Abra mayor urges DA to build farm-to-market roads in his town
Quezon City (11 February) -- Mayor Edwin Crisologo of Tineg, Abra has asked Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to help him maximize farm production in his town by building farm to market roads and bridges to link upland cultivators with traders and buyers in more prosperous towns like Bangued, the capital.
Crisologo said his town is largely agricultural and takes pride in its traditional brown rice varieties that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is promoting for greater consumption nationwide since they contain more vitamins and nutrients than polished rice.
The mayor, now on his second term after winning in the May 2007 elections, stressed that while his town's territory is 82,893 hectares, its current population is only about 6,000, most of them Tinguian farmers who inhabit the uplands and who traverse trails, ford rivers and trek hilly terrain to bring their produce to the lowlands.
Crisologo recently returned to Tineg in spite of continuing violence to make good on his promise to establish Tineg as a genuine town and not merely as a territory governed from Bangued, where some of Abra's 27 town mayors hold office.
The Tineg mayor said his appeal to Yap comes in the wake of reports that the DA will constuct a total of 708 kilometers of farm to market roads this year and establish 200 units of market-related infrastructure that includes food terminals and trading posts in 2008 to further expand market access and better facilitate trade for small farmers and fisherfolk.
He stressed that Yap's promise has emboldened him to seek the inclusion of Tineg as a project site for the DA program since his town is isolated and people have to negotiate treacherous terrain for two days to reach the nearest highway and the capital.
Crisologo has set up office in Tineg to show that the municipal government is back in business, just days after three fishermen in the town were massacred by armed men in Tapayen, Alawa on February 1.
The mayor also lost his wife recently after she was shot and had to stay in hospital for more than a month before finally succumbing to a bullet wound in the stomach.
He asked Secretary Yap to include Tineg in his priority areas, noting that agricultural producers in his town would be encouraged to plant more and take advantage of the fertile land and good climate in the town once they know that their commodities could be transported quickly to bigger markets in the lowlands.
At present, Crisologo said Tineg does not have the roads, electricity, communications facilities and other infrastructure that would promote the level of farmers from being merely subsistence producers.
Yap earlier said his programs include the expansion of “farm-to-plate” market linkages to raise incomes for small farm stakeholders and at the same time pull down prices of basic goods like meat and vegetables.
He added an example of this farm-to-plate linkage is the partnership that the DA had forged with vegetable producers in Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao.
Under this setup, fresh produce from the Fresh Valley farm in Manolo Fortich are transferred to packing houses and immediately loaded into 2GO refrigerated vans for transport through the roll-on, roll-off (RORO) highway and unloaded straight to the barangay food terminal (BFT) at Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City.
Crisologo said he envies the situation of the Bukidnon farmers and adds that Tineg. Abra could be a major supplier of vegetables, rice, cattle and other food products if farm to market roads are constructed soonest.
He appealed to Yap to help in providing electricity to his town, which is one of the most sparsely populated in the entire country, even as he works double time to make full use of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) for his town, which stood at nearly P37 million in 2002. (PIA) [top]