Speech of Secretary Proceso J. Alcala

Speech of Secretary Proceso J. Alcala
to the Rotary Club of Manila
January 17, 2012

Good afternoon. I trust that you all had a good lunch, and are in a good mood to listen. I know that if their stomachs are grumbling, people find it difficult to pay attention to any speaker.

Thank you for inviting me to your meeting. Special thanks to Ka Obet Pagdanganan, who has served for many years as governor of Bulacan, and who is your current president.

The Rotary Club of Manila is the premier service club. Your members are well informed and concerned about national issues. So I am grateful for the chance to inform you about what the Department of Agriculture is doing. Of course, I look forward to hear your feedback on how we can further improve our work. I also hope to hear your suggestions on how can work together, for the good of our country.

As Secretary of Agriculture, my mandate is to insure our food security. In simple terms, “sapat, ligtas, masustansiya, at abot kayang pagkain para sa lahat.”

This is quite a challenge. We have a growing population, but our agricultural land area is not expanding. In fact, it is even being reduced because of conversion to non-agricultural use.

The majority of our farms are small, partly because of our agrarian reform program. Hence the Department of Agriculture must pay special attention to our small farmers and fisherfolk, so that their productivity will increase, and produce the surplus that will feed especially our urban dwellers. For this to happen, they need technical assistance, but they also need services that will help them increase their income, so that they will continue to be motivated to improve their production.

There is a second challenge: Because of devolution, the DA needs to work in close partnership with local governments. That is why, in my first two years in office, I spent a lot of time visiting all the 16 regions and all the 80 provinces, some more than once. I wanted to get a direct feel of what’s happening on the ground, and also deliver personally the message to the LGUs and the farmers that the DA is ready to work with them and serve them.

Through personal example, I urged the DA to implement the Agri-Pinoy principle: “Bridge the gap. Touch the heart.”

There is a third challenge, which is linked to partnership with the private sector. Traditionally the DA has focused its programs on increasing agricultural production. But we need to link the small producers to markets, so that they will get a fair share of the value added from post-harvest processing and marketing. Our Agri-Pinoy framework describes this approach as “from farm to table.” In the language of technocrats, the DA addresses the whole value chain.

On Rice Self-Sufficiency

Your invitation asked me to share updates about our rice self-sufficiency program.

A few months after I took over as DA Secretary, I asked the media who covered agriculture: “Why do you keep asking me about rice? The DA is concerned about many more crops. We are also responsible for fisheries, for livestock, even fiber.”

Their answer was simple: “Traditionally, the DA and the DA Secretary rise and fall according to the availability and price of rice.”

Let me now give you an update, especially since 2013 has been declared by the President as the National Year of Rice:

One of the first things we did is to review and improve the roadmap for rice self-sufficiency which we inherited from the previous administration. We expanded it to cover other food staples like white corn, root crops, and bananas which many of our people eat as their staple food. Hence the new roadmap is called Food Staples Sufficiency Program or FSSP.
I am happy to inform you that we are on track toward the goal of achieving self-sufficiency in rice by the end of 2013. The official BAS report on our palay harvest for 2012 is over 18 million tons – the highest ever in our history.
While we work to insure that our harvest is enough for the needs of our people, we are also addressing the issue of productivity and global competitiveness, so that we will not be vulnerable to importation, legal or illegal, of cheaper rice from neighboring countries.
Other Commodities

Obviously, we do not need only food staples. Hence we are developing similar roadmaps for other commodities – livestock, fisheries, fruits and vegetables.

In livestock, we have the advantage of being FMD free without vaccination, and also Avian-flu free. We plan to use this advantage to supply Philippine products not just to our domestic market, but selected foreign markets.

In conclusion

After many years of relative public underinvestment in agriculture and fisheries, the Aquino administration has given agriculture its due attention. In fact, the President and the cabinet agreed to my proposal to front load public investment in strategic agricultural infrastructure, starting with irrigation facilities.

We will expand this initiative to our farm to market roads and especially for our post-harvest facilities, so that we can reduce post-harvest losses, and insure the quality of products for our consumers.
Let me end, therefore, with an invitation to those of you who want to do your share to insure food security in our country. I invite you to explore possible public-private partnerships for agricultural development. The DA is ready to sit down with you to find ways of working together to help our farmers and our country.

Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay kayo!


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