This, aside from around P 4-million worth of various agricultural implements raffled off to lucky participants in the forum.
During his speech, he also pledged to give the Province of Leyte a 4-wheeled tractor after Gov. Dominic Petilla gave his nod to establish a program expanding corn production in Leyte.
With Alcala were Fiber Development Institute (FiDA) administrator Dr. Ed Lohoylohoy, Department of Agriculture regional director Antonio Gerundio, and top brass of the regional offices of DA’s line agencies. Also present were the mayors of 5th district towns and farmer-leaders in the southern part of Leyte island, including those from Southern Leyte.
They were welcomed to Hilongos by Mayor Albert Villahermosa and to the district by Rep. Jose Carlos L. Cari.
Before proceeding to the farmers’ forum, Alcala stopped by Brgy. Naval to witness the actual demonstration of the capability of a combined harvester the host LGU got from DA. The combined harvester reduces the work of 120 people to only 1 hour and 45 minutes, said Romanico Monto, municipal agriculturist.
In his speech, Alcala said that he was happy to bring the farmers and fisherfolk “good news” about the improved performance of the DA and its line agencies since the P-Noy administration started.
He said that from being the biggest rice importer of Asia, the country is now an exporter of rice. Citing figures, he said that in 2010, the country imported 2.4-million metric tons of rice costing P 67-billion. In 2011, he said, with DA’s strengthened staple food sufficiency program, they were able to reduce the importation to only 860,000 metric tons, then 500,000 in 2012. This year, he said, the country has only imported some 400,000 metric tons, or just around P 4-billion.
He said that he was able to achieve this because he listened to the voice of the farmers who know better than technocrats in Manila. That is why, he said, he was always going around the country to meet with the grassroots so that he will hear what they needed in their parts.
He added that while he was keeping an eye on the rice sufficiency program, he also urged his field officers to implement other programs. Now, he said, “we are now sufficient on white and yellow corn. We used to import corn … now we are sufficient and starting to export to Korea”.
Other products that we are now exporting, he said, is chicken and even Peking duck. “We are a bird-flu free country”, he said, and now able to grow chicken in only 29-32 days, is now exporting it. “Hopefully, by the end of the year, we will be exporting whole chicken to South Korea and Saudi Arabia”.
For the fisherfolks, Alcala said that BFAR is already posting success on its program to “close” the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Visayas Seas during spawning season of sardines and herring. He said that these two fishes are food for tuna and where it is abundant, tuna follow their trail. He said this has improved fish catch and saved the flailing tuna industry.
He urged those present to think out of the box and make their land productive, not only by adapting to modern farming technology but also innovating. “There are some problems that government cannot solve, but the solution lies on the farmers themselves”, he pointed out.
During the forum, Alcala also acted immediately on concerns brought up by those present. He gave concerned agency heads a timeline to solve the problems of the farmers and gave them cards to call him after the period given, if what he has promised them was not fulfilled. By Lalaine M. Jimenea