“Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.” Samuel Johnson
By Alex P. Vidal
Even before the “pork barrel” scandal erupted with catatonic intensity this year, former Ilonggo sectoral Rep. Salvador Cabaluna and former TESDA Director General, both losing candidates in the May 13 congressional and local elections, were already tearing each other apart over Cabaluna’s alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” fund.
The country’s agricultural sector, which employs an estimated 12 million people and making up 33 percent of the national labor force, according to the 2012 Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, in fact, became the favorite “whipping boy” of corrupt congressmen and senators who connived with Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind fake NGOs that “implemented” the projects.
These hooligans in Barong Tagalog probably thought it’s easy to fool the farmers and fishermen who comprise 70 percent of the rural poor and whose average level of education is elementary.
This is the sector that contributes about 11 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with US$14.7 billion, although government investment in the sector was only 4 percent of the national budget in 2011.
The average daily wage of a farmer is $6, versus the national average of $10, it was learned. A major typhoon can easily wipe out earnings, small-scale farmers have learned. Ranked as one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, the archipelago experiences an average of 20 typhoons annually.
Meanwhile, despite the “pork” hullabaloo, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, undaunted by the “pork” issue, acted as Santa Claus to a group of Iloilo farmers last September 17.
Alcala turned over certificate for the P6-million Rice Processing Complex I and P1 million-worth four-wheel tractor to the PALACATI-AN Irrigator’s Association in Iloilo headed by Eduardo Alcasaren in a ceremony held at Brgy. Tigum, Pavia, Iloilo.
Lilibeth French of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-6 reported that the association has 452 registered members from Barangays Pagsanga-an, Cabugao Norte, Tigum and Anilao in Pavia, and Lapayon in Leganes. It has a total service area of 810 hectares with 100 percent cropping intensity.
French wrote that Alcasaren thanked Alcala for the multi-million-peso equipment and facility saying, “We are very grateful for these support – the Rice Complex and the tractor because we see that these will add or improve our productivity as well as the quality of our life especially of our children.” The association also receives incentives from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for its good performance in Irrigation Service Fee Collection, French revealed.
French further wrote that Alcala, for his part, lauded the farmers’ group for their good performance and said the support is just the first step to attain the Aquino Administration’s thrust of “inclusive growth”. “From time to time naririnig po natin ang inclusive growth, kung ano po ito dapat iisa ang ibig sabihin – pag nagsimula ang tulong sa ibaba hanggang sa itaas kasa-kasama at dapat magsimula po sa inyo ang pagtulong,” said Alcala.
The PIA report said Alcala stressed before the farmers the government’s farm mechanization program, demonstrating the use of Rice Combine Harvester and Reaper. He also met with more than 800 farmer-members of different Irrigator’s Associations in the province during the Farmers’ Forum held at Western Visayas Agriculture Research Center at Brgy. Hamungaya, Jaro.
The turn-over ceremony, Field Day and Farmers’ Forum were part of the “Rice Harvest Festival” organized by NIA and DA, said the PIA report.