Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. said Friday the government has turned over more than P130 million worth of financial aid, equipment and irrigation projects to Cordillera farmers to increase vegetable output, promote crop diversification and improve post-harvest facilities to stabilize farmers’ earnings and vegetable supply.

“We recognize the Cordillera Region’s contributions as the producer of almost 80 percent of highland vegetables in the country.

To further enhance the region’s output, we are turning over P417,000 worth of farm machinery to three farmer cooperatives and associations in the Mountain Province,” Secretary Tiu Laurel said during a meeting with DA officials, farmers, traders and other workers at the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center, where an average 400 metric tons of vegetables are traded a day.

The funds will come from DA’s Philippine Rural Development Project Scale-up, which has already invested P2.73 billion in 104 completed infrastructure and enterprise subprojects in the six provinces comprising the Cordillera Administrative Region.

“Three infrastructure subprojects worth P454 million and one enterprise subproject worth P13.9 million are expected to be completed this year,” Secretary Tiu Laurel said.

In terms of enterprise development, he noted the DA’s rural development program for CAR has a portfolio of 59 completed subprojects worth P170 million that are now benefitting 74 proponent groups and farmers cooperatives.

“The assistance we’re providing is seen to promote sustainable growth through better production, processing, marketing, and distribution of high-value crops,” the agriculture chief said. Secretary Tiu Laurel said cold storage facilities will be built in several areas including Benguet, La Union, Taguig City, Mindoro and in Sariaya, Quezon to “dramatically extend the shelf-life of highland vegetables.”

He said the DA will also coordinate with LGUs in the Cordilleras on crop diversification to help stabilize farm income and increase crop choices as well as promote best farming practices. “The government can also tap the abundant harvests of farmers for distribution and sale in Kadiwa centers,” he added.

During his visit to Baguio City, Secretary Tiu Laurel also distributed financial assistance to rice farmers affected by Typhoon Egay and by the rice tariffication law, granted farm equipment and facilities, and turned over seven irrigation projects to irrigators groups.

A total P25.9 million had been set aside for the rehabilitation of more than 8.200 hectares of rice fields damaged by Typhoon Egay. A total of 14,714 farmers were affected by Egay.

Meantime, P82.9 million worth of rice production and post-harvest equipment and facilities from the mechanization budget of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund that is administered by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization were awarded to local government units in Kalinga and Ifugao.

Out of the P12.09 billion RCEF allotment last year, P619.2 million were distributed to 122,130 eligible farmers—those tilling 2 hectares or less—in the six provinces of CAR. Secretary Tiu Laurel also turned over P41.2 million of completed irrigation projects to CAR irrigators associations.

These irrigation systems will increase yield in 195 hectares tilled by 299 farmers. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, for its part, turned over a community fish landing center and three units of fish cages worth P5.85 million fisherfolk groups in Apayao. ### (DA Photo by Jay Morales)