No less than Philippine Fiber Development Authority (PhilFIDA) executive director Kennedy Costales gave the assurance to Talino at Galing ng Pilipino (TGP) partylist Rep. Jose Teves Jr. last week that the P129 million funding for the abaca rehabilitation program in Catanduanes will be released this year.
During a meeting with capitol and PhilFIDA officials last Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, the congressman was told by Dir. Costales that the funding is 99 percent certain of being released, with the amount to be charged to the Department of Agriculture’s 2021 Quick Reaction Fund (QRF).
Of the amount requested, P121 million will go to a cash-for-work replanting project while the balance will be PhilFIDA’s administrative cost.
Teves, who is vice chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, sought the meeting with Governor Joseph Cua, key members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and PhilFIDA officer-in-charge Eligio Sabalas.
Cua, however, was not able to attend and was represented by Provincial Administrator Lemuel Surtida. San Miguel Mayor Francisco Camano Jr., who has been arguing for a massive disease eradication program, was there along with senior Provincial Board Member Lorenzo T. Templonuevo Jr. as chairman of the SP Committee on Agriculture.
The TGP congressman said he has asked DA regional director Rodel Tornilla and impressed on him the need for the department to focus on the rehabilitation of Catanduanes’ abaca industry.
“What has been promised should be delivered,” Teves stressed, suggesting that the provincial government form a Technical Working Group to determine what the industry really needs and to craft a viable rehabilitation and expansion plan.
“It is not good for Catanduanes to be declared the abaca capital of the Philippines when PhilFIDA is concentrating on developing new abaca areas in Davao, Aurora and other provinces,” he said, adding that the bill is certain to get the Senate’s nod.
On Mayor Camano’s proposal that the amount be split between disease management and rehabilitation, PhilFIDA’s Sabalas instead recommended that a separate funding be requested from DA.
Rep. Teves agreed and directed PhilFIDA to submit the ADMP project proposal as soon as possible.
He added that he and Congressman Hector Sanchez will follow up the P129-million funding which is now pending at the Department of Budget and Management.
Also discussed at the meeting was the need for the existing provincial ordinance on abaca “bakbak” gathering to have more teeth in its implementation.
The gathering of “bakbak” to be supplied to décor manufactures, as well as unhygienic practices of gatherers, have contributed to the spread of the abaca bunchy top disease now ravaging many plantations in San Miguel, Caramoran and other towns, Camano pointed out.
Cong. Teves also promised to support PhilFIDA Catanduanes’ need to have its own lot and building, as it is now renting a small apartment in San Roque, Virac after its usufruct agreement with Catanduanes State University over its office building and tissue culture laboratory was not renewed last year.