Villar urges new DA acting chief to return P4 billion for rice fund

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2019   •   1406

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Cynthia Villar has urged new acting Agriculture Secretary William Dar to prioritize the return of the funds intended for the programs that will help increase farmers’ production under the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tarrification Law.

Villar said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P5 billion last year for the enactment of the law creating the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Of the amount, only P1 billion went to RCEF’s program providing farmers access to cheap credit through Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, the senator said.

“Kahit sabihin pa nila na kaya ginastos iyon dahil hindi pa napapasa ang RCEF, dapat naghintay sila at hindi ginastos sa ibang bagay,” Villar said.

“I want DA to account for the remaining P4 billion and also to make sure that P4 billion will be immediately returned to RCEF,” she added.

Villar said the amount is needed to jumpstart the programs enumerated in the law, which was already delayed by the late approval of the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

RA 11203, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 14, 2019, replaced the quantitative restriction on rice imports with tariffs. The collected amount will be given to farmers to improve their competitiveness through RCEF.

Under RCEF, P5 billion will be allocated to the Philippine Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) for the procurement of farm equipment to be distributed to 947 rice-producing towns in the Philippines.

P3 billion will be allotted to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to teach farmers how to produce inbred seeds, which will increase their yield by up to 50 percent from 4 metric tons per hectare (MTN/ha) to 6 MTN/ha.

RCEF will also provide P1 billion for the creation of a credit facility with minimal interest rates and collateral requirements.

The remaining P1 billion is allocated to PhilMech, PhilRice, the Agriculture Training Institute and the Technical Skills Development Authority for farmers’ skills training.

With the appointment of William Dar as acting Agriculture chief, Villar expressed hope that the department will now be more supportive of the full implementation of the law and the return of P4 billion for rice fund will be prioritized.

New ASF outbreaks reported in 6 Luzon provinces, DA says

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – New outbreaks of the African Swine Fever (ASF) have been monitored in six provinces in Luzon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said Thursday.

During a Laging Handa briefing, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the incidents of ASF outbreaks were reported in the provinces of Albay, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon and Quirino.

The new outbreaks bring the total number of affected regions to nine, he added.

Dar assured that the culling operations for ASF-affected hogs have been implemented to ensure that no contaminated pork products will be sold in local markets.

“Mayroon po tayong ugnayan sa mga LGU sila na yung nakabantay doo sa mga areas na may declared ASF cases,may quarantine na yan hindi na makakalabas at kung ano yung kinakailangan na idepopulate,” he said.

“Lahat ng pupunta sa merkado, dapat dadaan sa slaughter houses at doon sa slaughter houses ay naka-bantay ang ating kawani ng National Meat Inspection Service at sila ang magbibigay ng certification na ito ay walang sakit at safe kainin ang karne,” he added.

The Agriculture chief also said that the government is providing hog raisers P5,000 indemnification per pig surrendered for culling.

Experts have said that the ASF virus is not harmful to humans. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

DA, NIA to conduct cloudseeding ops in Central Luzon to stem dipping Pantabangan Dam water

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) are planning to conduct cloudseeding operations in Central Luzon to address the declining water level in Pantabangan Dam.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he has given a go-signal for the department’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) to commence the operation to induce rains over parts of Central Luzon where the bulk of the rice areas are in critical reproductive stage.

“With this initiative, we can ensure a respectable rice harvest in Central Luzon, particularly in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Tarlac,” Dar said.

Sonia Salguero, DA-BSWM director said a total of P6 million has been allocated for the operations and that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has given clearance to make use of Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija as its base.

Dar said the project is in cooperation with NIA and the irrigators’ associations, which is aimed to ensuring adequate water for rice farms in Central Luzon and to bring up Pantabangan dam’s “very low reservoir water level.”

Central Luzon is the country’s rice granary and main source of the staple for Metro Manila and other rice-deficit areas in Luzon.

“Central Luzon is a critical component in our objective to achieve food security, especially for residents in the National Capital Region,” the DA chief said.

Pantabangan Dam is one of the largest dams in Asia and supplies the irrigation requirements for agricultural lands in Central Luzon. Its power station generates 112 megawatts of hydroelectric power.

As of September 5, 2020, Pantabangan Dam’s RWL is at 182.17 meters or 30.97 meters below its normal high water level of 216 meters.

“This means the stored water at Pantabangan Dam is not enough to supply the irrigation requirements of the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System (UPRIIS) operated by NIA,” said Salguero.

More than 141,430 hectares are programmed to be served by UPRIIS this rainy season.

NIA expects that the possible arrival of La Niña in the coming months may help increase the water level of Pantabangan Dam.

Davao City named Philippines’ cacao capital

Robie de Guzman   •   September 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has officially recognized Davao City as the cacao capital of the Philippines.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar led the ceremony for the declaration in an event virtually held on Monday.

Dar said the declaration was made following the city’s consistent efforts to be the top producer of cacao beans for the entire Davao region.

From the year 2015 to 2019, Davao City has produced 2,289 metric tons of cacao, making it the biggest cacao producing area in the entire country. 

Together with five other provinces in the region namely Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Davao Occidental, and Davao Oriental, the region’s total contribution to national production for 2019 reached 5,960.23 MT or 70.21 percent of the total national output.

In her acceptance speech, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte thanked the cacao industry players for their efforts to produce quality beans.

“For the past few years now, Davao cacao has been recognized as among the world’s best, with our local brands making waves in international chocolate competitions, and a growing number of Filipino and foreign chocolate makers sourcing their beans here,” Duterte said.

“While it is one thing for our cacao and chocolates to be renowned internationally, to be recognized by the national government is just as important for us, for this is an affirmation and a celebration of the efforts of our cacao farmers and processors, and everyone in the cacao industry,” she added.

Mayor Sara also highlighted the contribution of the city’s cacao industry players and organic agriculture partners for Davao City to get the latest recognition. 

“I thank all of our cacao industry players and organic agriculture partners because all of your efforts have brought Davao City these accolades.”

The mayor said that the goal of local agriculture is not just to provide food on the table for each Dabawenyo, but to make it a viable and sustainable industry for our farmers and all stakeholders. 

Aside from being recognized as the country’s cacao capital, Davao City was also hailed as the regional winner for Organic Program under the local government unit category.

Duterte said these awards serve as inspiration for the city to continue to work harder for a more flourishing agricultural industry.

Dar, meanwhile, urged the stakeholders to continue its partnership with the government as he committed support to sustain Davao as the “exporting capital” of the Philippines.

He also called on the private sector to continue to partner with the government to provide farmers a sustainable livelihood and income source.

“Aside from cacao, Davao has much local agricultural produce that are brought to the global market,” he said.

“Let us work together towards a food-secure and resilient Philippines,” he added.

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