DAVAO CITY—President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, December 21, led the commissioning of government ships BRP Lapu-Lapu and BRP Francisco Dagohoy, which are expected to help strengthen the state’s ability to combat illegal fishing and immediately respond to disasters.

“Our activities today are proof of the government’s resolve to empower and protect our country’s farmers and fisherfolk,” the President said in his speech during the commissioning held at the Sasa Wharf here in Davao City.

“The commissioning of the BRP Lapu-Lapu and BRP Francisco Dagohoy will strengthen the government’s programs against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” he said.

The two steel-hulled offshore vessels will be deployed in various parts of the country to intensify fisheries law enforcement operations, he added.

President Duterte said the ships are significant because it will be used to transport food to places anywhere in the Philippines during hunger or famine and can also be used for search and rescue during disasters and calamities.

Being a window to the Pacific, the country’s coastal waters facing the Pacific Ocean are very vulnerable to devastations by typhoons. Typhoon “Urduja” recently wrought havoc to Eastern Visayas, particularly damaging vital infrastructures in the province of Biliran.

“I just came from Biliran the other day and not so much about the devastation sa infrastructure including the casualties,” President Duterte said. “They are still in the search and rescue.”

During the same event, the President also led the launching of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Rice-Corn Blend Program, which he said, could help supplement the income of the country’s corn farmers and promote a healthy lifestyle among Filipinos.

Like rice, corn is also a major staple in the Philippines. The crop can be grown everywhere and is also very easy to propagate.

The Chief Executive said the program also has health benefits, noting that the rice-corn blend has been shown to lessen the risk of diabetes, delay hunger pangs and promote weight loss.
“This will help greatly in reducing hunger and poverty as well as create a healthier and more robust citizenry,” he noted.

Duterte said his administration envisions a country with a secure food supply that is affordable for every Filipino.

He however said this can only be accomplished if every Filipino farmer and fisherman is empowered and protected through effective and efficient programs and initiatives.

“Through these two programs, we hope to improve their livelihood opportunities and alleviate their condition,” he stressed.

Filipino farmers and fishermen supply the public with food despite great risks such as weather changes, price fluctuations and financial resource shortages, according to the President.

This is the reason why the government has made it a priority to help the country’s farmers and fisherfolk, he added.

“Let these small but meaningful gestures express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to those who feed us and contribute to the development of our economy and country,” he said.

At the same time, President Duterte acknowledged the bad state of the Philippine agriculture sector branding it as the “weakest link” in the country’s economic cycle.

Duterte however stressed that there have been efforts to boost the agriculture sector, adding that whenever he travels abroad, he promotes the southern part of Mindanao, which he said is ideal for agriculture because the climate is good and is not frequented by typhoons.

“The only way to help the farmers and agriculture sector is really to bring the industry to the mountains. That is why marami tayong niyayaya at maraming pumapasok,” he said. (PND)