by Myleen Subang

Agriculture Secretary Dr. William “Manong Willie” Dar led the turn-over of farm machineries and DA interventions among Ilonggo farmers during the Farmer’s Forum held at Western Visayas Integrated Agricultural Research Center (WESVIARC), Jaro, Iloilo City on Sept. 24.

The DA-Western Visayas distributed a total of P159M of farm machineries such as hand tractors, rice thresher, corn sheller, transplanters, floating tillers, mini four-wheel drive tractors, combine harvesters, mobile dryers and pump and engines among the Rice, High Value Crops, Corn, Machinery for Agricultural Needs Incentive (MANI) and Special Areas for Agricultural Development (SAAD) program-beneficiaries in the different municipalities of Panay and Negros provinces.

During the forum, the Agri chief mentioned the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) for six years under the Rice Tariffication Law that will make the rice farmers productive, competitive and prosperous.

“Ito ang simula ng mas malaking tulong ng ating gobyerno para sa inyong mga magsasaka,” said Secretary Dar.

He underscored that the P10 billion budget under RCEF is allocated for the provision of modern facilities such as farm machineries,inbreed seeds, credit and training programs for the farmers to become more efficient in farming.

The inbreed seeds will be given for free through the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) will lead to a more profitable farmers, while the training programs will boast their capabilities in farming according to the Secretary.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has turned over the P2.5M worth of incentives to 1,354 farmers from the different municipalities in Iloilo province who planted a total of 143,572 coconut seedlings under the Participatory Coconut Planting Project (PCPP) of the agency.

The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) likewise distributed indemnity checks that totalled to P1.17M among 200 farmer-beneficiaries in the province of Iloilo during the ceremony.

On the other hand, the DA-Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) and Landbank of the Philippines (LBP) distributed the P15,000 Survival and Recovery Assistance among the 45 farmer-beneficiaries in Iloilo.

The SURE Aid Program aims to assist the rice farmers whose incomes were affected by the drop in the farm gate price of palay.

According to Secretary Dar, a P2.5B is appropriated under the DA-ACPC for the SURE Aid Loan Assistance. This program will provide a one-time loan assistance of P15,000 to rice farmers who are farming one hectare and below at zero percent interest rate, payable for eight years.

“We have to sustain your self esteem as hard working Filipino rice farmers,” the DA chief highlighted.

The Secretary also emphasized that farmers should organize themselves into associations or cooperatives so that they will have the capabilities to pursue in terms of the assistance they need from the government.