Agriculture eyed as logging-infested Agusan's growth driverCatherine J. Teves

April 4, 2013 1:15 am 

MANILA, April 2 — Agusan del Sur governor and 2013 National Unity Party re-election aspirant Adolph Edward Plaza aims to better improve socio-economic conditions and the environment in his area of jurisdiction by promoting agriculture as an income-generatingalternative to logging in the province.

"Shifting to agriculture is the sustainable way for us to go," he said during State-run PTV 4's 'Hatol ng Bayan' program for the 2013 mid-term polls, citing his thrust if elected this year to another three-year term.

He raised urgency for such shift, noting decades of logging in the province resulted in deforestation which must be curbed as the environment there "is already exhausted."

"Shifting to agriculture will definitely help the environment recover," he said.

He noted that legally logged timber in the province is used to make plywood.

Agusan del Sur is part of Caraga Region which the environment department earlier identified as among the country's remaining illegal logging hotspots.

Plaza is particularly keen on further promoting agro-forestry as he pointed out Agusan del Sur mostly lies on mountainous terrain.

The province has nearly 160 upland villages where poverty is rife, he also noted earlier.

He believes growing upland rice as well as rubber, cacao, coffee and other agro-forestry crops will help alleviate poverty among the province's uplanders.

"Producing such crops opens up big income opportunities for them," he said.

Plaza is eyeing Metro Manila as one market for Agusan del Sur's upland rice.

He noted Metro Manila prices for such produce can range from P85 to P120 per kilo, giving farmers in the province a chance to earn more.

The governor isn't letting such chance slip as latest available official statistics show poverty incidence among Agusan del Sur's population rose to 58.1 percent in 2009 from 53.9 percent in 2006.

2009 Community-Based Monitoring System data also show the province reeled from a six percent unemployment rate then.

To help boost agriculture, Plaza is pushing for further improvement of the road network in Agusan del Sur.

The province covers a land area of almost 9,000 square kilometers and is one of the country's biggest, occupying nearly 45 percent of Caraga.

Plaza also said Agusan del Sur's irrigation must improve and expand.

Such area emerged as one of the top Philippine producers of rice,turning out in 2011 alone some 333,160 metric tons of the staple grain, but Plaza is bullish about even higher production if irrigation there is adequate.

The provincial government earlier reported that as of Dec. 2011, Agusan del Sur's total potential area for irrigation development reached nearly 95,000 hectares.

Over 40,000 farmers will benefit if such land is irrigated, provincial authorities noted.

Data show irrigation projects across the province cover almost 24 percent only, however, leaving a gap that derails agricultural growth there.

"If all riceland in the province can be irrigated, we'll produce more and government need not import as much rice as it does," Plaza said.

Earlier, government banned logging in natural forests nationwide.

The ban aims to help Philippine forest cover expand again from only about 24 percent in the early 2000s.

Plaza urged his constituents and other sectors to heed the order.

"I hope people can understand why logging in those forests was stopped," he said. (PNA)

CTB/CJT

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