Agri chief reports accomplishments as CORDS for Cordillera

By DA

QUEZON CITY, June 1 — As the designated Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), agriculture secretary William Dar reported five major accomplishments of the Duterte administration, during the “Kasama sa Pamana” regional pre-SONA series, on June 1, 2021, in Baguio City.

“First, we are pleased to report that the poverty incidence in the Cordillera has dropped significantly by 10.7 percent (%), from 2015 to 2018. Further, the subsistence incidence also declined from 8% to 3.3% in the same period,” Secretary Dar said.

He added that poverty was reduced because the economy of Cordillera grew by an average of 5%, between 2017 and 2019, creating more livelihood and job opportunities, and outperforming other regions.

He also attributed it to the successful implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law that exempted taxpayers earning P250,000 and below from paying personal income tax. This made taxation more equitable and increased the disposable income of lower-income groups, enabling them to buy and afford adequate food and other basic amenities.

“Goods and services remained affordable, as inflation in CAR was managed at an average of 2.6%, between 2017 and 2020, despite supply disruptions due to the pandemic,” he added.

He reported that a total of 57,011 households (HH), 99% of targeted 57,502, have availed of cash grants through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) regular conditional cash transfer (RCCT) in 2020. Also, 2,101 HH, or 96% of targeted 2,183 HH, benefitted under the modified conditional cash transfer (MCCT) program.

“Further, in 2019 there was 100% coverage under the National Health Insurance Program, and PhilHealth has accredited all of the region’s rural health units (RHUs) and DOH-licensed public and private hospitals,” he said.

To shield the vulnerable population against the impact of COVID-19, the Duterte administration redoubled its efforts by implementing the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act” (Bayanihan 1) and the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” (Bayanihan 2), that provided vulnerable sectors cash transfers and temporary employment.

Secretary Dar said P2.2 billion (B) was distributed to 419,025 families in CAR through the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of both Bayanihan 1 and 2. In addition, P307-million (M) worth of agricultural projects were implemented and will be completed by June 30, 2021.

Under the Duterte administration’s Food Resiliency and Plant Plant Plant programs, various agricultural inputs (seeds, seedlings, fertilizers, livestock and poultry animals) were distributed to 60,801 farm households.

In addition, P239.8 M was also provided as financial assistance to 9,593 farmers under the SURE-Aid loan, and another P174 M as cash assistance to 33,800 rice and corn farmers.

Another major accomplishment is the construction of more infrastructure, particularly roads, that greatly reduced travel time and transport costs. These include the:

  • 77-km Cordillera Trunkline – which will be completed this year;
  • 64-km Kabugao (Apayao) – Solsona (Ilocos Norte) Road – opened in July 2018 linking Ilocos and Cordillera regions; and
  • 246-km Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba- Tublay (BLISTT) Outer Ring Road.

Aside from these three major road projects, the Duterte administration constructed more farm-to-market roads (FMRs) in CAR, linking production areas to tertiary roads.

From 2017 to 2020, the region was allocated P1.274 B for the construction of 159 FMRs, totaling 127 kilometers (km). For 2021, P1.14 B is allocated for 78 FMRs, totaling 95 km across the region.

“These will facilitate the transport of agricultural inputs and products, resulting in lower production costs and enhancing the quality of agricultural products,” secretary Dar said.

Further, under the DA-Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), funded by the World Bank, P1.035 B was used in the improvement of 67.82 km, and to date 58.36 km of FMRs costing P1.192 B are nearing completion.

Complementing the regular FMR program is the Roads Leveraging Linkages of Industry and Trade (ROLL IT) program. Out of the 148 road projects approved under the program, 124 projects were completed as of December 2020. The roads serve industry and manufacturing hubs and enterprises in CAR, thus stimulating economic growth and attracting more investments in priority products like coffee, cacao, bamboo, banana, cutflowers, and heirloom rice, among other high-value crops.

Several irrigation systems were also constructed like the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP), worth P4.47 B, which is expected to be completed by January 2022. It will irrigate a total of 8,700 hectares, mostly in Cagayan (7,530 hectares) and 1,170 hectares in Kalinga, benefiting 4,350 farmers.

He also reported the implementation of various irrigation projects under the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), particularly communal irrigation systems in partnership with local government units. The DA, through the Regional Field Offices (RFOs), complements the NIA by implementing small-scale irrigation projects.

IMPROVED PEACE AND ORDER SITUATION

“Crime incidence in the region has dropped since 2016 with the effective implementation of law enforcement and the anti-illegal drugs campaign. Intensified police operations resulted in the arrest of the top three most wanted persons and 1,717 wanted persons in 2020 alone,” the DA chief reported.

