Puerto Princesa City – Palawan Gov.Jose “Pepito” Alvarez has pledged an expansion area of 100,000 hectares for the country’s rice production program following a visit Wednesday by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.

The new area is in addition to the island-province’s 59,000 hectares of rice farms that have enabled Palawan to achieve 110-percent rice self-sufficiency, Piñol said.

As traditional rice farming areas are now affected by climate change, Piñol said the “availability of new rice farming areas in Palawan offers a relief to the problem besetting the country’s rice production.”

Palawan lies outsidethe typhoon path in the Western part of the country and could be developed into a major food-production area, he said.

During Piñol’s meeting with Alvarez, the governor sought assistance by the Department of Agriculture to help address Palawan’s highly acidic soil that has kept its rice production relatively low.

While Palawan needs more irrigation facilities, Alvarez stressed that these should not destroy the natural beauty of the province, which is a popular tourism destination.

“I called up PhilRice executive director Dr. Sailila Abdulla to form a team along with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management to conduct an extensive soil analysis in Palawan,” Piñol said.

He said further that instead of building watr-impounding dams, the DA would introduce to Palawan the environment-friendly irrigation system known as Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS), which will draw water from the rivers.

Piñol instructed Regional Director Boy Santiago to program the establishment of the SPIS without having to build dams.

Piñol also instructed Santiago to procure more tractors, power tillers, harvesters, dryers and rice processing facilities for Palawan after noticing on his way to Brooke’s Point for the Biyaheng Bukid that farmers and fishermen “lack modern farm equipment.”

“A check of a rice farm I passed by along the way showed that the farmers are still using poor quality seeds,” the DA chief also said.

He said he would encourage farmers to use hybrid seeds by providing them fertilizers as incentives. (DA-OSEC)