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COTABATO CITY – Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Manny Piñol believes the country can attain self-sufficieny in rice and other agricultural products three years from now.
Piñol, who accompanied president Duterte during a tour at an oil palm mill last Friday in Maguindanao said he has already submitted to the chief executive a proposal that will help his department realize the plan.
“I told the president that if supported, this country will be able to attain rice self-sufficiency by 2019. But I need a budget about 64-billion pesos over the next three years….In fact I’ve sent a memo to him today,” said Piñol.
While importation of rice is considered a remedial measure during the occurrence of dry spell and La Niña, doing so during normal weather has adversely affected farmers, with traders and cartels ending up as major beneficiaries of the scheme.
As a solution, Piñol intends to adopt the practice he discovered in Mindoro where 14,000 farmers engaged in corporate-style farming of about 400 hectares of rice fields, enabling them to directly benefit from their own harvest.
He also reiterated his commitment for his agency to provide P1-billion loan without interest to each pilot province in the country that has vast untapped agriculture potentials.
Among the target provinces, Piñol disclosed, is Maguindanao, which has vast fertile lands and in-land aquatic resources that can help the country reach greater heights if supported.
Piñol said the agriculture development thrusts of the Duterte government would give focal attention to the 10 poorest provinces in the country that include Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, the Samar provinces, and his own home province of North Cotabato where he was once a three-term Governor.
On Friday, President Duterte ordered Piñol to release a P300-million initial assistance for the development of oil palm and rubber farming in Maguindanao. The fund forms part of the unused resources of his predecessor’s administration. (Ali G. Macabalang)