He added that in the continuing fight against illegal drugs, the Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCor) has made 444 arrests in 2020, confiscating P588-M worth of illegal drugs. As of February 2021, 741 of CAR’s 1,177 barangays have been classified as drug-free.

“The downward trend in crime incidence and local law enforcement’s 73% index crime solution efficiency rate in 2020 make CAR one of the safest regions in the country,” he said.

IMPROVED SECURITY SITUATION

“Through the Duterte administration’s whole-of-nation approach, inclusive and sustainable peace and development is gradually being realized in Cordillera,” the DA chief said.

As a pilot area, eight insurgency-free barangays (six in Abra, and one each in Mt Province and Kalinga) are included under the 2021 Support to the Barangay Development Program (SBDP).

Through the joint efforts of NGAs, LGUs, CSOs and the private sector, the SBDP provides barangays affected by insurgency and other armed conflicts appropriate funds for priority socio-economic, farm and livelihood projects.

“For 2021, a total of P160M is allocated for the eight pilot barangays. In addition, continued support is provided to 71 other barangays in collaboration with key stakeholders,” he added.

Another accomplishment is the signing by President Duterte of Executive Order No. 70 in 2018 to institutionalize the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and lasting peace, create a national task force to end local communist armed conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and adopt a national peace framework.

“Under EO 70, respective CORDS were designated. As the CORDS for the Cordillera, I would like to congratulate the communities and the Cordillerans for their effort and participation in the localization of EO 70. For the past years, CAR has been affected by the threats of communist terrorist groups (CTGs) and its front organizations. Under the EO 70, Regional and Local Task Forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (R/LTF-ELCAC) were created to harmonize efforts in addressing insurgency and other peace and order concerns to include their root causes such as inaccessibility to basic services, poverty, social inequity, and lack of knowledge on government programs and services,” Secretary Dar said.

He also reported that former rebels (FRs) who surrendered are given government assistance. With the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), more than P16-M worth of assistance was provided to more than 200 FRs. They also benefited from other government programs such as the livelihood settlement grant, 4Ps, and assistance to individuals in crisis situations. These provided FRs with opportunities to have a fresh start, re-integrate themselves into the social mainstream, and veer away from the clutches of former colleagues.

Aside from FRs, the government also provides livelihood programs to CTG-affected barangays and geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs). To date, more than P11-M worth of livelihood projects were provided to 695 beneficiaries in CTG-affected barangays and GIDAs.

The government has also fortified cases against the CTGs to ensure their conviction in court. To date, 98 cases were filed against them.

DECLARATION OF FIVE ‘MINAHANG BAYAN’

“The Cordillera is known for its rich mineral resources. The establishment of ‘Minahang Bayan’ or MB seeks to address concerns that affect indigenous groups and communities. Under the Duterte administration, the CAR got the much-needed attention on its advocacy on balancing economic development and management of its critical environment,” Secretary Dar said.

In 2021, five MBs were declared in CAR, namely: Loakan Itogon Pocket Miners’ Association of Itogon, Benguet; Gambang Batangan Goldstar of Bakun, Benguet; Olivia Catral of Manag, Conner, Apayao; Northern Sagada Barangay Small Miners of Sagada, Mt. Province; and Manuel Canipas of Managa, Conner, Apayao. These cover a total area of 373.75 hectares, involving 925 small-scale miners.

WAY FORWARD

 “Moving forward, much remains to be done. We have performed well, but we need to work together as one to put into place the uncompleted reforms envisioned by the Duterte administration. We shall continue to work together to reverse the negative economic growth in 2020 to a positive one in 2021, and in the years to come,” Secretary Dar said.

“We will pursue to restore back the regional economic activities that were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. These include the full opening of businesses and tourism destinations, and restoring livelihood and much-needed jobs,” he added.

Other activities include:

  • Marketing and agribusiness activities;
  • Intensification of the Plant Plant, Plant program;
  • Implementation of the Covid-19 Regional Recovery Program for 2020-2022 through inter-agency committees, with members from the private sector; and
  • Updating of the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022, and its localization at the regional level.

“Further, we will continuously work to transform agriculture to an ideal environment that will optimize resources, while producing the maximum outcomes and benefits, and reverse the negative economic growth in 2020. This year, we hope to attain a growth of 11% in gross regional domestic product or GRDP,” the DA chief and Cordillera CORDS concluded. (RdelaCruz, DA StratComms)