Pinol bares ‘roadmap’ for first 100 days as Agri chief

MANILA — Incoming Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol said on Monday that the greatest challenge that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte faces is the very high expectation of the Filipino people — a “real” change for the better.

As such, Pinol said he had laid down a “roadmap” which was crafted during his recent nationwide “biyaheng bukid” to improve the agriculture and fisheries sectors and ensure available and affordable food for the Filipinos.

In his visit to various agriculture provinces in the country, Pinol said “there are so much potentials in the agriculture and fisheries sectors.”

He cited the country could achieve rice sufficiency in two to three years, “but we have to implement massive interventions, i.e. repair and rehab of existing irrigation facilities; use of water pumps in areas with shallow water level; support of high-yielding seeds, fertilizers and farm inputs for the next two cropping seasons; and identification of key rice production areas where water is readily available.”

Pinol said there is also great potential for high value crops, especially in coconut production areas where these could be inter-cropped with coffee, cacao, abaca, among others.

“I talked to Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) officials and I was assured we could plant 600,000 hectares to coconut over the next six years based on their available seedlings,” he said.

“With support from government, the country’s high value crops sector could bring in much-needed foreign exchange and create jobs in the countryside,” he noted.

The country can also be self-sufficient with beef, pork, chicken if these will undergo massive development in the farming sector which produces feed materials like corn, soya and even malunggay.

As such, Pinol said, in his first 100 days as Agriculture chief, he will conduct a nationwide orientation and mind-setting for all officials and employees of the DA “to ensure that they are guided on the priorities of the Duterte presidency in agriculture and fisheries and the roadmap for the mission to provide available and affordable food for the Filipinos is clearly explained.”

He will also implement “cash for work program” for farmers and fishermen affected by the El Nino phenomenon, which includes manual repair and rehabilitation of irrigation facilities for farmers and cleaning of coastal waters of garbage and planting of mangrove trees for fisherfolk.

Pinol said he will start a national mapping in agriculture areas to determine which crop or agricultural activity would be best in a specific area based on geographic, climatic and soil type conditions.

“President Duterte calls this the color-coded Agriculture Guide Map,” he said.

He said a National Food Consumption Quantification Survey will also be implemented that would determine what kind of food and the volume of food commodities are consumed by the Filipinos.

This would also project the food consumption of the country in relation to population growth, he said.

There will also be a nationwide inspection of irrigation services, dredging of silted dams and provision of shallow tube wells to ensure sufficient supply of water for the next rice planting season; and will give assistance to farmers in the form of seeds, fertilizers, farm inputs, including calamity assistance.

For the fisherfolk, Pinol said, there will be distribution of fishing boats and nets, and a nationwide face-to-face interaction with stakeholders to address their concerns.

A project management team will also be organized in coordination with the local government units of the country’s 10 poorest provinces to ensure that the DA’s food production program would also result in poverty alleviation.

Meanwhile, a special project titled “Pagkain Para sa Masa” will be launched in Metro Manila, involving establishing “arroz caldo” (rice porridge) feeding stations to ensure that the street dwellers and the homeless will not go to sleep on an empty stomach.

This project will be implemented jointly with the Departments of Health (DOH), Social Welfare and Development (DILG), and the LGUs in Metro Manila.

“Pagkain Para sa Masa will serve as the first step towards ensuring that the street dwellers, urban poor and the homeless will be identified and later trained for vegetable growing using the Israel Green House technology,” said Pinol.

Another special project, the “Bantay Dagat,” will also be launched to engage the Badjaos in cleaning the waters of coastal communities to make them productive.

In cooperation and coordination with the DOH, DSWD and the Department of Education (DepEd), Pinol said, the DA will also spearhead the launching of a community-based milk feeding program in areas where farmers are involved in dairy production.

On the other hand, in preparation for the La Nina which is expected to hit the country by November or December 2016, the incoming DA Secretary said he will direct the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) to include in the crop insurance program farmers in the high risk areas.

The National Food Authority (NFA) will also be directed to preposition sufficient rice and food supplies in areas expected to be affected by La Nina, he said.

An inter-agency connectivity between the DA and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) will also be established to ensure that the smuggling of rice, meat products and other agricultural products like onion, garlic, ginger, among others, will be stopped. Lilybeth Ison/PNA/