By Gumamela Ceres Bejarin, DA-AFID

The Department of Agriculture (DA) kicked off the yearly Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s Month celebration and launch of the Plant, Plant, Plant program by recognizing outstanding farmers and fisherfolk, ceremonial planting of mango and aromatic dwarf coconut, and inspection of aquaponics prototypes, on May 26, 2020 at the DA Central Office, Quezon City.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar awarded certificates to seven outstanding farmers and fisherfolk during the event, with the theme, “Pagpupugay sa Magsasaka at Mangingisda Natin, Tungo sa Sapat na Pagkain.”

He said the agriculture sector is important as ever in any situation, commending majority of the country’s farmers and fisherfolk who continued on with their farming and fishing activities, despite the grave threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, surmounting roadblocks during the initial days of the community quarantine implementation.

Thus, on behalf of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the DA family, Secretary Dar recognized their valuable contribution and hard work, represented by seven of their colleagues, namely:

  • Nemencio J. Concepcion, San Ildefonso, Bulacan – 2017 national Gawad Saka awardee on rice;
  • Edwin B. Mag-isa, San Ildefonso, Bulacan – 2017 national Gawad Saka awardee on high value crops;
  • Celestino M. Mananguit, San Ildefonso, Bulacan – 2016 national Gawad Saka awardee on raising large animals;
  • Juanito T. Rama, San Manuel, Tarlac – 2013 national Gawad Saka awardee on corn;
  • Evelyn Alegado-Grace, Candelaria, Zambales – 2018 national outstanding rural woman;
  • Tomy C. Garma, Mayantoc, Tarlac – 2019 regional Gawad Saka winner on organic agriculture; and
  • Dante C. Noces, Paraoir, La Union – 2019 regional fisherfolk awardee.

In his keynote message, Secretary Dar said the DA will continue to implement modern, science-based, inclusive and market-driven agriculture and fisheries programs, as the country transitions into the ‘new normal.’

“Let us reform and reboot Philippine agriculture and move forward to the day when the sector will be much more responsive and anticipatory with the kinds of problems that we have today,” he noted.

He urged the public to rally behind the DA family for the reforms to happen, be institutionalized, and funded by the national government, citing the DA’s P66-billion stimulus package which is deliberated upon at both houses of Congress.

In adapting to the ‘new normal,’ he said the DA family will turn challenges into opportunities, which is an important strategy for every department in this country to survive.

For instance, through the DA ‘Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita,’ he said “we have institutionalized connecting farmers and fishers direct to the market, so those traders who are taking advantage during this challenging period will be set aside.”

“Let us ensure that farmers and fishers will get better prices for their produce, and that consumers will have affordable prices of commodities at their end,” he added.

In all, he said: “We need food. We need to survive. We need to be healthy. And agriculture will be the source of all of these resources.”

The DA also actively promotes the engagement of the younger generation in farming, fishing and agribusiness enterprises through various programs and financing facilities.

Related to this initiative, the DA chief designated singer-actor James Reid as an “Ambassador on Food Security” to help entice Filipino millennials and older generations to engage in agri-fishery ventures.

The twin event — Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s Month celebration and launch of the Plant, Plant, Plant program — was also observed simultaneously nationwide by the DA regional field offices, bureaus, and attached agencies.

May is celebrated yearly as the Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s Month “to recognize their invaluable contribution to nation-building,” as per Presidential Proclamation No. 33, issued on May 21, 1989, by former President Corazon Aquino.

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