MANILA – Farm consolidation and mechanization are vital in improving the rice supply and lowering the production cost, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said on Wednesday.
This, as Marcos lauded the South Cotabato government for launching the Consolidated Rice Production and Mechanization Program, an initiative aimed at promoting the creation of an organized and efficient rice production and marketing system in the province.
In a speech delivered during the launching ceremony in Banga, South Cotabato, Marcos said the efforts to consolidate agricultural lands and mechanize farming are seen as a solution to help farmers increase their productivity and income.
“Ginagawa natin ito para maging mas efficient ‘yung buong proseso ng pagsasaka, pagpa-process, hanggang sa marketing. Ginawa nating mas mura para sa farmer. At ang magiging epekto, dahil naging mas mura sa farmer, lalaki naman ang kaniyang kita (We are doing this to make the whole farming process and marketing more efficient. We are also doing this to lower [the production] cost for farmers. This will result in the improvement of their income),” Marcos said.
Marcos said initiatives like the South Cotabato Consolidated Rice Production and Mechanization Program are “very important” to ensure rice and food sufficiency in the country.
He issued the statement, as he acknowledged that global headwinds have prompted the increase in the prices of agricultural products in the first months of 2023.
“Naramdaman po natin, nagtaasan ang presyo lahat ng bilihin, lahat ng agricultural commodities ika nga ay nagtaasan (We have felt the increase in the process of all agricultural commodities),” Marcos said.
“Kailangan nating gawin ito dahil ayaw nating mapunta sa sitwasyon na wala tayong makunang bigas, hindi sapat ang ating pagkain, hindi tayo makapag-import (We have to do this because we do not want to be in a situation where we have insufficient rice and food supply and we could no longer import rice),” he added.
Elated by the launching of “smaller version” of the national government’s land consolidation and mechanization program, Marcos vowed that his administration would ramp up its efforts to improve the agriculture sector.
“Papalakihin natin lahat iyan. Ang una naming ginagawa sa national level ay ‘yun na nga ang pag-consolidate at dahan-dahan eh dumadami na ang sumasama para naman magamit nga ang mga malalaking makinarya at sa ganoong paraan ay mas magiging mura at mas magiging maganda para sa ating mga magsasaka (We will expand it. What we’re doing at the national level is we’re consolidating the farms. And gradually, many local governments are doing that to use big machines in a bid to lower the production cost),” Marcos said.
The South Cotabato’s consolidated farming program aims to enhance production, grain quality and global competitiveness through various strategies such as good agricultural practices, low cost production, efficient farm mechanization and value adding practices.
Cooperation and active involvement of local rice farmers are major components under the program to form a compact rice area of at least 1,000 hectares to fulfill the government’s commitment to alleviating farmers’ plight and reducing prices of agricultural commodities.
Approximately PHP115 million have been allocated for the construction of the South Cotabato Integrated Rice Processing Center, warehouse and turnover of various agricultural machines and inputs such as hauling trucks, hybrid seeds, fertilizers and inbred rice varieties.
In May, Marcos approved the Masagana Rice Industry Development Program (MRIDP) crafted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) which he currently chairs.
Under the MRIDP, several strategies would be carried out to support rice farmers, increase rice production and strengthen the rice value chain.
Meantime, Marcos also led the distribution of government assistance to over 5,000 beneficiaries in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.
During the ceremonial aid distribution, Marcos turned over several agricultural inputs and machinery including harvesters, rice seeders and transplanters from the DA.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) also provided livelihood assistance under its Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP), Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), Balik Pilipinas, Balik Hanapbuhay Program and Government Internship Program.
Cash assistance was also given by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS).
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) granted assistance to the beneficiaries of its Pangkabuhayan sa Pagbangon at Ginhawa and Shared Service Facility (SSF) Project, while the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) provided scholarship and tool kits to the beneficiaries of TESDA Alay ay Liwanag at Asenso (TALA) Program.
“Napakahirap na ng buhay. Sana naman makapagbigay man lang kami ng kahit kaunting ginhawa sa inyo (Life is hard. We hope that we are able to improve your life),” Marcos said.
“Nandito ang ating mga kalihim, nandito po silang lahat upang tumulong, upang alamin kung ano ang problema ng bawat isa sa inyo para may magawa kami… Nagsasanib pwersa lahat ng may kayang tumulong sa pamahalaan kahit sa mga pribadong sektor (Our Cabinet secretaries are here to provide assistance and identify your problems so we could help you… Concerned agencies and even the private sector are working together to extend help),” he added.
Marcos was supposed to arrive in South Cotabato before 9 a.m. to grace the first event in Banga town.
However, the aircraft carrying Marcos encountered a technical glitch, forcing the President to use a different plane to fly to South Cotabato.
While it is not serious, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said the pilots flying the Gulfstream G280 command and control aircraft transporting the President and his party decided to return to base as a precautionary measure after experiencing some "minor technical issue" on the plane's flap operation.
"It is nothing serious, but since the PAF maintains the highest standards of flight safety, the pilots decided to do a precautionary return to base (Villamor Air Base in Pasay City) and have the aircraft thoroughly checked," PAF spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said in a statement.
She added the presidential movement was resumed immediately as there was a stand-by EADS CASA C-295 medium transport aircraft.
"There was a ready back up aircraft, which is a C-295 and so the presidential movement was resumed immediately," she added.
In another message to reporters, Castillo said the G280's mission was to fly from Villamor Air Base in Pasay City to General Santos City in South Cotabato.
She added the G280 was also able to fly later on and was used in the presidential movement from General Santos City to Bicol.
The G280 was delivered to the PAF in September 2020.
The aircraft is capable of speeds around 500 knots and has a range of 3,600 nautical miles aside from having the capability to land on small runways and transport 12 to 15 persons including the pilots and crew.
The contract for the G280 was signed in early 2019 and was acquired through US Foreign Military Sales. (PNA)
Marcos arrived at the first event in Banga town before Wednesday noon. (with reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)