By Joey Natividad
CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region – Abaca-producing areas in the Bicol Region which are shrinking owing to neglect by government policies and priority programs may see a new light after the new Agriculture Secretary has given abaca industry a new leash of life.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol vowed to boost production support of the country’s abaca industry by allocating P5 billion (B) budget for the next five years.
The agriculture support mechanism involves a “Plant now, Pay later” scheme, still under refinement for implementation.
Once having a robust abaca industry until 1980’s, abaca in the Bicol Region has been on the down trend owing to plant diseases and farmers’ preference to plant corn and other crops.
The new financial support was announced during the Abaca Farmers Forum on Thursday, July 14, 2016, held in Southern Leyte.
For Southern Leyte, Secretary Piñol said an initial funding of P100 million (M) will be downloaded to LGU of Sogod through its Mayor Imelda U. Tan.
The Agriculture Secretary disclosed his plan to expand abaca plantation in the region, and announced that he already told Pres. Duterte that he will spearhead the rehabilitation of abaca industry in Leyte.
The president was born in the town of Maasin, Southern Leyte.
Piñol said that about 90,000 hectares of abaca plantation is targeted not only in Southern Leyte, but throughout the country.
“There is a great demand for abaca all over the world and there are only three countries producing it: Philippines (original producer), Ecuador, and Costa Rica,” he said.
“We really have to exploit new opportunities in front of us, as far as abaca is concerned,” Sec. Piñol said.
The abaca program is a five-year program with an expected budget of P4B for planting materials, fertilizers, modern technology, stripping machines, and for the improvement of the industry, he explained.
Piñol initially committed P100M which should be used end of the year.
It is part of DA’s P2B budget left for 2015 that needs to be expended by the end of 2016 or else it will be reverted to the national treasury.
Out of the P100M, P50M is allotted for the immediate procurement of planting materials, which will cover about 1,500 hectares.
The plan is to immediately assist the farmers by buying planting materials from them using the local abaca variety called “inusa”, which is performing very well in the area.
Secretary Piñol reiterated President Duterte’s target to reduce poverty incidence in the country, and at the same time produce food for Filipinos.
He directed PhilFida-Region 8 OIC Dir. Wilardo Sinahon to start conducting intensive technical training, which includes production of abaca planting materials, abaca bunchy top disease management, accurate fertilizer application, proper planting distance, and cultural management practices.
Secretary Piñol also said that in addition to the planting materials, DA will also provide fertilizer to the abaca farmers.
However, the abaca production support to farmers will be under a tripartite agreement of “Plant Now, Pay Later” scheme, he added.
The government is targeting 90,000 hectares of abaca to be planted under coconut trees.
PhilFida OIC Exec. Director Victor B. Prodigo will introduce a new technology where 4,000 abaca seedlings can be planted per hectare, from the usual 1,600 seedlings/ha.
According to Diector Prodigo, in addition to abaca, other crops such as coffee, cacao, ginger, and turmeric can be planted under the coconut trees, which means higher income for abaca farmers.
“As additional support, municipalities with abaca ready for harvest will be provided with stripping machines upon request,” Sec. Piñol said. [BicolToday.com]