More than 13,000 abaca farmers in Catanduanes will stand to earn from the P69.951-million funding turned over by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to the provincial government last week.
About P40 million of the Quick Response Fund (QRF) for Revitalization of Damaged Abaca Farms in Catanduanes will go to the purchase of abaca suckers to be planted in the 29,000 hectares of abaca plantations in the entire province.
The provincial government will undertake procurement of the planting materials, with the supplier to buy the suckers from the local abaca farmers at a minimum quantity of 100 suckers at a cost of P25 to P30 each.
The winning bidder will also supply farm tools such as knapsack sprayers and digging bars, herbicides and insecticides for disease eradication and management.
According to Provincial Agriculturist Nelia Teves, teams composed of representatives from the provincial government, the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) and the municipal agriculture offices have already begun the profiling of the 13,777 farmers who will benefit from the funding.
She added that as a requirement, the provincial government provided the counterpart of P7.2 million, which will go to the wages of 33 local abaca technicians who have been deployed to the 11 municipalities at three technicians per town since August 1, 2022.
The counterpart funding will also be utilized for the payment of travel expenses and honoraria as well as office supplies.
They will essentially conduct profiling, mapping, validation and coordination with the local government units, Teves said, with the profiling to be completed by the end of September.
She disclosed that her office has already submitted for approval by Governor Joseph Cua the Work and Financial Plan covering the project, after which it would be endorsed to the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).
It may be recalled that the last time DA provided funds for abaca rehabilitation, the P50 million kitty was distributed through the Cash-For-Work scheme to some 15,000 farmers all over the island but there were adverse feedbacks that some of those given the incentive did not actually plant suckers but posed for pictures in nearby farms.
The agriculture department is no longer allowed to pursue the same Cash-For-Work scheme as it is not their mandate but that of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
According to a source at the House of Representatives, Talino at Galing ng Pinoy (TGP) Partylist Rep. and Deputy Majority Leader Jose Teves Jr. lambasted PhilFIDA Executive Director Kennedy Costales during the recent hearing on the DA budget for 2023.
He scored Costales for focusing too much on his agency’s bid to build abaca processing facilities for its Abaca Tuxy Buying Special Project (ATBSP).
“Of what use are these processing facilities if we do not have enough abaca fiber to harvest?” Cong. Teves reportedly asked, citing the heavy damage inflicted on Catanduanes abaca plantations during the rampage of super typhoon Rolly and three other storms in late 2020.
Shortly after his outburst, DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban submitted to the solon, who is also vice chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, a status report on the revitalization of typhoon-damaged abaca farms in Bicol, with Albay allotted P40 million and Catanduanes P69.951 million.
The report prepared by PhilFIDA OIC-Regional Director Mary Anne Molina stated that for Catanduanes, the funds had already been downloaded by the DA central office to DA Regional Field Office No. 5 as of Dec. 27, 2021, subject to the submission of a letter request from the provincial government for the release of the funds and a resolution from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on the availability of the counterpart funding.
Molina added that the provincial government and PhilFIDA began conducting project briefings and orientations regarding the project for municipal mayors and barangay captains.
With both documents received by the DA regional office as of Sept. 5, 2022, the check was finally turned over to the provincial government last Sept. 20 in a ceremony at the Catanduanes State University gymnasium.
DA Regional Executive Director Rodel Tornilla personally handed over the check to Gov. Cua in the presence of DA Field Operation Division Chief Mary Grace Rodriguez, Provincial Agriculturist Nelia Teves, political affairs officer Romeo Asuncion who represented Cong. Teves, and congressional staffer Dennis Taperla who stood in for Rep. Eulogio Rodriguez.