“Thirteen Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Organizations and 17 Institutional Markets will be our partners in implementing the Enhanced Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty (EPAHP) program in various provinces of Region 8 (Eastern Visayas).”

This was the statement of Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles who was the main guest speaker in the 6th Virtual Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Marketing Agreement Signing between the DAR, BJMP, DA, DOH, DILG and DSWD held on Wednesday, August 12, 2020 at the Hotel Alejandro in Tacloban City.

“With perseverance, dedication and cooperation, no pandemic can prevent our fight against hunger.”

“I’m extremely honored to witness the signing of this agreement between key government agencies in our fight against hunger. Despite the physical limitation brought by the pandemic, our partners continue to work to achieve our common goals,” stressed Nograles who serves as the Head of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger.

According to Nograles, the online event was the “biggest” regional MOU signing he had attended so far.

“With perseverance, dedication, and cooperation, no pandemic can prevent our fight against hunger.”

The virtual signing was attended by DAR Secretary John Castriciones, Undersecretary for Support Services Emily Padilla, Undersecretary Virginia Orogo, Assistant Secretary Milagros Isabel Cristobal, DAR Region 8 OIC-Regional Director Ismael Aya-ay, Assistant Regional Director for Administration Ma. Fe Malinao, CARPO Melecia Ong, EPAHP Focal Person Josefina Amande, BJMP Regional Director Jail Senior Superintendent Felly Atienza Cebuma, Jail Senior Superintendent of BJMP National Head Quarters Flory Sanchez, DSWD Regional Director Marie Angela Gopalan, DA Regional Director Angel Enriquez, DOH Regional Director Dr. Minerva Molon, DILG Regional Director Karl Caesar Rimando, Ms. Susan Gambalan, Ms. Zane Cortez, Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries and other partner agencies.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that since May, they have started to encourage EPAHP partner agencies to implement online set-ups and activities to fast-track program implementation.

In the July 24, 2020 EPAHP Steering Committee Meeting, the Malacañang official said they agreed to conduct regular regional meetings to enable the central office and the steering committee to guide implementing agencies and foster better coordination between stakeholders.

“With the help of DTI and other EPAHP partners, we are preparing the proposals to conduct more online interaction, with the aim of giving access to more private and government commerce in agricultural products,” stressed Nograles.

The EPAHP program aims to link more farmers organizations with institutional feeding programs of government in order to increase agricultural production and provide more income to farmers, all aimed at addressing hunger.

It is part of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 and similar directives of President Rodrigo Duterte. The objective is to reduce poverty incidence to 14% by the end of the President’s term.

“From an initial three agencies, now we have more than eleven, which includes the DILG, BJMP, DepEd, DOH, NNC, DOST, DTI, NAPC, NIA, TESDA, PopCom, LANDBANK, DBP and DICT,” Nograles explained, adding that its key components are credit and market access to community-based organizations.

Last month, the EPAHP Steering Committee approved the inclusion of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), National Dairy Authority (NDA), Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), and Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) as additional program partners.

The EPAHP program aims to link more farmers organizations with institutional feeding programs of government.

The former Davao legislator likewise said that the 13 MOUs and MAs signed thus far between the government and private sector is proof of the EPAHP’s success and viability.

The ARBOs that signed during the ceremony included the Paglaum FA and Maalsada FISCO from Leyte; Almeria Seafarers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (ASEMCO) from Biliran; Carnaga MPC, MAGAPSO Irrigators Association, Association of Farmers & Advocates of Organic Farming Inc. (AFAOFI) and BUENAPAMA ARB MPC from Southern Leyte; San Gabriel Farmers ARB Coop, Camagting Agricultural Association and FEA ARCO from Eastern Samar; AOVR and Balat-Balud FA from Northern Samar, and Hilaba FA from Western Samar.

Under the MOU and Marketing Agreements, the ARBOs would supply their agricultural products to these Institutional Markets: Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, Schistosomiasis Control and Research Hospital, DOH Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, Tacloban City Jail Male Dorm and Tacloban City Jail Female Dorm in Leyte; Naval District Jail in Biliran; San Juan District Jail, Sogod District Jail and Maasin District Jail in Southern Leyte; Borongan City District Jail, Guiuan District Jail and Balangiga District Jail in Eastern Samar; Catarman District Jail, Laoang Municipal Jail and DSWD in Northern Samar; Catbalogan City District Jail at Basey Municipal Jail in Western Samar.

The DAR has likewise entered into MOUs and MAs signing in ten regions, including CAR, Regions I, II, III, IV-A, IV-B, V, IX, XI and CARAGA. EPAHP is expected to be launched soon in six other regions and BARMM. 

“I strongly encourage everyone, from government and the public sector alike, to actively participate. We need to assist our farmers in this time of pandemic. I also challenge our ARBOs and local farmers’ organizations in Region 8 to be more pro-active because there is a steady, assured market for your produce,” said Nograles.

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