"I have spent long years in government service but I have never seen this happen ever. So much assistance poured into one place at one time," said Albay Congressman Fernando Gonzales who witnessed the turn-over of farm equipment, seeds, garden tools, rice processing centres and loaning assistance commitments in this city yesterday.
Ligao City was the first leg of my journey to the South which started 9 p.m. Thursday shortly after I came back home from a 4-day trip to Myanmar and Thailand where I joined President Duterte in his official visits.
The long land trip will take me today to Malimono town, Surigao del Norte which is reputed to be the poorest town in the province, and then Davao City for a total of about 1,800 kilometres.
In Ligao City yesterday, farmers and fisher folks stepped forward during the open forum and presented their problems which were responded to right away.
When they said that they did not have access to easy credit, I immediately directed Executive Director Jocelyn Badiola, who was with the Biyaheng Bukid team, to look for a conduit cooperative so funds could be downloaded under the PUNLA loaning program of the DAF.
Right away, I directed ACPC to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with a local credit cooperative so that an initial loanable amount of P20-million could be made available to the farmers and fisher folks.
At least two units of Solar Powered Irrigation System (SPIS) were allocated for Albay, one of which will be established in an island community which has the potential for rice farming.
A leader of a farmers' cooperative who asked for a small farm tractor appeared to be in a state of disbelief when her request was granted.
Another farmer's cooperative received a P6-million Rice Processing Center after its leader asked for just a single-pass rice mill.
A P5-M support for livelihood projects in the City of Ligao was also committed to Mayor Patricia Alsua in the presence of Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara and Cong. Gonzales.
After the forum, farm equipment which included two tractors, two combined rice harvesters, several rice transplanters and gardening tools and seeds were turned over to the farmers' groups.
It was during the forum when I learned from Cong. Gonzales that Ligao City is the home of the Trillanes family where the Senator's father, a retired colonel, still has many relatives.
As I engaged the farmers and fisher folks in a lively forum, I noticed the warmth of the people who appreciated what the Duterte government was doing to uplift their lives in a city which has a reported poverty incidence of over 80%.