THE Department of Agriculture (DA) in Western Visayas has stressed the need to sustain rice sufficiency in the country amid the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

DA-Western Visayas Director Remelyn Recoter, who spoke at the 2019 Rice Achievers Awards in Iloilo City on Monday, December 14, emphasized the huge role of rice farmers and agriculture extension workers (AEWs) in this bid.

Recoter reiterated the statement of Agriculture Secretary Dar that "the threat of Covid-19 is real, but the threat of hunger is also real."

"If we would halt the implementation of the DA programs and projects like the assistance given by the agricultural extension workers to the farmers, or if the farmers will stop working, there will be no food for consumption for the whole country," the official said.

The regional line agency, she said, has been recognizing outstanding achievers, particularly provinces, cities, municipalities, agricultural extension workers, local farmer technicians and farmers associations in the region.

"They are making all of us inspired, in the DA, to continuously work despite the Covid-19 threat," Recoter added.

For this year's Rice Achievers Awards, DA-Western Visayas recognized the Outstanding AEWs, Outstanding Local Farmer Technicians (LFTs), Outstanding Small Water Irrigation System Association (Swisa), Outstanding Irrigators Associations (IAs), and Outstanding Local Government Unit (LGU).

The City Government of Bago was awarded as the top rice producing city in the region. It was previously awarded with a cash incentive of P1 million during the visit of Dar in the province last December 8.

Two AEW awardees from the province, Mirasol Coste and Carlito Indencia and LFT awardee, Lalaine Ganate, were also recognized.

In Iloilo, other awardees for outstanding AEWs category are Sanly Galvez from Banate; April Joy Depamaylo and Marlon Narida from Miag-ao; Ma. Razel Serilla from San Joaquin, and Ramon Tejero Jr. from Tigbauan.

Fe Pollentes from San Lorenzo, Guimaras also received the same award.

For Outstanding LFTs, the agency recognized Jienie Balboa, Beverly Causing and Lailyn Arangga from Banate, Iloilo along with Jesus Nualda Jr. and Agapito G. Niño, both from Miag-ao, Iloilo.

Included as well in the roll of awardees for the said category were Leonardo De Juan and Richard Nadua of Madalag, Aklan.

The winners received a certificate, plaque, and cash amounting to P25,000.

Meanwhile, the Durog Irrigators Association of Miag-ao, Iloilo led by Fe Rem Niñofranco was granted with P1 million in cash incentive and certificate of recognition and plaque as the Outstanding Swisa.

The same award was given to the Palacatian Irrigators' Association Inc. of Pavia, Iloilo headed by Eduardo M. Alcasaren as the Outstanding IA for National Irrigation System category, while the Ugasan-Juanico Irrigators Association Inc. led by Edilberto Malupa as president garnered the Outstanding IA Award for the Communal Irrigation System category.

A special citation was also presented to Ramon Uy Sr., owner of the RU Foundry and Machine Corporation from Bacolod City, for his contribution in honing the potential of the youth and in the realization of local innovation on farm mechanization towards rural industrialization.

"We commend everyone especially our rice achievers in increasing the productivity and hopefully, profitability of our rice farmers," Recoter said, adding that "we appreciate the efforts, time, and industry of everyone who has made a contribution in the growth of the rice industry in the country."

The activity, meanwhile, was framed in line with the Philippine Rice Industry Roadmap for Development bound to run from 2019 to 2040 and was implemented under the DA's National Rice Program. (With reports from DA-Western Visayas)