Infrastructure development and modernization, including agriculture, are among the achievements of the administration that would help rebuild the economy, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said at the agency’s 123rd founding anniversary celebration on Wednesday.
This, as the Department of Agriculture (DA) persevere to solve several problems that recently hit the country, which include typhoons and health pandemic.
“We worked tirelessly together over these five years of Duterte administration. Now, we must once again endeavor with increased urgency not just to rebuild our economy – but to rebuild it for the better,” Dar said in his speech during the ceremony.
He underscored the implementation of Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which he defined as “a difficult necessity due to the re-arrangement of legislative priorities and development policies”.
The gains from this initiative proved worth it with the 19.4 million metric tons (MT) of palay produced last year.
“It is equivalent to 90 percent sufficiency. We are looking at increasing it this year to 20.4 million MT, for a 93 to 95 percent sufficiency level,” Dar said.
Understanding that the agriculture sector needs more than just top-quality seeds, Dar prioritized investments in public infrastructure to modernize the sector.
Dar said from 2016 to May 2021, the DA partnered with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Philippine Rural Development Project for the construction of 4,100 kilometers of bridges and farm-to-market roads nationwide.
The country’s irrigation networks have widely expanded. It has now reached 51,000 hectares of prime farmlands over the same timeframe.
Some 35,700 communities and organizations have better earning opportunities by building nurseries, seed storage facilities, stock farms, school gardens, greenhouses, feed mills, and postharvest facilities.
“I can say with pride, that in the almost two years that we have been in here, we have the biggest infrastructure investments on-going today,” Dar said.
Intensified farm mechanization, modernization
In 2016, the DA also embarked on a massive program to mechanize and modernize the Filipino agriculture sector.
“We have pursued this objective aggressively over the past five years — and we have done so without watering down our emphasis on job creation and human resources,” Dar said.
As of May this year, the DA shared it already distributed more than 10,000 units of modern farm equipment and machinery for the benefit of nearly 3,400 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs).
At least 82,000 farmers, seed growers, and extension workers were also trained in the use of these machineries, in conjunction with yield-enhancing technologies for rice production.
“The road to progress will not be without pitfalls and hazards. It will demand discipline, hard work, and sustained unity and cooperation. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from every man and woman in this agency,” the secretary said.