President Rodrigo Duterte led the ceremonial distribution of agricultural assistance to farmers of Region XII on Friday, January 10. He was accompanied by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go during the event held at the Municipal Gymnasium, Pigcawayan, Cotabato.
During the event, President Duterte distributed P58 million worth of farm inputs and machineries to various farmer-cooperatives and associations in Region XII. Four farmer-leaders represented them during the ceremonial distribution, each receiving a certificate of award for varying amounts of certified palay seeds, OPV corn seeds, urea fertilizers and hand tractors. Three farmers from Libungan, Cotabato also personally received from the President their individual cash cards issued by the Land Bank of the Philippines containing the P5,000 financial assistance. All of the 100 farmers from Libungan who are tilling two hectares of land or less received their own financial assistance cash cards containing P5,000 each during the said event.
The President, in his speech, recognized the invaluable contribution of the farmers to the socio-economic growth of the country, particularly in Mindanao.
“We ask you to work with the administration so that together, we work on challenges ahead,” the President said.
Duterte added that the government will maintain regular consultations with the agricultural sector in order to determine and address its needs.
He also asked the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to put up a training center in Pigcawayan, Cotabato to further enhance the skills and knowledge of farmers.
Go, himself, has been vocal about the importance of supporting the country’s agricultural sector. In past interviews, Go has spoken about uplifting the situation of farmers as a way to ensure food security in the country.
“Isa sila sa nagbibigay sa atin ng pagkain kaya malaki ang dapat na ibibigay nating tulong sa mga magsasaka. Talagang mahalaga sila sa bansa,” Go stated.
Go also lauded efforts of the government to improve the accessibility of fertilizers and new farming equipment, as well as the creation of proper funding for the pension of farmers and scholarship of farmer’s children and future farmers alike.
“Itong abono, itong mga bagong makinarya, itong pension plan sa mga farmers, itong scholarship sa kanilang mga anak, at marami pang iba ay mahalagang tugunan dahil alam ko na ang mga ito ay iilan sa mga pinaka-priority ng mga farmers natin,” the senator said.
During the event, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) head Ricardo Visaya also briefed the President on the irrigation systems in Region XII. Further, Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar gave updates on the assistance extended and the proposed projects for the farmers of Region XII, including projects of NIA and National Food Authority (NFA). During his speech, the President instructed NIA to complete the Communal Irrigation System projects in Cotabato within 2020.
Meanwhile, after the event, Go was asked by members of the press regarding the repatriation efforts for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East amid rising tensions in the region.
Go said that concerned agencies are closely coordinating with the national government regarding the volatile situation of the Middle East region.
“Sa ngayon, nandudoon po si Special Envoy, si Sec. Cimatu at from time to time magre-report po siya sa ating Pangulo kung ano ‘yung sitwasyon,” Go said, emphasizing that the priority of the Duterte Administration is to ensure the safety of Filipinos in affected areas and their immediate repatriation.
“Sa ngayon, I’m urging all the secretaries, magkaisa po kayo para isa lang po ang ating mga pronouncement para hindi naman po magkagulo, so I will suggest also to the President, isang tao lang po ang on top dito sa usapang ito,” he added.
As for the renewed call of American senator Dick Durbin for Senator Leila De Lima’s release, Go urged the foreign lawmaker to be informed about the latter’s case first before commenting.
“Sa Senator Durbin, alamin mo muna. Alam n’yo naman this is not persecution, wala pong ganon. Not the style of President Duterte. Senator Durbin, there is a prosecution ongoing, may kaso, there is a case and it was upheld by the Supreme Court. Know the facts first,” said Go.
Finally, asked about his reaction regarding the recent statement of Bongbong Marcos about his plan to run for a position in the 2022 elections, Go said that every Filipino has the right to democratically elect their leaders.
“Lahat naman po ay qualified tumakbo. This is democracy, lahat naman po ay may karapatang mamuno sa ating bansa,” he said, adding that he is even willing to be the campaign manager of aspiring leaders who can continue the changes started by the President and who would commit to continue the fight against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption.
“Senator po ako until 2025 and I’m willing to be the campaign manager po kung sino po ‘yung makakapagpatuloy ng pagbabagong inumpisahan ni Pangulong Duterte, ‘yun lang po ang akin,” he said.
“Huwag nyo lang pong sayangin ‘yung inumpisahang pagbabago ni Pangulong Duterte, labanan n’yo ang korapsyon, labanan nyo ang kriminalidad, at labanan nyo ang iligal na droga, labanan nyo ‘yung tatlong ‘yan, I will support you po,” he added.