Mindanao gets 30% of agri budget
Local leaders vow to be strong partners of implementation
Davao City (26 February) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) earmarks 30 percent of its 2009 budget for Mindanao to boost its agricultural productivity, Usec. Jesus Emmanuel Paras said.
Paras, DA Undersecretary for Operations, said that around P16 billion is in the pipeline for rehabilitation and construction of agricultural infrastructures and livelihoods to stir food production and job creation in here in the South.
Paras, speaking before a number of Mindanao's Local Chief Executives here, said that agriculture is in the best position to cushion the impact of the global financial crunch.
"By the rule of thumb, 10 jobs are created per a million spent in farm-to-market roads, at least 15 jobs for irrigation, plus the jobs and income for livelihood projects of people's organization," Paras said.
This year, the DA is poised to strengthen agricultural infrastructures covering construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of irrigations, opening new and improvement of farm-to-market roads, post harvest facilities and rural extension works as "hard investments" to attain food security in lieu of the "soft projects" like fertilizer support as it did last year.
Part of this stimulus package is the P1.7 billion worth of rural infrastructure and livelihood projects of the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP) now ready to hit the ground by the first semester.
MRDP is poverty alleviation project of DA jointly funded by the national government, the local government units and the World Bank amounting to a total of US$ 123.75 million to be implemented in five years.
To date, the program has seven on-going infrastructure projects worth 52.8 million, 64 livelihood projects close to P16 million have been completed. While another 25 infrastructure projects worth more than P160 million for 19 LGUs, and another 300 livelihood projects amounting to P67.5 million to 27 towns are on various levels of implementation.
These projects are seen to benefit farmers in food-producing areas and hunger-prone provinces across the region island.
The target areas of the program is 225 out of the 419 towns in Mindanao mostly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the Zamboanga Peninsula, Central Mindanao and the Caraga Region, which belongs to the country's poorest provinces.
Paras said MRDP is "the altruistic package of investments envisioned to pump-prime Mindanao rural economy."
Meanwhile, Program Director Roger C. Chio in statement encourages LGUs to support this initiative to stir the productivity of local economy.
Chio who is also the executive director of DA XI, programs of the DA in all aligned to creation of as many jobs possible to counter negative effects of the impending increase of job losses seen to bloat this year.
"We are certain that agricultural investments can stifle ill-effects of the global economic turndown which will eventually affect the local economy and hurt local farmers," he said.
Overwhelming local support
To complement this effort, a number of LCEs of Mindanao has affirmatively responded to the call to partner with DA as they gathered during the WB evaluation of the program held recently here.
LGUs will be the frontliners of implementation of MRPD as part of devolution of delivery of services mandated under RA 1760 known as the Local Government Code of 1991.
Among the strongest the partner of the Program is the RDR WHEELS of Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario which front-loads rehabilitation and construction of farm-to-market roads and creation of agri-fishery business opportunities.
Tagum City has also proposed under MRDP a strategic construction of farm-to-market roads amounting to almost P58 million. The said road network will connect its far-flung barangays to the main thoroughfare of the city.
For his part, Governor Douglas Ra. Cagas said "This will be a friendly competition among Local government units as to who can maximize the benefits of the program."
In Davao del Sur, roads and livelihoods has been established through the Program. The provincial government was also reported to have apportioned an amount to facilitate barangay development plans (BDP), a necessary document for project proposal and approval.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ramon Abalos of Lambayong, Province of Sultan said his administration will continue its partnership with DA as their town has already benefited from the first phase of MRDP. Abalos, who is also the President of the League of Municipalities - Mindanao Chapter, encourages other LCEs to invest into the program to complement local coffers for tangible projects.
The Provinces of Sultan Kudarat and North Cotababto were among the five provinces which benefited the first phase of the Program.
Further, the local leaders in the provinces of Zamboanga Peninsula in Region 9 were lauded for being the leaders of project implementation on the ground as the World Bank cited on its recent report. With the consistent support of mayors and governors, Carga Region comes next. While, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is expected to roll out investments on the first quarter this year. (MRDP-SBManual/PIA XI) [top]