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PIA Press Release

Agusan sits on abundant wealth, no reason for food crisis, says exec

by Merlin Samonte

Butuan City (14 August) -- "We may be suffering from food crisis today, but this is only temporary." This was the gist of the speech delivered by keynote speaker, Cong. Edelmiro Amante, during the Caraga Food Crisis Summit, held at the Almont Inland Resort and Convention Center on July 4, 2008 with the theme: "Searching for Regional Solution to Save the Caraga People from the Morass of Hunger and Poverty brought about by the World-Wide Food Crises."

In his message, Cong. Amante noted that Agusan is teeming with abundance of resources that there is no reason for its people to experience difficulties in food, much less, hunger.

He said Agusan has vast and fertile tracts of land that await cultivation and can feed not only Caraga but also other regions. He also revealed the presence of immense resources lying beneath oir soils waiting to be exploited and enjoyed by the people. He disclosed, that based on his extensive studies, Agusan has the biggest and richest deposits of gold in the entire planet.

At the same time, he appealed to the media to help him convince the national leadership to implement projects like roads and other infrastructure undertakings to make it possible and easier for us to extract and exploit the resources hidden in the bowls of the earth, gifted to us by providence.

In the same occasion, Mayor Democrito Plaza II, speaking through Councilor Rodrigo Dayaday, chairman of the Agriculture Committee of the Butuan City Council, commended the Butuan Press Club Foundation, Inc. (BPCFI) for spearheading the holding of the Food Summit Crises. He said he is pleading his wholehearted support to the move and disclosed, that his administration has, in fact, started the fight against the food crisis with his on-going program of farm-to-market roads and assistance to farmers by providing them with "easy to pay" seeds and fertilizers. Some selected Barangay folks, he added, are also provided with livelihood assistance.

Meanwhile, in the same occasion, Mr. Fernando Nuņez, NFA Provincial Manager, who represented NFA Regional Director Gil Pepito Paqueo, disclosed that his office requested the City Government of Butuan for a two-hectare lot, possibly in Barangay Lumbocan, for the construction of the NFA's 200,000 bag capacity warehouse. This, he said, will serve as the depot for the rice requirements of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur. The request, Mr. Nuņez further said, he has been granted by Mayor Plaza, but the Sangguniang Panlungsod has yet to deliberate on the matter. He said Councilor Dayaday promised to give priority attention on the request.

Once completed, the NFA Provincial Manager further said, Butuan City, particularly Masao Port, will become a discharge port for vessels carrying Vietnam and Thailand rice.

The Department of Agriculture, in its power point presentation, maintained that there is no rice crises in the country. It said that although rice production is affected by natural calamities, like La Niņa and drought, these bring positive and negative effects. It noted the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice program is rehabilitating the affected areas in Eastern Samar and the Bicol region. It also noted that although there were major production losses in Luzon when the country was hit by prolonged dry spell in 2007, the losses were compensated by the additional harvest of some 350,000 metric tons from the "quick turn around" planting program of the DA especially the Visayas and Mindanao regions. It observed that in spite of this erratic rice production, the country is in the right track, because in terms of volume, the production of rice has been steadily growing over the years.

Explaining the higher cost of rice today, as compared to the previous months, it said, this is because of the rising of production and buying price of palay. It explained that price increase of rice is due to present higher cost of important commodities like fuel and fertilizer. It is only natural, it said that the buying price of palay should go up so that the producers can have additional income to cope with the rising cost of production.

Moreover, the DA pointed out, the local prices of rice are also being affected by the current price in the world market. In 2002, it noted, the price per metric ton (mt) of rice was only $180.00, but now, it ranges from $600.00 to $700.00 per mt.

Among the rationale which prompted the initiators to hold the Food Crises Summit is the intriguing question that while Caraga is a territory of rich culture and abundant resources, the richest region in mineral deposits, a vast Agusan Valley whose potential food production can feed the entire people of Mindanao, yet, ironically, its food production can not even meet its people's needs.

Government offices and agencies who were invited and attended the one day Food Crises Summit included the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reforms, National Irrigation Administration, National Food Authority, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine National Police, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Caraga LGU Executives, Caraga Congressmen and selected private and media sector. (PIA-Caraga) [top]

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