Why PHilMech is more important today

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) has a more importance to the country’s agriculture sector than ever before, because of its major role in the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP).

And making that statement is no other than Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, who believes farm mechanization is one of the components for the modernization of the country’s agriculture sector.

Under RCEP, PHilMech will be getting P5 billion of the P10 billion allocated annually for the program in the next six years. The remaining allocation is P3 billion for the propagation of high-yielding rice seeds, P1 billion for training of rice farmers, and P1 billion for credit support.

“Mas importante na ngayon ang PHilMech kaysa (noong) nakaraan,” Sec. Dar said during his visit to the PHilMech headquarters in the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija on August 29, 2019.

Considering PHilMech’s major role in the implementation of RCEP as stipulated by Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Trade Liberalization Law, the secretary said that the agency has to align its direction with the “New Thinking of Agriculture” that Sec. Dar immediately ventilated after he was appointed to his current post by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 5, 2019.

Sec. Dar’s “New Thinking of Agriculture” has eight paradigms:
1) Roadmap development is paramount;
2) Modernization must continue;
3) Industrialization of agriculture is key;
4) Promotion of exports is a necessity;
5) Consolidation of small- and medium-sized farms;
6) Infrastructure development would be critical;
7) Higher budget and investment for Philippine agriculture; and
8) Legislative support is needed.

Sec. Dar also announced that the DA has organized the RCEP Coordination Office that will be manned by Field Operations Service Director Roy Abaya. It will serve as a unified mechanism for coordination among concerned DA agencies such as the PHilMech, Philippine Rice Research Institute, and the Agricultural Training Institute under the RCEP Steering Committee led by the DA Secretary.

“We must do it together as a team,” Dar said, emphasizing one of his favorite cross-cutting strategies to get things done, which is "collective action.”

He thus encouraged PHilMech to partner not only with the farmers and fisherfolk groups but with local government units and the private sector investors as well, to achieve what he called accelerated development. According to Dar, the DA agencies could link the farmers and fisherfolk groups with the private sector, assist them to start a agreements, and help them to eventually establish a joint venture corporation for the undertaking of major or massive agriculture projects/programs.

PHilMech making preparations

For its part, PHilMech has been making preparations for the performance of its mandate under RCEP, which is to distribute various farm machines to rice farms based on their needs, also taking into account their current level of mechanization.

PHilMech Executive Director Dr. Baldwin G. Jallorina said the agency will finalize the list of the 1,200 municipalities, for the facilitation in the deployment of farm equipment and machines under RCEP over a period of six years or from this year up to 2024.

“Each of the municipality should have a viable farmers organization with at least 100 hectares of irrigated rice lands. It would be easier for PHilMech to deploy or distribute farm machines in the 1,200 municipalities if the rice farmers there are organized," he said.

The 1,200 municipalities are located in the 16 the country's regions that host farming activities. Metro Manila is not included.

He said there are municipalities that already have a certain degree of farm mechanization while there are those that still rely largely on human or animal power in the various phases of rice production. Hence, PHilMech will have to study carefully what type of farm equipment and machines would be deployed over a cluster of municipalities.

Based on studies by the Department of Agriculture, the cost of producing one kilo or palay (unmilled rice) in the Philippines is P12.72 per kilo while it is P6.22 in Vietnam and P8.86 in Thailand. The components under RCEP can reduce the cost of producing palay in the Philippine by P1 to P3 per kilo.

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