Sugarcane farmers including those from Negros Occidental received P300 million worth of farm equipment from Japan.
The turnover was held on Saturday, November 18, at the compound of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) in Bacolod City.
Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa turned over the grant to Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, SRA Administrator Pablo Luis Azcona, and representatives of the beneficiaries from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
“I’m especially pleased to be here today to welcome our good friends from the Government of Japan and thank them for the 80 units of tractors, 48 units of sugarcane planters, 48 units of flail mowers, and five units of power harrow—all extended under the Japan Non-Project Aid Program,” Laurel said during the turnover ceremony.
The Department has played a significant role in the evaluation, approval, and monitoring of the progress of the project entitled Farm Mechanization Program for Small Sugarcane Landholders, he said.
“Mechanization reduces hard labor, relieves labor shortages, and improves the productivity and timeliness of agricultural operations,” the agriculture chief said.
Laurel also commended the SRA for steering the sugarcane industry toward increasing its production through small sugarcane farmers.
In his public pronouncements, the new agriculture chief said he would consult with stakeholders, including the huge DA bureaucracy, in order to accomplish President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s marching orders to bring down the prices of food items like rice, sugar, meat, chicken, fish, and vegetables by increasing food production.
Laurel noted that his experience moving up the corporate ladder allowed him to witness for himself the problems of the agriculture sector and the need for national and local authorities to work together to address the problems of Filipino farmers.
“I have been on a journey of administrative responsibility. I went to see first-hand conditions throughout the agriculture sector, to see how effectively national and local authorities are taking care of the Filipino farmers’ pressing problems and how they work together to support national food security,” he said.
Laurel thanked the Japanese embassy official involved in actualizing the grant.
“I'd like to express my gratitude to Mr. Jumpei Tachikawa, the first secretary and agriculture attaché at the Japanese Embassy, who has been instrumental in the success of this program,” he said.
Laurel said modernizing Philippine agriculture is key to meeting the President's and the public’s expectations of more affordable and accessible food items.
“Our partnership with the Japanese government helps us address this concern through modernization and mechanization. Our two nations are bound by common interests. Our trading partnership, which brings greater prosperity and opportunity to citizens of both our countries, has grown dramatically in recent years,” he said.
Present at the turnover rites were Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, and Bacolod Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez, who all thanked the Japanese government for its donation.
Azcona said the donation of the Japanese government is a "very generous gift" to the sugar industry.
"This is a big help since we are moving forward to be globally competitive. The farmers need to go mechanized," he said.
Benitez, the author of the Sugarcane Industry Development Act when he was congressman, said, "Today, agriculture is not about manual labor, it is really more of mechanization to become more productive."
The majority of the 80 tractors will be turned over to sugarcane areas in the Visayas, mainly in Negros Occidental, the country's top sugar-producing province.*