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DA honors Philippine agri champion, lifetime contributor, rice industry achievers

Author: DA Communications Group | 2 December 2020

The Department of Agriculture (DA) recognized the remarkable contributions of four Philippine agriculture sector luminaries, top producing provinces, and rice industry achievers, led by Senator Cynthia A. Villar, at the recent 2019 Rice Achievers Award (RAA).

Agriculture Secretary William Dar and other top DA officials handed over the respective certificates of recognition to the awardees, led by Senator Villar, who was cited as “Champion of Philippine Agriculture” for her continuing legislative efforts in uplifting the country’s agri-fishery sector, in ceremonies held on November 27, 2020 at the DA-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) in Quezon City.

The DA cited the legislator’s lead role in enacting major legislation such as the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) that provides an annual P10-billion budget for the flagship Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) program.

Senator Villar in a video message said: “Rest assured that the government, for its part, will continue its effort to help farmers through the distribution of inbred and hybrid seeds to rice-producing provinces, continue extension training, fast-track distribution of farm machineries, and increase accessibility of loans all for the benefit of rice farmers. It is my mission to make our farmers competitive and profitable.”

The other three DA awardees were: Monetary Board Member Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino; former Director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice); and DA Assistant Secretary for Operations Andrew Villacorta, who retired on November 30, 2020.

Tolentino received the “Lifetime Contributor Award” for his efforts in sustaining the development of Philippine agriculture and reforming the agricultural credit policy system.

He previously served as DA assistant secretary and later as undersecretary for policy, planning, and international trade, from 1986 to 1993, and before that as the first executive director of the DA-Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC). From 2012 to 2018, he worked at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as deputy director-general, until he was appointed as a member of the Monetary Board in July 2018.

“Indeed, rice has been my life’s work. I worked on rice in various agencies, in various countries, in various roles and capacities. In 1986, when I started working at the Department of Agriculture under Secretary Carlos Dominguez, I also happened to be working with Dr. William Dar, who was then the director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research. I was lucky to have those two men to work with, and they have both inspired me throughout my career,” Tolentino said.

Former PhilRice executive director, Dr. Santiago R. Obien received the “Legacy Award” for leading the country’s main research and development center in rice, and in the process inspiring and nurturing young minds towards rice innovations, breakthroughs, and extension works. He served PhilRice for 14 years, from 1987 to 2000. A well-respected pillar in the Philippine rice industry, Dr. Obien currently serves as consultant and senior technical adviser of the DA’s national rice program.

“At my age of 85, I treasure this award. It belongs to the top five awards I have received in my life. I devoted the best of my life to rice, and supporting our rice farmers,” he said.

Villacorta received the “Service Excellence Award” for dedicating his career to helping rice farmers increase their productivity and incomes. He served the Department for 41 years at various capacities, notably as DA regional director for Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon.

Ako po ay naniniwala na sa pamumuno ng ating ‘Manong Willie’ at sa participation ng local government units — governors, municipal agriculturists, provincial agriculturists, and agricultural extension workers, together with irrigators’ associations, SWISA, at lahat ng magsasaka — siguro by 2022 tayo ay magiging self-sufficient na,” Villacorta said.

In his keynote message, Secretary Dar said that rice adequacy remains the important goal of the country. He said the recent challenges faced by Philippine agriculture is a turning point for the Department to reform its policies, strategies and resources towards innovation and climate-resilient agriculture.

“It is my vision to see a productive, globally competitive, and resilient Philippine agriculture that gives prosperity to farmers. This has been our battlecry and we will do what must be done to make that vision a reality,” he said.

The DA originally targeted to increase the country’s rice adequacy level to at least 91.5 percent this year. However, the global pandemic and series of strong typhoons in the past two months have stalled the attainment of said goal.

“In a world where we are surrounded by the gifts of technology and innovation, we must strive to withstand the impacts of climate change, rice imports, and typhoons no matter how strong and how many they are, or even the impact of global-scale disruptions such as this pandemic,” Dar said.

He added that the Duterte administration’s flagship rice program features three components: hybrid rice, expanded inbred, and RCEF.

He said the DA will also intensify its Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative on Agriculture (AMIA) program by piloting more AMIA villages in the regions, provinces, and towns that will also promote integrated farming.

He directed all DA regional field offices to pilot a program that will further enhance the provincial-led agri-fishery extension systems. ### (Kristel Merle, DA-AFID)

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