Agri extensionists urged to help solve sectoral issues

Department of Agriculture (DA) Western Visayas Regional Executive Director Remelyn Recoter called for the continued support of the agricultural extension workers (AEWs) in carrying out various interventions of the government to the grassroots level.

“Since the start of the second semester, we are confronted with several key issues on agriculture,” said Recoter during the 4th AEW Congress being held in Iloilo City, October 28-30.

With the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law early this year, farmers are experiencing the plunging farmgate price of palay.

“The national government through the Department of Agriculture has responded to and provided support to the rice farmers with one hectare and below [land holdings]. Almost 5,000 farmers in Region 6 will be allocated with P15,000 each as Survival and Recovery (SURE Aid) financial assistance to ease the initial effect of the Rice Tariffication Act,” she added.

On Oct. 25, DA Western Visayas and Land Bank of the Philippines had simultaneously distributed cash cards Miagao, Iloilo and WESVIARC, Iloilo City, and Guimaras to more than 800 farmers in the region. This zero-interest loaning program is payable for eight years.

Rice farmers with more than one-hectare farm can avail of several RCEF components –from seeds to farm machinery and equipment, credit support and technical enhancement trainings.

“These different components are to be implemented in order to give back to the farmers what we have collected from the importation of rice,” Recoter said.

DA is also currently updating the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) and accreditation of farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) in adherence to the provisions set under RA 11203.

“Farmers and associations have to be listed and accredited prior to the availment of the different components of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP),” said Recoter who went on emphasizing the important roles of AEWs in materializing the target of updated RSBSA within two months and FCAs accreditation in two weeks’ time.

Within the next six years of implementing the Rice Law, the accredited FCAs will be DA’s partners in securing interventions for the farmers.

On the other hand, the agri official urged AEWs and municipal agriculturists to remain vigilant and responsive in the monitoring, reporting and validating possible incidents of African Swine Fever (ASF) and Fall Armyworm (FAW) in Western Visayas.

She likewise thanked the provincial chief executives for issuing executive orders for the banning of the entry of pork and pork products from Luzon and ASF-affected countries.

“We are a high-risk region because of the potential threat from international sources and Luzon areas due to our 24/7 operations of Roll-On, Roll-Off (RoRo) vessels,” she said.

Region 6 is home to a P6-billion swine industry excluding the forward and backward linkages.

“Eighty percent of our hog industry is in backyard scale, therefore, we have to protect our small farmers from the threats of ASF,” she underscored.

Recoter also mentioned that FAW, a new form of pest which had already entered the country specifically in Regions 1 and 2, had also confirmed incidents in Negros Occidental and in Pototan, Iloilo.

“Please help us in campaigning to our farmers to intensify their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices. Let us work together with the BantayPeste Brigade in preventing and curbing FAW incidents in the region,” Recoter told more than 500 AEWs present in the Congress.

The three-day congress themed “Agricultural Development Workers: Rising Above Amidst Agricultural Challenges” seeks to establish cooperation among AEWs who are front line service providers in order to attain continued development in the industry, according to Rene Famoso, DA Regional Technical Director for Operations and Extension.

Dr. Rosana P. Mula, ATI Deputy Director, commended the efforts and contributions of AEWs in uplifting the lives and productivity of the farmers in rural areas despite the diverse challenges they are experiencing.

Chaired by Engr. Edmundo Mendoza Jr., the Western Visayas Association of Agri-Development Workers, Inc. has pledged support to DA in addressing various concerns besetting the sector.

Representatives from DA, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, Agricultural Training Institute, and Technical Skills Development Authority explained the components of RCEP.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation and National Food Authority gave updates on their programs in support to the local rice farmers. The Civil Service Commission on the other hand detailed the hiring and promotion procedures and provisions for agricultural development workers. (Text and photos by Sheila Mae Toreno/DA-RAFIS 6)