MANILA–Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol aims for a paradigm shift in the Department of Agriculture’s programs and priorities to address the adverse repercussions of climate change in the agri-fisheries sector and its effects in the country’s food supply.
“It has now become a must for this country to achieve sufficiency in rice and other basic food commodities. It is no longer a choice,” Sec. Piñol pointed out during convocation with DA employees recently.
Sec. Pinol announced the Rice Productivity Enhancement (RIPE), a program he crafted which calls for a comprehensive review of the water management and irrigation policies, the conduct of a nationwide soil analysis, an extensive program to improve rice farming technology, the introduction of high-yielding rice varieties, effective soil rehabilitation and fertilizer program, and modern and post-harvest facilities to minimize losses.
A caucus held recently at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB) focused on this priority, as the country’s top six farmers (whose harvests reach 8-12 metric tons) were invited to share their best practices in rice farming. He noted that there is a potential to significantly increase the rice production from the current national average harvest of 4 MT/hectare.
“How do they do it? We will listen to these farmers’ stories. All the directors, all the USECs will be there. We will listen to them; we will learn from them,” he said.
Sec. Piñol also calls for the increase production of white corn in support to the grain requirements of the corn-eating provinces such as Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Bohol, Cebu, Biliran, Leyte, Southern Leyte, the three provinces of Samar and Northern Mindanao.
“If there is rice sufficiency, there must be also corn sufficiency,” he added.
For the livestock and poultry industry, the new Agri chief wants to promote the lessening of feed components supplies’ reliance to imported materials (soya and fish meal), thereby leading to a decrease in production cost.
For the fisheries sector, he directed the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to implement an anti-illegal fishing program and a three-month closed season during the spawning season of specific fish species in various regions nationwide, a replication of the strategy carried out in Zamboanga.
Further expanding the programs for fish and marine product sufficiency is the execution of countrywide search for the cleanest coastal communities with the specifications as follows: 1) absence of illegal fishing; 2) observance of closed season; 3) well-protected marine sanctuary; 4) garbage-free coastal area; and 5) sustained mangrove protection and rehabilitation program. The winner will be the recipient of the Presidential Award and P10 M worth of livelihood fund.
The DA chief also emphasized the need to beef up the support for the culture and production of high value fish species like lapu-lapu and maya-maya, stressing the need to “pagyamanin ang binigay sa atin,” or enrich the country’s marine resources.
“The most critical preparation for climate change is in the area of water conservation and management,” he said.
To deal with the issues of agriculture sustainability and climate change resiliency, he is eyeing to carry out tree-growing projects in denuded mountain regions and to instigate programs dealing with flowing water conservation into catchment basins and dams.
In line with this, he wants to make the upland families as forest caretakers for his Agro-Forestry Program, a project that aims to employ residents in upland areas to monitor a designated area planted to fruit-bearing tree species.
With the issue on irrigation, Sec. Pinol asserted that the Duterte administration will focus on small-based irrigation project (over the highly expensive dams) and solar-powered irrigation facilities not only relevant for farming, but also for drinking and electricity purposes.
The new agri chief also supports the idea of growing vegetables in urban areas through a project dubbed “Vegetable Gardens in the City,” using the advanced Israeli Green House Technology that can secure the food supply in times when the climate change takes effects. The said project will mobilize urban poor families and involve of the local government units.
In addition, Sec. Piñol is also aiming for Tilapia fish farms along the riverbanks instead of fish cages to contribute to food sufficiency in the face of climate change’s threats.