Friday, February 18, 2011

Alcala blasts IRRI for attacks on government rice self-sufficiency program

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, February 18, 2011-Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday slammed the International Rice Research Institute for doubting over the Aquino government’s rice self-sufficiency target of attaining an importation free status in 2013, saying that the international agency has confined its operations only in its headquarters in Los Banos,  Laguna and does not have a grasp of the overall rice production situation in the country.

In a recent press conference following the inauguration of the brand-new P22.5-million Benigno Aquino Sr. farmers’ training center at the National Irrigation Administration-Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems compound here yesterday morning, Alcala said the IRRI does not know the reality on the ground with regards to the country’s rice situation its so-called experts do not go on the field unlike the government’s technicians.

Alcala was accompanied here by National Irrigation Administration chief Antonio Nangel, NIA senior deputy administrator Antonio Galvez, Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali and the various regional directors and projects managers of the agency. 

“They (IRRI experts) just stay in Los Banos. They don’t go around the country to get the actual situation,” he said. He noted that during the recent floods that hit Mindanao, fieldmen from the Department of Agriculture visited the calamity-hit island but the IRRI people refused to go.

“They are afraid to go there because of the floods,” he said.

Alcala made his statements after the IRRI described as “somewhat ambitious” the government’s 2013 target.

Dr. Achim Dobermman, IRRI deputy director for research noted that the government’s rice target will be difficult to achieve during the next three years because of extreme weather conditions brought by climate change.

Alcala said that the Aquino administration is focused on various programs and policies unlike past administrations which only concentrated on a single program. “In the past, if the program is on seeds, they only focused on seeds. In our case, we focus on post harvest facilities, irrigation among others,” he said.

He said the government is determined to attain its objectives by 2013 even with the Doubting Thomases who expressed reservations over the plan. “My friends in Congress have been telling me not to give a self-imposed deadline on rice self-sufficiency but we are determined to meet our targets,” he said.

Lawyer Ronilo Beronio, executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute, told Alcala that the institute has a new in-bred variety, 222 which yields seven tons per hectare, nearly double the current average of 3.8 tons per hectare.

Alcala said if the variety is used by farmers and yields five tons per hectare, then the government no longer needs to import rice in the future.

He also called on regional directors of NIA to closely coordinate with the irrigators’ associations in delivering frontline services to farmers towards the goal of attaining rice self-sufficiency. (Jason de Asis)

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