THE government sees Nueva Ecija as the chief supplier of rice in case of calamites and nationwide production shortfalls, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Friday.
During an agricultural summit held at the Nueva Ecija Convention Center, Pinol suggested to rice farming cooperatives in Nueva Ecija to supply the rice allowance of government offices and private corporations during natural disasters and poor harvests.
The summit was part of the Novo Ecijanos’ celebration of the 120th year of uprisings of local revolutionaries against Spain.
Governor Czarina Umali said it is fitting to observe the 1896 Nueva Ecija revolt anniversary by honoring the province’s “modern-day heroes”– the farmers.
She noted that the farmers heeded the lesson of heroism instilled by local Katipuneros led by Gen. Mariano Llanera and Gen. Pantaleon Valmonte when they attacked the Spanish headquarters in San Isidro town and freed rebel prisoners.
Piñol said what the Nueva Ecija farmers have been doing in “feeding the nation and being the reliable source of food in times of disasters” is akin to heroism.
“But the government has to boost the farmers’ rice production capability. This needs the full support of the LGUs [local government units],” he added.
The Agriculture secretary encouraged the LGUs to become virtual corporations that are knowledgeable about rice marketing strategies to insure food self-sufficiency.
He outlined the assistance that other government agencies could offer to help increase rice farming viability like the Land Bank of the Philippines’ loan facilities.
On making Nueva Ecija farmers the main supplier of the staple during calamities and shortfalls, Piñol said the Department of Agriculture (DA) will work for a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Previously, the DA coordinated with the National Food Authority for calamity rice rations but the NFA was said to have issued inferior quality grains.
During an open forum at the summit, Piñol instructed Region 3 Director Andrew Villacorta to immediately release various farm equipment to rice farmer groups and cooperatives in Nueva Ecija.
Half of Nueva Ecija’s agricultural area, or around 200,000 hectares of the total 550,000 hectares, is devoted to rice farming.