Food sufficiency amid calamities, but not holocaust – Alonto

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COTABATO CITY, Philippines (March 1) – A top agriculture official of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao joined in the central government’s optimism on food sufficiency with the use of modern farming technology amid calamitous circumstances brought about by Climate Change.

“We can do it with the huge budget of the Department,” said ARMM Agriculture Secretary Alexander Alonto, Jr. during the regional rice research and development forum held here on Monday.

Alonto, however, said that occasional armed conflict and natural calamity may temporarily affect food production in the country, but not in a global war of superpowers armed with nuclear weapons.

“Let us pray for divine protection against a nuclear holocaust that may take place to destroy the environment, agriculture, livestock, fishery, and humans, because of its lethal chemical effect,” Alonto said.

The air and bodies of water will not be spared by the deadly poison that may trigger outbreak of diseases and widespread hunger, he said invoking divine intervention.

Alonto said over the years the government manages to confront natural and man-made disaster threats, but had second thought on a possible breakout of a nuclear confrontation with US President Donald Trump’s recent proposal to hike its defense budget at $54 billion, ten percent higher than last year.

Minus the grim scenario, the Philippines under President Duterte will have self-sufficiency of the staple food with the modern scientific farming technique program of the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) with the collaboration of the Philippine Rice Institute (PhilRice), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Bureau of Agricultural Research, Alonto said.

Lawyer Ranibai Dilangalen, agriculture undersecretary for special concerns, maintains that President Duterte’s food security thrust making it affordable and available to the poorest of the poor is forthcoming.

“We are now helping farmers in the investment and marketing of their produce and correcting failure of the past to encourage the use of hybrid seeds for bigger yields,” said Dilangalen, who has been with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol in various sorties providing peasants farm and fishing machineries and equipment, high-yielding seeds and species, low interest loans, and children scholarships.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in ARMM,” Dilangalen said, noting that while Central Luzon is the highest rice-yielding region of 5.19 metric tons per hectare, ARMM is at the bottom most with an average rice production of 2.9 metric tons per hectare.

This is so, because only Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur are rice-producing while the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are into fishery, rubber and tropical fruits, she explained.

Asked about the Philippine rice chances to compete with Asian neighbors in the cereal trading aspect, ARMM Rice and Development Director Esmael Satol said it is possible to be competitive through possible ways and means to bring down the price of domestic rice.

Latest Department data showed that Vietnam rice has the lowest export price of P27 per kilo, followed by India, P30; Thailand, P31; and the Philippines, P34/kilo.

The use of a new portable rice milling machine by farmers has been introduced, and ARMM agriculture officials have endorsed it to the department’s planning board for acquisition study. Carrying the BOWA brand, its unit price is pegged at P50,000, said DA media coordinator Nash Dilangalen who conducted the milling demonstration to farm technicians and media practitioners in attendance.-Charlie C. Señase

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