CATBALOGAN CITY-The government is targeting to lessen poverty incidence in Samar Island by at least 25% in two years. This was the bold pronouncement of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who was in this city on Wednesday (July 13) to meet with regional officials and representatives of various organizations in the agriculture and fishery sectors. Addressing the problem on poverty that remains prevalent in the three Samar provinces will be among the top priorities of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, Piñol said. The Agriculture Secretary is the first Cabinet member of the Duterte administration to visit Eastern Visayas.
Samar Island, comprising the provinces of Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar, are among the 10 poorest provinces in the country based on the 2015 survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority. Eastern Samar is the second poorest province in the country with 55.4% poverty incidence while and Northern Samar and Samar provinces have both with 43.5% poverty incidence.

All three provinces are depending on farming and fishing as their main source of livelihood. “What we will do now is to have a quick response to the problem which our people could feel within six months to one year,” Piñol said. The government intervention to the needs of Samar provinces will be handled by the Project Management Team headed by the technical staff from the Department of Agriculture (DA) with members from respective local government units to identify the problems, interventions and even the recipients of the program. “We need to identify the beneficiaries and pinpoint their exact location. In fact, if we need to database them. We will do it because we would like to make sure that the assistance that the government will provide goes to the right recipients,” Piñol stressed. “This is an immediate assistance that we need to finish within two years. The mandate given to me by our President is to focus on food production and poverty alleviation. What we are looking at now is how much food Samar can contribute to the country. My commitment is things will change for the people of Samar,” the agriculture Secretary added.

For the next two years, DA will focus on increasing on rice, corn and livestock productions, intercropping on coconut plantation, tree farming program that will give additional income to families tending farms and irrigation. “We are very eager and feel lucky that the national government is now focusing in Samar. Most likely, people will feel the improvement. I hope and I am positive that we can achieve that goal of reducing 25% of our poverty incidence,” Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan. “I hope that the people in the grassroots will cooperate in the programs of President Duterte. But I am positive that we here in Samar province will help to achieve this goal,” Tan added. Among the requests that the provincial government of Samar had forwarded to Sec. Piñol includes assistance for rice production that includes irrigation, seed distribution and reduction of equity of farmers.

Aside from Gov. Tan, present were Governors Jose Ong of Northern Samar and Leopoldo Dominico Petilla of Leyte. Also present were Representatives Edwin Ong (2nd dist., Northern Samar), Vicente Veloso (Leyte, 3rd distr.), Biliran Rep. Rogelio Espina and Victoria Isabel Noel of the An Waray party-list group. (ROEL T. AMAZONA)