Calinog, Iloilo – Months before the actual construction of Iloilo’s biggest irrigation project, no less than the Food Security Chief visited the site of the Jalaur high dam and consulted the affected stakeholders. Secretary Fredelita “Edel” C. Guiza of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM) is the very first Cabinet Official to visit the project area in the highlands of Calinog town. OPAFSAM heads four government agencies that were previously under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture (DA). These are the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority (FPA).
Dubbed Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II), the project is a priority of the Aquino Administration under the OPAFSAM and NIA. It aims to provide year-round irrigation to more than 31, 840 hectares of farmlands in Iloilo Province and to contribute to the national rice selfsufficiency target of 7.6%. Secretary Guiza’s visit on December 12 was highlighted with a short dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) Elders and Barangay Officials of Agcalaga, Garangan and Masaroy villages.“Nagpapasalamat po kami ng lubos kay Sec. Guiza sa kaniyang pagbisita dito sa amin at sa mabilis niyang aksyon sa mga hiniling namin kagaya ng NFA distribution centers sa bundok”, said Agcalaga Chieftain Jimmy Lastrilla.
Earlier in June, the IP community has requested for the increase of the supply of rice distributed by the NFA and creation of distribution centers in the IP barangays of the town. The Food Security Chief who was then Undersecretary of the OPAFSAM immediately called the attention of NFA in Region 6 to address their request. Currently, NFA distribution centers were already established in said communities. Also, 1.5 million worth of seedlings and fertilizers from the PCA were secured for the IPs through the Secretary’s initiative. An initial 500 coconut seedlings were already distributed to the community. “Nagpapasalamat po ako sa inyong mainit na pagtanggap sa amin. Lubos po akong natutuwa sa mga nagawa na ng NIA para sa inyo kagaya ng inyong mga daanan. Dapat po pasalamatan natin ang kanilang (NIA) dedikasyon para sa ating lahat”, said Secretary Guiza. “Magpasalamat din po tayo sa NFA at PCA sa mga tulong na kanilang inaabot dito sa atin”, she added.
Present during the short dialogue were NIA Regional Manager Engr. Gerardo P. Corsiga, NFA Regional Director Bernie Asetre and PCA Regional Director Joey Cruz. The Food Security Czar also met the newly organized Irrigators Associations (IAs) in Calinog and visited the Barotac Viejo Small River Irrigation Project (BVSRIP) in the Fifth District of Iloilo. Secretary Guiza was appointed head of OPAFSAM on October 1, 2015 following former Secretary Francis Pangilinan’s resignation. On her first month, she immediately visited NIA Region 6 to check on the implementation of JRMP II. /JP (Steve Cordero, PRO C)