IBA, Zambales — Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. on Friday urged local stakeholders in the agriculture sector to embrace new technology in order to increase productivity and improve sustainable farming in the province.
Ebdane issued this call after the Department of Agriculture (DA), in separate occasions, distributed farm machinery and equipment to local farmers and allotted a 62-footer fiberglass-reinforced plastic fishing boat for local fishers through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Ebdane said technological inputs are the only hope for local agriculture to rise above marginal production and introduce a paradigm shift that will attract younger generations to farming and fishing.
“This is the long-term solution to the woes of local agriculture, to low farm yield,” Ebdane said. “The distribution of farm machinery and commercial-type fishing boats are the first concrete steps toward the direction we want to take,” the governor added.
According to Melardo Feliciano, head of the mechanization program at the Zambales Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO), local farmers groups received 26 units of farm machinery last Sept. 13.
These include two four-wheel drive tractors that went to Biangue Agro Farm Association in Botolan town and Canaynayan Farm Association in Santa Cruz; two rice combine harvesters given to Dinumagat-Antipolo Farmers Association in San Antonio and Reserva-Baculi Lowland/Upland Farmers Association in Cabangan town; two multi-cultivators for Batag Farmers Association in Palauig and Candelaria Organic Farmers Association in Candelaria; a hand tractor for Samahang Magsasaka ng Poonbato in Botolan; and 19 shallow tube wells for farmers groups in Cabangan, San Antonio, Candelaria, Santa Cruz, San Marcelino, Castillejos, and Palauig towns.
Aside from these, he said that registered farmers associations also benefit from warehouses with recirculating dryers, warehouse with mobile flash dryer, solar-powered fertigation systems for fertilizer application, and other facilities from the national government that PAO processes for approval upon endorsement by local government units.
Feliciano said that farmers’ groups in Zambales received 37 units of various farm machinery and equipment worth P35.6 million in 2020; 21 units in 2021, and 55 units this year.
Meanwhile, the Iba Federation of Fishermen has received an allocation for a 62-footer fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) boat for handline fishing.
Neil Encinares, who is Zambales Provincial Fisheries Officer, said this will be one of the 33 vessels to be manufactured by the Subic-based Pacificfortia Marine Tech. Inc. (PMTI) for fishermen groups in the country under a DA-BFAR program.
“It can go as far as 200-300 nautical miles, well past the Scarborough Shoal, but it can also operate in municipal waters,” Encinares said, adding that the DA-BFAR previously built 38-footer boats but gave these up for the new design that can operate in international waters and compete with foreign vessels.
The 62-footer prototype, which was launched by PMTI on Sept. 21 at the Subic Fish Port, has a storage capacity of three tons and thus can stay in the open sea to fish for a week. It also has six smaller FRP “catcher” boats riding astride its outriggers.
Encinares said the catcher boats will be deployed upon reaching the fishing ground, and fish for tuna and other big fish species to be stocked in the mother boat.
Gov. Ebdane, who witnessed the inauguration of the 62-footer FRP boat in Subic, lauded the project as a timely government initiative and “a huge first step towards the next level” for the local fishing industry.
He also urged the beneficiary groups to take care of the assets given by the government and put them to good productive use.