P100-M livelihood funds shocks Apayao poor farmers

By Manny Piñol

P100-M in livelihood projects, P41-M in farm machineries and equipment, 300 shallow tube wells, P17-M for a road opening, the immediate turn-over of a corn-processing facility and a promise to push for the establishment of a feeder airport in Apayao Province.

I guess this windfall of government assistance and projects on the poor farmers of Apayao was simply too good to believe that it took sometime before they realized that it was for real.

It has been a long time since I saw faces of disbelief and shock.

I saw it again in Luna, Apayao on Wednesday when I held the Tapatan: Gobyerno at Mamayan which is the dialogue between the officials of the Dept. of Agriculture, on one hand, and local officials, farmers and fisherfolk on the other.

The hundreds of brown faces inside the gymnasium of Luna town where the dialogue was held were all wide-eyed with mouths open as I initially told them what President Rody Duterte instructed me to relay to them.

"There will be no corruption in the Department of Agriculture under the Duterte Presidency," I told them and those in the gymnasium, including the local political leaders applauded.

Then, I announced President Duterte's commitment of free irrigation starting 2017 and support to the rice farmers for the attainment of rice self-sufficiency by 2019.

Then, one by one, the Mayors of the seven towns of this province of 120,000 people, presented their problems and concerns to me.

A road opening worth P26-M because farmers have to walk for 10 hours to bring their products to the market was approved right away with Congresswoman Eleanor Bulut-Begtang providing a counterpart of P4-M and Gov. Elias Bulut Jr. providing another counterpart of P5-M.

Repairs of small water impoundings, rehabilitation of irrigation canals, 300 shallow tube wells with engine, planting materials of fruit trees, two mechanized rice harvesters, two mechanized rice transplanters and many more approved immediately.

Finally, I announced that on top of everything the Dept. of Agriculture was allocating P100-M for livelihood programs for the province of Apayao under the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD).

To cap it all, I told the group that I would push for the establishment of a feeder airport in the isolated province of Apayao for the development of its agro-tourism potentials.

After the dialogue, I turned over to farmers' groups P41-M worth of tractors, harvesters, water pumps, cassava graters and other farm machineries.

In a matter of two hours, the people of Apayao's years of dreams and aspirations were given answers.

I don't now whether the people of Apayao have regained their senses by now but when I left at about 2 p.m. yesterday for a long trip back to Manila and then Davao, many of them could not stop expressing their thanks profusely.

They could not believe it could happen that fast.

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