Date Published: September 29, 2016
Two farm-to-market road (FMR) subprojects under the Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) in Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay are helping the town maintain peace and order, alongside providing opportunities for farmers and fisherfolk to improve their livelihood and increase incomes.
According Municipal Mayor Yashier Musa, the 2.64-kilometer Dawa-Dawa–Tubig Sina FMR in Barangay La Paz and 2.04-kilometer Gulayon–Sitio Tantawan FMR in Barangay Gulayon have enabled the local government unit, and the armed forces and police to periodically visit the villages covered by the FMRs, discouraging insurgents to build or maintain strongholds.
“Before, it was like a ghost town [as] rebels hide there. Now, with the new roads, the army and police can [easily] patrol the villages. It is much more peaceful now,” Musa said.
Although the two FMRs have yet to be completely concreted, these have already enabled vehicles to pass through as fine grading and compaction works are now finished.
Hauling convenience, savings
“The residents are happy as vehicles can now enter their villages. They can now command better prices for their products,” Musa said, adding that farmers and fishers can now sell their harvests immediately—fresh and of high quality.
He recalled that since the start of the road rehabilitation, traders started to haul products from the villages such as seaweed and crabs.
Alicia sits along the Tantanang Bay and apart from cash crops such as cassava, rice, corn and coconut, the town also boasts of abundance in sea-based products. The two FMRs, for instance, have a total influence area of 360 hectares for seaweeds, or agal-agal as locals call it.
“Before, the bay was their [only] way to the market. Sometimes, it was difficult for them because they had to brave heavy rains and strong winds at sea,” the mayor said.
Sammy Asani, a fisherfolk from Sitio Tantawan said that they now have a choice besides hiring pumpboats—a costlier and riskier option—when it comes to selling their produce, thanks to the P19 million-worth road improvement.
“We spend twice as much when hiring pumpboats since we also have to pay for the labor. With trucks now coming here to haul our harvests, our hauling cost has been practically reduced to zero,” Asani said.
Farmers and fishers share the same experience in Sitio Tubig Sina where the road was actually a mere trail and the residents had no other option but to bring their produce to Mabuhay town, across the Tantanang Bay.
Abubakar Saman, a Mosque leader in the sitio said that the construction of the P23.6 million-worth Dawa-Dawa–Tubig Sina FMR may also pave the way for the electrification of their village.
Mayor Musa has confirmed this as he had already secured the commitment of the provincial government unit and the Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative (ZAMZURECO).
“[ZAMZURECO] has been penetrating areas without electricity. The only reason they were not able to do this [in Tubig Sina] was because the absence of road. Now that the road is here, we are sure that the area will soon be linked to the electric grid,” Musa said.
Musa is optimistic that with the new roads, additional production areas will be opened and more entrepreneurs will invest, especially in seaweed farming.
The mayor also believes that as the government brings development and help address problems in their constituent communities, peace would be an eventual outcome.
The offshoot of the Mindanao Rural Development Program, the DA-PRDP is a six-year national government platform for developing an inclusive, value chain-oriented and climate-resilient agri-fisheries sector. ### (Jan P. Dacumos, DA-PRDP NPCO InfoACE Unit)