Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala urged local chief executives in Western Visayas to focus their investments on critical infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads and small irrigation systems through the World Bank-aided Philippine Rural Development Project so as to foster more inclusive prosperity.
Speaking at a regional farmers’ and fisherfolk’s forum in Iloilo City on Friday, Alcala said such investments help create more sustainable and stable sources of livelihood and incomes in their respective areas.
He cited the status of irrigation development in Western Visayas, which he said could be further improved to strengthen the status of the region as a major rice producer.
The DA chief said that based on available data, only 65,000 hectares (or roughly 20%) of the region’s 330,000 hectares of rice farms are being served by national irrigation systems. It means that a majority of the rice production areas are either served by small water impounding projects and communal systems or are considered rain fed. The Secretary said he will propose or lobby before the World Bank the inclusion of small water impounding projects in the PRDP menu.
“Ipapakita po natin sa World Bank na hindi lang po farm-to-market roads (FMRs) ang kailangan. We also need small water impounding projects that will surely change the lives of Filipino farmers,” Alcala said.
PRDP is a DA-implemented six-year initiative that started in 2014 that employs the value chain approach in the identification and approval of projects to be funded. It means that that the approval of a project will depend on the feasibility of its proposed farm- or fisheries-based enterprise, in keeping with its provincial commodity investment plan that DA helped prepare.
To accomplish these goals, DA partners with LGUs and the private sector to provide farmers’ and fishers’ groups with key infrastructure, facilities, technology and information in support of their food production, value-adding and marketing activities.
He said: “Sa bawat probinsya, mayroon po tayong inihandang primary at secondary crops. Kailangan po ang expansion, halimbawa ng rice. [Para matupad ang expansion],  kailangan po ninyo ng kalsada, kailangan po ninyo ng tubig. Huwag po kayong mag-alala, hindi na ninyo kailangang maghintay ng matagal. Sa launching ng PRDP, mas mapapabilis po ang pagbibigay ng tulong ng Kagawaran at National Government.”
Alcala urged LGUs to use their Local Development Funds from their respective Internal Revenue Allotment to fund their proposed projects, notably FMRs.
“Tungkol sa farm-to-market road. Ayaw ko po kayong pangunahan. I know sometimes mayroon kayong kanya-kanyang priorities. Pero ‘yung 20% Local Development Fund po ninyo, puwedeng ninyong gamitin itong pang-equity," he said.
He added: "Sa PRDP, as long as we can help you defend na ‘yun ay mag-i-increase sa kita ng magsasaka para po sa inyong priority crops, you just have to put-up 10% share ng total project cost." (DA-OSEC)