by Sheila Mae H. Toreno
𝐈𝐋𝐎𝐈𝐋𝐎 𝐂𝐈𝐓𝐘 – – To enable rice resiliency and competitiveness in Western Visayas, the government has turned over on September 16 a total of ₱193.7-million worth of farm machinery and equipment to 38 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs). These interventions formed part of the ₱650-million 2019 budget for the Farm Mechanization Program of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) for the region.
“Ang mga makinarya pong ito ay nanggaling sa Rice Tariffication Law na minsan ay binatikos na walang maitutulong sa mga magsasaka at sinasabi pa nila na anti-farmer. Ito na po ang mga ayuda na nanggagaling sa RTL na may pondong nakalaan na sampung bilyong peso kada taon,” said Executive Director Baldwin G. Jallorina of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) during the mass distribution held at WESVIARC, Jaro, Iloilo City.
Thirty-five four-wheel tractors, 49 hand tractors, 80 floating tillers, 10 precision seeders, seven walk-behind type transplanters, four reapers, 37 rice combine harvesters, six mini threshers, and three rice mills were distributed to the different farmers’ groups of the five provinces of Region 6.
Iloilo province with 18 FCAs got the biggest chunk of about ₱89.12-million worth of farm machinery. Negros Occidental, on the other hand, obtained ₱41.76-million support on mechanization benefitting eight farmers’ associations.
DA-PhilMech aided five FCAs in Aklan with ₱26.26 million farm equipment. Meanwhile, four associations in Antique and three in Capiz got ₱20.91 million and ₱15.73 million interventions, respectively.
Under the 2020 budget from the RTL’s rice fund, Jallorina said that another ₱600 million farm machinery support will further the rice farming sector in Western Visayas.
“Nandito na tayo sa wakas na ating mapapamigay at mapapasa inyo ang ating inaasahang galing sa RCEF. Bagama’t naantala po ito dahil sa pandemya, hindi tayo dapat huminto dahil kung tayong magsasaka ang huminto sa ating gawain, marami pong magugutom,” he added.
Fifty percent of the annual ₱10-billion rice fund for the next six years is allocated for the farm mechanization program in order to help the farmers reduce their production cost and postharvest losses, thereby increasing their income and productivity.
“Gamitin natin nang wasto at e-operate nang tama ang matatanggap ninyong makinarya. Kung magkasakit, ipagamot natin. Sana ipagpatuloy ninyo ang magandang samahan sa inyong organisasyon at hindi itong makinaryang ibinigay sa inyo ang dahilan sa paghihiwalay sa inyong asosyason,” said Jallorina who pointed out that the strong cooperation among the association members is the key factor why this initial batch of FCAs was selected as pilot beneficiaries of the RCEF mechanization program.
Meanwhile, DA Western Visayas Regional Executive Director Remelyn Recoter shared that the region’s rice production in the first semester of 2020 is 81,000 metric tons higher compared to that of last year’s performance.
With the recent signing of the Bayanihan Act 2.0, she said that more rice farmers will be able to avail of the seeds and fertilizer subsidies from the DA through the expanded Rice Resiliency Project (RRP), an initiative under the DA’s Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra COVID-19 program which intends to boost the local rice production as a mitigating measure to fight hunger amid the global health emergency.
“Kung ginhatag sa inyo ang mga makinarya, tatapon guid sang maayo kay not all farmers cooperatives and associations are given the opportunity to receive the sets of machinery and other interventions,” Recoter said.
Asst. Secretary for Visayas Atty. Hansel O. Didulo said that there are already 230 FCAs or more than 40,000 farmer-members in the Philippines had so far received 1,421 farm machinery and equipment from DA-PhilMech.
“If we can lower our rice production cost by ₱2 to ₱3 per kilo, we could compete with our neighboring rice-producing countries like Vietnam and Thailand,” said Didulo who cited that the Philippines’ average production cost is still as high as ₱12 per kilo which is higher than the other nation’s P7 to P8 per kilo rice production expenses.
“Aton tipigan ang makinarya nga ginhatag sa aton, kag mangin transparent kita sa aton mga miyembro para mangin talunsay ang pagpadalagan naton sang aton asosasyon. Ireport naton ang expenses and income para ang mga miyempro magkooperar sa mga hilikuton sang aton asosasyon,” said Alcasaren who chairs 368 members of 15-year old Palacatian Irrigators’ Association from Sta. Barbara, Iloilo.
Helen Bolivar, president of Badiangan Farmers’ Association of Mina, Iloilo, expressed her gratefulness to the agency for the continuous support to their association which is also a beneficiary of DA’s Farm Service Provider (FSP) program.
“Nalipay guid ako kay nadugangan ang amon makinarya nga makabulig pa guid sa amon asosasyon kag sa madamo nga magagmay nga mangunguma sang amon banwa. Kay nagapatigayon kami sang ‘synchronous planting’ masako pirme ang amon mga traktora sa pagserbisyo sa masobra 548 ka ektarya nga talamanan,” Bolivar said after their association received ₱5.25 million farm machinery. Other components under RCEF include high-quality rice seed development and distribution, training and extension services, and credit programs with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) as the implementing agencies.