, Barangay Bololmala in Tupi, South Cotabato.
“This is our way of thanking you for your contributions in making sure that there will be food on the table of every household in our communities on a daily basis,” Alcala said during the program.
The activity was joined by leaders and members of farmers’ associations and cooperatives, municipal mayors, governors and congressional representatives from various parts of Region 12.
The agency released around P636 million in grants for the implementation of farm-to-market road projects that will be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways and issued certificates of the availability of funds for around P151.4 million worth of road projects under the World Bank-supported Philippine Rural Development Program.
It also turned over newly-completed projects as well as funding for projects under the DA’s Agri-Pinoy program, Bottom-up Budgeting or BUB scheme, Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA program and the Soccsksargen Area Development Project Office.
These include “state-of-the-art” postharvest facilities such as a Level 1 Rice Processing Center worth P6 million, Level 2 Rice Processing Center worth P16 million and a village-type corn-on-cobs dryer worth P7.5 million.
The municipalities of Palimbang and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat received P7.5 million and P6.05 million, respectively, under the BUB scheme while Columbio and Maasim town in Sarangani got P5.5 million and P12.3 million, respectively, under the PAMANA program.
The released farm machineries comprised 28 floating tillers worth P2.5 million; 25 rice combine harvesters worth P38.7 million; five four-wheel drive tractors with backhoe worth P7.8 million; a four-wheel drive tractor with complete accessories worth P868,000; seven corn shellers worth P1.2 million; 13 corn mills worth P2.4 million; 15 cassava granulators worth P2.2 million; 13 coffee dehullers worth P1.6 million and six multi-cultivators worth P1.5 million.
Around P221.3 million worth of projects, mostly infrastructure, were turned over virtually though the geo-tagging technology, which was earlier adopted by the agency as a monitoring tool in the implementation of their projects.
Alcala said the released grants, which cover the second batch of the DA’s allocation for the region under its 2014 budget, were so far the biggest in the entire country this year.
“But this is just a foretaste of even bigger things that we have lined up for Region 12 this 2015,” he said.
Villar lauded the release of the farm machineries and project grants saying it will mainly help local farmers become more competitive.
“We need to move further into farm mechanization so we can cope with our neighboring countries in terms of productivity,” she said.
She said it is important for farmers to become more productive and competitive in the wake of the integration starting this year of the economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN member-states.
Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, said she is currently working with the Land Bank of the Philippines for the opening of more credit windows for small farmers and fisherfolk.
“We need to complement our farm mechanization efforts with the infusion of more capital and by giving our farmers access to micro-financing,” she added. (MindaNews)