PGMA wants emergency employment for farmers

March 2, 2010 10:57 pm 

DELFIN ALBANO, Isabela, March 2 — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today ordered government officials to provide emergency employment program for farmers who lost their harvest income due to the long dry spell brought by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

At the Tap J Hotel here this afternoon, the President presided over a roundtable discussion with local officials, various stakeholders and the El Nino Task Force, which she reactivated last month to address the effects of the dry spell predicted for the first half of 2010.

Among those present were farmers and town mayors led by First District Rep. Rodito Albano and his father former Rep. Rodolfo Albano, and Delfin Albano Mayor Thomas Pua, Jr. Also present were outgoing Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Celia Capadocia Yangco, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, Public Works and Highways Secretary Victor Domingo, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Horacio Ramos, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr., and Presidential Assistant on Climate Change Secretary Heherson Alvarez.

The President told local officials and farmer representatives that the employment of affected farmers will be the main tool to address the drought problem in the countryside, this province included.

Affected farmers, according to her, will be employed in the desilting of rivers and other water tributaries, and in repairing and rehabilitating water irrigation systems.

As long as the El Nino problem exists, the President said, affected farmers will also be given a moratorium on the payment of the 150 kilos of palay per hectare irrigation fee of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA).

The President said another relief for affected farmers is the restructuring of loans and interest payments in government banks such as the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Even with El Nino, the President assured a stable supply and price of rice with the timely importation of the staple by the National Food Authority (NFA).

She added that the farmers will continue to be updated on the use of science and technology to support agribusiness and mitigate the impact of harsh weather conditions such a El Nino.

In preparation for El Nino, the President said more than 700,000 hectares were provided with irrigation in the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ).

The President said an additional 150,000 hectares were also irrigated by small water impounding projects (SWIP).

During the discussion, Agriculture officials reported to the President that as of March 1, some P5.3 billion worth of crops in agriculture and fishery were totally lost or damaged in Region 2 as a result of the long dry spell, affecting some 191,613 farmers and fishermen.

Affected in Region 2 were an estimated 54 percent of the total 487,389 hectares devoted to rice, corn, tobacco, fisheries and other high-value commercial crops.

Most affected was Isabela with some P3.3 billion worth of damage to agriculture and fishery affecting some 100,215 farmers and fisherfolk. This prompted provincial officials to place the province under a state of calamity last January.

In Cagayan, the drought affected 62,748 farmers and fishermen with total damage pegged at P1.42 billion.

After the roundtable discussion , the President led the ceremonial switch on of the newly established P40-million Communal Pump Irrigation Project Phase I in Barangay San Antonio that would benefit some 1,200 farmers by irrigating 200 hectares, including seven other barangays here.

Aside from Barangay San Antonio, the project will irrigate farmlands in Barangays San Juan, Ragar Sur, San Jose, San Patricio, Rizal, and Villaluz.

The President said the P60 million that would be spent for the next phase of the project will be used instead for the repair and rehabilitation of irrigation systems to irrigate more farmlands at the soonest time.

The President also turned over eight irrigation pumps equipped with 240-horsepower engines to Mayor Cua and the other mayors of the municipalities of San Pablo, Cabagan, Tumauini, Ilagan, Sto. Tomas, and Sta. Maria.

The President also inaugurated the P500-million Delfin Albano Bridge along the Delfin Albano-Tumauini Road as part of her program to fully harness the potentials and competitiveness of the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ) as the food basket of Luzon.

The Delfin Albano bridge spans the Cagayan River, connecting the Pan-Philippine Highway (Cagayan Valley Road) and the Santiago-Tuguegarao Road. The bridge now links the municipalities of Delfin Albano, Tumauini, Santo Tomas, and Mallig in Isabela, and other areas in the provinces of Kalinga and Apayao with the various commercial centers in the NLAQ.

Completed last December six months ahead schedule, the bridge now facilitates the efficient transport of goods and services, particularly rice, corn and other high-value agricultural products, between the eastern and western municipalities of Isabela and the various commercial centers in the Northern Luzon Quadrangle.

In 2006, the President introduced the super regions concept, dividing the country into five areas of development themes – the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ), Urban Luzon Beltway, Central Philippines for Tourism, Agribusiness Mindanao and the Cyber Corridor which is concentrated on information and communications technology (ICT) and the knowledge economies.

To fully develop the super regions, the President tasked government agencies to invest heavily in human and physical infrastructure in these areas, promote investments, motivate entrepreneurs and local government units, and help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to spur its growth. (PNA)

DCT/OPS/ssc

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