The government expects to double the level of farm mechanization in the Philippines from the present 1.23 horsepower per hectare to 3hp/ha before 2016, as it prepares the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Agriculture and Fisheries Mechanization Act (AFMech).
Rex Bingabing, director of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), said that AFMech, also known as Republic Act10601, will make farming profitable and create more jobs in the countryside.
“The subcommittee hopes to come up with the final draft of the IRR as early as December, which will be submitted to the Department of Agriculture for approval,” Bingabing said in a press conference.
Under AFMech, PhilMech is tasked to take the lead in the overall research, development and extension (RDE) in farm and fisheries mechanization in the country.
He said that the primary objective of the law is to also put into place a five-year National Agri-fishery Mechanization Program that shall be coordinated by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
He added that the program would also encourage the local manufacturing of farm machineries, which in turn will create jobs and help create industries also in the rural areas.
“Through that, we will be creating another industry, and there will be a need to address the training needs of the human resources of that industry which will be needing machinists, among others,” he added.
Bingabing noted that members of the Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers and Distributors Association Foundation Inc. have expressed interest in putting up or expanding their facilities to cater the increasing demand for farm machineries.
“Slowly, we want to put up the local manufacturing industry by producing what we have initially,” he said.
Section 15 Article IV of the law states that “production of locally made engines and other machinery for agricultural and fisheries purposes shall be promoted and encouraged by the DA in partnership with the private sector, and through joint venture agreements.”
That provision of the law also states “the Department of Science and Technology shall undertake the feasibility study and R&D for the local assembly and manufacture of agricultural engines/prime mover, and other agricultural machinery and equipment.”
Bingabing said that the local farm machine industry must also aspire to manufacture small engines, or those that have an output of 10 horsepower and below. While there are farm machineries that are assembled in the Philippines, pieces like engines and transmissions are usually imported.
“We can first assemble small engines and eventually aspire to fabricate the pieces that make up a small engine. Then we can also manufacture spare parts of farm machineries that are used locally,” he added.
Meanwhile, Section 7 under Article 3 of the law states that the agriculture department, through PhilMech as focal agency, shall integrate and unify all agricultural and fisheries mechanization RDE programs and projects of all concerned national government agencies, local government units (LGUs), state universities and colleges, which shall be geared toward development of machineries and equipment, job generation, address market and industry demands and help accelerate agricultural and fisheries modernization in the countryside.
PhilMech as lead agency
“This means that all RDE activities related to farm mechanization will have to be unified or have one direction,” Bingabing said.
“At present, research activities on farm mechanization is not coordinated and many institutions including state colleges and universities have their own research on agriculture mechanization,” Bingabing said.
Section 8 Article III also stipulates the organization of an Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization RDE Network to be composed of research and educational institutions, LGUs, nongovernment organizations and the recognized and well-established associations of agricultural and fisheries machinery assemblers, manufacturers and distributors, agricultural engineers, farmers and fisherfolk.
“PhilMech will organize and chair the network,” he said, adding that the Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization RDE Network shall be responsible for the formulation and implementation of the National Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization RDE Agenda.
Also, Section 23 of Article 6 of the law organizes the Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization Committee, which will be under the National Agricultural and Fishery Council, that “shall act as an advisory body to ensure the success of the programs and activities of the DA concerning agricultural and fisheries mechanization.”
Based on the latest survey conducted by the PhilMech, the level of mechanization in farms across the country has now reached 1.23 horsepower per hectare—with rice and corn areas recording the highest level of available farm power at 2.31 hp/ha.
In the last two to three years, Bingabing said that the developments have been significant in farm mechanization, mainly because one of the reasons is the rice mechanization program, which has accelerated the adoption of farm machinery.
Based on the survey of PhilMech field personnel, 70 percent of the total farm power is available for use in production operations while the remaining 30 percent is for postharvest operations.
Bingabing expressed confidence that PhilMech will reach its farm mechanization target of at least 2 hp/ha by 2016, adding that the 3 hp/ha is “doable.”
The PhilMech chief said that while the latest figure of 1.23 hp/ha shows that farm mechanization is gradually taking root in the Philippines, he admitted that the country is still behind some of its Asian neighbors.
“We are still a little behind, because Thailand is still ahead of us. And developed countries like Japan and Korea are way, way ahead,” he said.