Monday, June 16, 2014

Alcala says he’s not willing to go to jail over Napolist, maintains innoncence

SCIENCE CITY OF MUNOZ, Nueva Ecija – “Why will I be willing to go to jail? I’m innocent.”

          Thus reacted Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala as he maintained his innocence over his inclusion in the so-called “Napolist.”

          Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of his visit at the central experiment station of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) here Monday afternoon, Alcala said he is not like Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. who earlier said he was willing to go to jail even if the legislator professed his own innocence in the  pork barrel scam.

          Asked if he would mouth Revilla’s statements contained in the latter’s privilege speech, Alcala replied: “I’m not willing to go to jail. I committed no sin. But I’m willing to face the charges that will be filed against me,” he said.

          Alcala made fun of the socalled Napolist, saying with the emergence of so many lists allegedly involved in the scam, the list now looks more like “pambalot ng tinapa (tilapia wrapper).”

          He stressed that he had  never dealt in any capacity with suspected “pork barrel” scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in his long career in public service. “I am sure about myself that I never dealt with her, even during my incumbency as a congressman,” he said, referring to his twin terms in the House of Representatives as representative of his home province of Quezon.

          He said the supposed transactions happened between 2007 to 2009 when he was not yet the secretary of the Department of Agriculture.

          “Besides, the P10 billion involved not the DA but the Department of Agrarian Reform,” he said.

          Just the same, Alcala said he is ready to face any investigation related to the multi-million-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

He said an impartial probe, one which would rely on evidence, not innuendoes, would eventually establish his innocence.

He said  “it is hard to rebut allegations if these are not documented, if they consist only of scribbled words in some lists, if there are no specifics.”

Alcala recalled that when he became DA secretary, among his first official acts was to strictly implement austerity measures and to purge the list of non government organizations (NGOs) transacting business with the agency.

He said that this housecleaning has in fact , he said, led him to formally ask the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice to  file appropriate cases against KPMFI, a suspected Napoles NGO.

While admitting his being linked to the pork barrel scam  is an “unnecessary distraction, “ Alcala said he remains focused in his job of helping farmers produce enough affordable food to all Filipinos in partnership with other agencies and research institutions such as the PhilRice.

            Instead of a Napolist, he said he is busy on a different kind of list, one which tallies rice harvests and support given to farmers. – Manny Galvez

PhilRice seen to play key role in Phl farmers’ competitiveness amid ASEAN integration

SCIENCE CITY OF MUNOZ, Nueva Ecija – The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the government’s sole research institution in charge of attaining rice self-sufficiency, will play a major role in preparing the farming sector for the upcoming regional integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) amid the farmers’ fears of being unable to compete with their counterparts from other member economies.
       Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told newsmen without the proper interventions, the rice industry will be put a gross disadvantage once free trade takes full effect next year.

“If we have not put in place enough interventions, the scenario for our country’s farmers would be frightening. And this is where PhilRice comes in. That’s why it will play a critical role,” Alcala said.

Alcala was here to preside over the awarding of prizes to winners of “The Palayabangan : 10-5 Challenge,” a nationwide rice production competition involving farmers, non government organizations, academicians, government officials and fertilizer companies.   

Alcala said that PhilRice, under the leadership of its executive director, Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr., has undertaken steps to help farmers achieve holistic development in pursuit of its three core goals of attaining rice self-sufficiency, reduce poverty and malnutrition and achieve competitiveness through agricultural science and technology.

Rasco said the “Palayabangan: 10-5 Challenge,” practically laid the groundwork for them to become competitive. The project was launched in June last year in support of the food staples sufficiency program (FSSP) and the National Year of Rice (NYR) 2013 advocacy programs.

Rasco explained that the scheme enabled them to produce 10 tons per hectare and limit expenses to P5 a kilo. Presently, the average production cost is at P11 a kilo of palay.

Rasco said the initiative provided opportunities for all stakeholders in the rice sector to show what they can do to improve their harvest and reduce production cost.

As stipulated in the ASEAN economic community blueprint, free trade paves the way for the establishment of a single market and production base among countries in the region namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

This means that there will be a free flow of goods, including rice, services, investment, capital and skilled labor to these countries. The goal is to create a highly competitive single market that would boast of an equitable economic development.

Rasco said under the ASEAN free trade regime, imported rice will become cheaper which poses a real challenge to Filipino farmers. He said, however, that by increasing production and reducing production cost through “Palayabangan,” farmers have become competitive.

“It is particularly important to control the cost of input because the cost of production in other Southeast Asian countries is at P8 or lower, compared to the Philippines which is at P11 per kilo of palay,” he said.

Four veteran farmers from northern Luzon – Lucena Dupale, Ferdinand Melchor, Ariel Macugay and Rolando Terte - who were among those who won in the Palayabangan competition have mixed reactions on the coming integration.

Dupale, who harvested 8.05 tons at P4.98 a kilo in Alicia, Isabela  expressed confidence  the integration would have little effect on her since they can produce big volumes of harvest. She has been farming since 1990.

Melchor, of San Mateo, Isabela, said improved production would render as ineffective the entry of cheaper, imported rice. “To me, they key is to increase production,” said Melchor who has been tilling his two-hectare farm since 1994.       

Macugay, who has been farming since 2000 in his 1.3-hectare farm in Cabatuan, Isabela, said the integration is worrisome but said rice quality in the country is higher compared with rice produce in other nations which relies heavily on chemicals and pesticides.

Terte said local farmers can survive the integration challenge by improving the quality of palay and venture into integrated farming such as piggery, fishpond or aquaculture production and poultry.

Rasco said PhilRice has been continuously developing next-generation in-bred and hybrid rice varieties, climate change-ready rice and varieties containing pro-Vitamin A, those high in zinc and iron and nutraceutical to also reduce malnutrition by 50 percent.

Since 1990, the institute has helped developed 88 high-yielding, pest- and disease-resistant and palatable rice for irrigated lowland, rainfed lowland, cool-elevated, upland and saline-prone areas.

          Together with its seven branch stations, two national research centers, two regional research centers and 37 cooperating stations, it has tapped the expertise of 23 international partners and at least 50 national partners to strengthen its R & D (research and development) directions. (Manny Galvez) 

2 dead in 3 vehicle smash-up in NE

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija–Two persons, including a driver, died in a three-vehicle smash-up along the highway in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija Monday.

         Senior Superintendent Crizaldo Nieves, provincial police director, said the accident took place at 8:20 Monday along the Gapan-Olongapo Road in Barangay Alua, San Isidro.

         The fatalities were Aries dela Cruz, 28, of Jaen, Nueva Ecija and a still unidentified passenger.

           Police said those involved were a blue Nissan Sentra car with license plate ZAW 186, and driven by Dela Cruz, a white Isuzu tractor head with tanker trailer with bearing license plate LPN RKN 526, driven by Rodrigo Pascual, 52, of Alicia, Isabela and a passenger jeepney with license plate number MDP 763 driven by Mar Senia, 26, of Sto Cristo, San Isidro.

          The car was traveling at full speed to Jaen when it bumped the tractor after negotiating a sharp curve, causing the car to spin around and hit the jeepney.

         Dela Cruz and his three passengers sustained injuries and were rushed to a hospital in nearby Gapan City but dela Cruza and one passenger were pronounced deads on arrival.

         Pascual was placed under the custody of the San Isidro police and was charged with reckless imprudence resulting to double homicide with physical injuries and damage to properties. (Manny Galvez) 


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