FARMERS and fisherfolk in Negros Occidental received about P14 million worth of projects from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
This is on top of at least P123 million worth of credit assistance and technical support pledged by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol during his “Biyaheng Bukid” in the province Thursday, September 28.
All in all, the total amount of distributed and pledged projects for the province is about P137 million.
Piñol led the turnover of about P8 million worth of fishing machineries and P6 million farm implements for 3,997 beneficiaries in separate activities in Ilog town and Bago City.
The DA chief also pledged to provide P30 million worth of credit assistance to farmers in Sixth District, including the towns of Cauayan, Hinoba-an, and Ilog, and cities of Kabankalan and Sipalay.
It will be implemented through the Production Loan Easy Access (Plea) program, which provides each farming and fishing household P5,000 to P50,000 worth of loan with six percent interest, without collateral and payable in one to two years.
Piñol cited that in Ilog, for instance, he was told that for every P1,000 loan, the farmer pays back the same amount plus three sacks of rice.
“The interest is about 300 percent, this is very tragic," the DA chief said, stressing that “farming is simple business, you cannot just go into this without any form of capitalization mainly for inputs like seeds and fertilizers.”
Through the Fishing Boat sa Pagbabago program, Piñol also pledged to provide each of the 25 coastal cities and municipalities in Negros Occidental 50 units of fiber glass fishing boat with an indicative cost of about P87 million.
These are on top of one patrol boat for each coastal local government unit (LGU) committed by Senator Loren Legarda, Piñol said.
Also, P6 million worth of solar-powered irrigation facility, the first in the province, will be built in Hinigaran town.
The model facility to be funded under the 2018 budget will address problems on lack of water sources of many farmers in the locality, he added.
Through the dialogue dubbed "Tapatan" with thousands of local farmers and fisherfolk, also held in Ilog and Bago City, Piñol said lack of postharvest facilities and farm-to-market roads are among the major problems in Negros Occidental.
Piñol said the country is losing 40 percent of its fish catch due to absence of cold storage facilities while 16 percent is lost in rice harvest caused by farm mechanization woes.
In terms of farm-to-market roads, DA chief said he is pushing for the full utilization of the Sugar Industry Development Act (Sida) Fund for the development of sugar roads.
“We need to address these challenges for us to move forward," Piñol said, adding that technology, financing, and marketing are the three things that are needed most in agriculture.
Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., who was present during the activity held at Manuel Y. Torres Memorial Coliseum and Cultural Center in Bago City, thanked Piñol for coming to the province and personally listening to the plight of the farmers.
“We are happy that we have this occasion. The President, through the working Agriculture Secretary, really believes that there is a need to help the farmers because they are the real modern heroes," Marañon said.
Also present at the activity in Bago City were Interior Undersecretary Jesus Hinlo Jr., heads of various units under the DA, and local government officials.
In Ilog, Piñol was also joined by some mayors in Sixth District and heads of different Provincial Government departments.