DA chief lauds KOICA project for Panay upland farmers

AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol thanked the South Korean government for the Panay Island Upland Sustainable Rural Development Project (PIU-SRDP) which helped improved the lives of the marginalized farmers.

“The two critical components of productivity and poverty alleviation in this country are access to credit and direct market. This KOICA project in Panay actually serves as a model of that concept. We are eagerly waiting for the validation of that idea that if the farmers are given support in credit and in the marketing of their products, they will be more productive and will earn more,” he said.

KOICA President Lee Mi-Kyung has turned over the P65.5 million-worth marketing structures and facilities to DA through Sec. Piñol in a program held in San Miguel, Iloilo.

The PIU-SRDP final phase focused on the promotion of local food marketing and building an integrated mechanism between marketing and finance as a local food system in Panay Island.

One regional local food terminal in San Miguel, and 10 Bayanihan Tipon Centers (BTCs) in Libacao and Madalag in Aklan; Patnongon, Sebaste, and Tobias Fornier in Antique; Jamindan and Tapaz in Capiz; Alimodian, Lambunao, and Tubungan in Iloilo were constructed in 2018.

Lee said, “the purpose of the project is to establish a sustainable development system run by farmers in the rural area, especially, upland, which remains outskirts of the benefit of development.”

She also pointed out they encouraged the participation of the community villagers in this project following the SoKor’ SaemaulUndong spirit of cooperation, self-help and diligence, and Filipino’s Bayanihan System.

Agreeing to that notion, Piñol said “involving the farmers in the process is a safe way of ensuring the sustainability of the project. We have been actually doing the same concept in the national scale, the TienDA, wherein we gather the farmers, organize them, bring them in an area where they can have direct interaction with the consumers.”

The DA chief also seeks to implement the Republic of Korea’s Nongyup concept where farmers’ cooperatives are federated and empowered so that farmers will have bargaining power.

“It is only in our country that our farmers are the one asking how much the traders would buy their products. It is an exemplification of the powerlessness of the farmers in the marketing system. There is so much poverty in the countryside and that is the main reason why our farmers have always been at the mercy of the traders,” he stressed.

Piñol seeks to replicate the best practices and concept used in this KOICA project in Panay with the Philippine government to spearhead this time.

“Our farmers in this country have been relegated to a status of just being raw material producers. The government has failed to assist them in becoming processors and marketers of their products, or even agri-entrepreneurs. Today, our Panay farmers will be marking a shift from that status,” he underscored.

On the other hand, DA-6 Regional Executive Director Remelyn Recoter mentioned that at least 550 farmer-members of different associations will be able to benefit from this marketing project.

“We hope that our Panay upland farmers will continue and sustain this 6.5-million USD project from KOICA as our region’s economy is expected to boom with 10 million tourist arrivals by 2022. We need to supply the food requirement of the populace and tourists coming to Western Visayas,” she urged.

Lee, Piñol, and Hangkyong National University President Yim Tae Hee also spearheaded the opening of the Panay Local Food Festival and Trade Show at the Robinsons Place Iloilo which will run until tomorrow. (Story by Sheila Mae H. Toreno/Photo by Denmark Prayco/DA-RAFIS 6)