By Lovella P. Guarin
PASAY CITY --- Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol and Senator Cynthia Villar led the awarding ceremonies of the 2017 Rice Achievers Awards held on May 31, 2018 at the Philippine International Convention Center, this city.
Secretary Piñol in his message, acknowledged the important contributions of “the brown skinned heroes of our country,” whom he said were contributory to the 19.28 million metric tons national rice production in 2017 which brought 96% sufficiency in rice. He added that the average yield in the country is 4.01 metric tons per hectare. He also shared the new policy shift in the department from the subsidies to easy access credit. He recalled that upon his assumption to the post, he delved deeply into the top 10 poorest provinces and he found out that these provinces all rely to agriculture as main industry but there was no access to credit and there were no banks particularly in the rural areas.
“Easy access credit is sustainable and will instill in the beneficiaries a sense of ownership. It will avoid the culture of mendicancy and will restore the pride among poor farmers and fisherfolks,” added Secretary Pinol.
Senator Cynthia Villar, current chairperson of the Senate committee on Agriculture, in her speech, said that the Philippines will start imposing tariff on imported rice with the finalization of the amendments to the Agricultural Tariffication Act which will replace the quantitative import restrictions on rice. She added that the tariff income will proceed to the rice competitiveness enhancement fund.
To be competitive amidst the ASEAN free trade, the Filipino rice farmers should bring down the cost of their production, said Senator Villar. “The cheapest rice is produced in Vietnam at P6.00/kilo of palay while in the Philippines, the cost of production for a kilo of palay is P12.00. We have to step up on mechanization and reduce labor cost which is currently at P3.60 per kilo compared to P1.20 per kilo in Vietnam. Mahalin natin ang PhilRice at Philmech dahil sila ang makakatulong sa atin na mapataas ang 4.5 metric tons /hectare average production natin up to 6 metric tons/hectare,” Senator Villar emphasized.
Senator Villar also disclosed that only nine provinces (including the Bicol region) provide the 75% rice production of the country. If only these nine provinces will be able to compete with Vietnam, we can be more competitive. She also appealed to the rice producers and retailers to sell their rice at lower prices.
The Department of Agriculture gave a total of P 55.2 million to seven outstanding provinces; three Outstanding Small Water Irrigation System Associations; four Outstanding Irrigators’ Associations (IAs) under the National Irrigation System and four Outstanding IAs also under the Communal Irrigation System. Special citations were also awarded to top performing government units, IAs and SWISAs.
Meanwhile an outstanding municipality/city was selected from each of the 15 regions. For the Bicol Region, the Municipal Local Government Unit of San Jose, Camarines Sur bagged the award as Outstanding Municipality. San Jose Mayor Antonio B. Chavez received from Secretary Piñol the facsimile check amounting to P1 million in a form of project grant, and trophy. He was accompanied by Municipal Agriculturist Grace Santelices, and Agricultural Technicians Aira Rivero, Jonnie Parada and Kristine Morata.
Special Recognitions were also given to 10 Outstanding Small Water Irrigation System Association (SWISAs). Among them was the Veneracion Farmers and Urban Poor Association of Veneracion, Pamplona, Camarines Sur. Jess Avocado and Romeo Manago received the P100,000 project grant and trophy. Likewise, seven Irrigators’ Associations were given special citation. Among them was the San Agustin-San Ramon Farmers’ Cooperative, Inc. in Bula, Camarines Sur. Edgar B. Razado and Arthur Rabeje received the P100,000 project grant and trophy.
Special Citations were also given to 15 provinces that qualified for field validation and technical paper presentation. Among them were the PLGU of Camarines Norte and Sorsogon. Governor Jonah Pimentel and Provincial Agriculturist Almirante Abad received the P500,000 project grant and trophy for Camarines Norte, while Levi Barcelona, provincial Rice Program Coordinator received the P250,000 project grant for Sorsogon.
DA Assistant Secretary Ariel Cayanan; Asec Andrew Villacorta; program directorate; heads of DA services and divisions, bureaus and attached agencies, governors and mayors of outstanding provinces and municipalities/cities graced the event.
The Bicol awardees were accompanied on stage by DA Bicol OIC Regional Technical Director Rodel P. Tornilla; ATI Bicol Director Vivien Carable; DA Bicol OIC chief of Field Operations Division Mary Grace Rodriguez and Rice Program report officer Ara Nicole Nicolas.