LIGAO CITY, Albay: Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has urged Filipinos living in key cities to go back to the countryside to till the land and go into fisheries as these are the ways development can be hastened and food for a continuously growing population can be provided.
“Agriculture and fisheries are the hope of our country. Go back to the countryside because the villages with water sources or even without a water source can be farmed to feed our country. So forget your dreams of going to and staying in the concrete jungle that is Manila because you will end up under the river if [you are]unlucky,” Piñol told farmers here during the recent Farmers’ Day celebration that is part of the 16th anniversary of Ligao cityhood.
The Farmers’ Day is an annual event in this city spearheaded by Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of Albay’s Third District for more than two decades now in partnership with Mayor Patty Gonzalez-Alsua.
To make agriculture profitable, Piñol told the farmers to embrace new technology with the aid of the newly-produced color-coded guide map of the government.
“Two things are needed in our country to beef up agriculture. First, farmers have to embrace technology, then the government must establish a financing and marketing scheme for farmers,” he pointed out.
For the farmers to embrace technology, Piñol said the government will be establishing solar power irrigation facilities throughout the country.
In Bicol, at least 10 solar power irrigations panels will be put up, including one on Cagraray Island in Bacacay town to help the farmers till their land even with the El Niño phenomenon around.
“We don’t need to build a dam to irrigate our farmlands, instead we will put up a solar power irrigation system. Through these facilities, even a waterless farmland could be irrigated as this technology can locate water and siphon it off for six hours, enough to irrigate the land and even provide drinking water to the community,” the Agriculture chief said.
To identify what crops are suitable for planting in any locality in the country, Piñol pointed to the website farmersguidemap.gov.ph that the farmers can use so that they need not do trial and error or resort to guessing when it is time to decide what to plant in their fields.
The color-coded map will not only assist the farmers to identify the suitable crops to plant but also water table, climatic conditions and soil adaptability.
Pinol encouraged the farmers to go into hybrid palay (unhusked rice) to double or triple their output to be able to compete with other rice-producing countries in Southeast Asia.
“Go into hybrid palay because this has been proven in Iloilo. For one hectare alone, rice production is thrice or even more. We need to double our rice production so we will not be left behind by Vietnam. If you go into hybrid rice, your production is three to four times the average yield,” he said.
According to him, development of agriculture in the country is slow because majority of Filipino farmers especially the elderly are hard-headed.
“I would say to our farmers, don’t be stubborn. Trust and believe our young crop technicians for us to produce more crops to feed our increasing population,” he said.
But the problem is not only with the farmers, Piñol added, citing as “[a]nother factor affecting the country’s agricultural and fisheries development [the]policy planners [who]do not trust Filipino farmers enough.”
As a solution to this, the Agriculture secretary submitted a proposal to the House of Representatives to craft a law that would modify the loan assistance for farmers and allow them a maximum loan of P50,000, free from unnecessary bureaucratic requirements, carrying only six percent interest and made available in only three days through money transfer.
“Our problem in this country is that many of our planners in government are very shortsighted. They are building more bridges even without rivers specifically in Manila. They do not give priority to our farmers,” he said.
“When I joined the Duterte government, there was P3 billion available for financing farmers but this was not downloaded due to bureaucractic reasons, numerous paper requirements.That’s why I submitted that proposal to the House,” Pinol added.
He proposed to market farmers’ crops through organized farmers’ cooperatives.
“If our farmers are organized, they can market their own products and sell their rice for as much as P35 per kilo so the P50 to P60 million income of traders will be theirs,” the Agriculture chief said.
After the dialogue with the farmers and fishermen, Pinol handed over P20 million worth of agricultural inputs and equipment to farmer beneficiaries, rural women’s organizations and local government units.
He also gave out over 100 bags of hybrid Palau seeds, 200 bags urea fertilizers and 300 bags of open pollinated white corn seeds worth P420,000 to local officials led by Gov. Al Francis Bichara and Gonzalez.
RHAYDZ B. BARCIA