The Philippine Star, Feb. 11, 2007

Aurora province a future leader in agri growth
By Manny Galvez

BALER, Aurora -This province, which stands proudly on the shores of a horseshoe-shaped coastal valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean some 232 kilometers east of Manila, has been hailed by Korean Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Hong Jong Ki as a future leader in agricultural growth in the country with the establishment of a $2.6 million (P138.8 million) rice processing complex.

Hong said the recently inaugurated facility, located in a 1.1 hectare site in Barangay Reserva some three kilometers from the town proper, will open up vast economic opportunities for the Philippines in terms of agricul- tural development.

"Being the first grant by the Korean government in the agricultural mechanization to be established in a country where agriculture is the foundation of its national economy, I expect that. this rice processing and milling complex project will serve as a model state-of-the-art rice production facility in the country and therefore, playa significant role in the agricultural and economic development of the Phil- ippines,lI Hong said in a speech which was read in behalf by Hong Sung Mog, minister and consul general of the Korean Embassy.

The facility was negotiated by the Angaras - Sen. Edgardo Angara, Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, House Deputy Minority Leader Juan Edgardo Angara and Baler Mayor Arthur Angara. It was funded at a cost of $2.6 million, of which $2.3 million came from KOICA and $300,000as counterpart funding.

It is equipped with state-of-the-art post-harvest facility (PHF) to produce high-quality rice and will serve as one-stop service center providing, leasing of large farming machines, non-stop drying, storing and milling; purchasing of wet paddy rice and selling of high-quality milled rice. It also has a storage house, warehouse, generator house and steel-framed structure with walls of insulated panels.

Angara said local farmers can save P29,OOO each per hectare per year using the facility. He noted that the country's farmers lose as much as P15.2 billion due to the lack of PHFs, with total losses in palay production accounting for about 15 percent of the country's rice harvest, far worse than the P7.65 billion the government spends for rice importation.

The senator, a former agriculture secretary, noted that recorded losses in corn production also reached 12.7 percent or P2.15 billion which is also more than the country's corn imports of P1.46 billion.

"Food is more expensive to produce here than in many parts of Asia," he said, adding that Philippine agriculture is handicapped by the lack of basic facilities.

With the RPC, he said that palay farmers in the province could become rice traders, with their incomes doubling from P9 per kilo of palay to P24 per kilo of rice.

Governor Angara-Castillo said the project was a dream come true for the province. "In only nine months, this gigantic project was before you, thanks to our Korean friends who laid the fresh solid rock foundation of that dream," she said. She added that the Korean government not only provided the building but also technical support and equipment which was not contained in the agreement between the two parties.

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