DA starts giving aid to farmers, fisherfolk
The newly minted agriculture chief kicked off last week his regional visits to distribute aid to farmers and fisherfolk amid the tragedy besetting the rice industry as palay prices continue to drop.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s first stop was his hometown in Ilocos region, where he awarded P1.2 billion worth of agri-fishery projects following a three-day sortie.
In a statement, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it had given out P287 million to Ilocos Norte and P173 million to Ilocos Sur, while La Union received P121 million and Pangasinan, P628 million.
The assistance included farm machinery, irrigation facilities, seeds and extension and training services for rice, corn, high-value crops, livestock, organic agriculture and fisheries.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, main proponent of the rice tariffication law, said the agency must use its funds to provide rice farmers with assistance that would not be provided by the rice competitiveness enhancement fund (RCEF) like fertilizers, insurance and hybrid seeds.
Under the law, the P10-billion RCEF must be used to provide machinery, inbred seeds, affordable credit and training.
“Agricultural services and assistance from DA must be set in place to help farming and fishing communities be globally competitive and resilient amid the challenges and emerging issues of the industry,” Dar said.
Just days after Dar assumed the top position in the department, he was greeted by problems in the sector. These included the flawed implementation of the rice tariffication law, the delayed disbursement of the RCEF, reports of an unidentified hog disease that could possibly be the African swine fever epidemic, and the continuous fall in palay prices.
Dar earlier said he would hold off travels during his first month in the agency to familiarize himself anew with administration work and meet with various stakeholders in the sector. Today marks his first month.
DA spokesperson Noel Reyes said the Ilocos region trip was the beginning of the agriculture chief’s series of visits to provinces all over the country.
Dar is scheduled to visit the region of Soccsksargen this week where a smaller funding would be allocated since several projects had already been initiated in the region by his predecessor, Emmanuel Piñol, who hails from North Cotabato.
These included the development of rice farms in the province, provision of fiberglass fishing boats, opening of new markets for commodities such as coconuts, and the establishment of community stores for certain agricultural and household products.
Piñol is now the chair of the Mindanao Development Authority. During his brief stint in the agency, he was known to prioritize the provinces in Mindanao.