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QUEZON CITY, Feb. 17 - “Gusto kong maramdaman ng mga tao dito sa dulo ng Pilipinas na mahal kayo ng Pangulo.”

“And so I am here because the President directed me to personally ask you what you need from the government,” Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said during the Tapatan: Sa Pagitan ng Gobyerno at Taumbayan dialogue held at Tubig-Boh, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi on February 13, 2017.

“We can’t fail the people. Kapag nangako ako, I make sure that I fulfill my promise and deliver it fast,” the Agri Chief said as he, together with Department of Agriculture-Undersecretary for Fisheries & Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) Director Eduardo Gongona, distributed 20 units of 20-footer fiberglass motorized boats with 20 sets of gill nets to Badjao fishers in the municipalities of Bongao and Turtle Islands.

Both towns also received 10 units of rain harvester.

Each boat, complete with engines and other accessories, costing about P35,000 will be shared by two families. “Dalawang pamilya ang mangangalaga sa isang bangka para siguradong iingatan ito at huwag ibebenta,” the Secretary said as he instructed them not to use the boats for illegal fishing.

The fiberglass boats are environment-friendly and could be used for a long time.

“Ang maganda sa mga bangkang ito ay hindi na kailangan pang magputol ng mga kahoy, matibay at magagamit ninyo ito sa mahabang panahon,” Piñol explained.

“Gusto naming matulungan ang mga Badjao,” DA Chief said as he announced that Mr. Roben Abdella, a Badjao who graduated with honors from the University of Southern Mindanao (USM- Tawi-Tawi) and now teaches at the same school, will be hired by the DA as a coordinator for the Badjaos.

As coordinator, Abdella will organize and teach Badjao children, and convince their parents to send them to school.

“Isa lang ang hinihiling ko. Sana lahat ng mga tumanggap ng bangkang ito ay makapagpaaral ng kanilang mga anak. Yan din ang hiling ng ating Presidente, na kung sakaling hindi nakapag-aral ang mga magulang, ay mapag-aral nila ang mga bata. Kailangang mabago na ang buhay ng tribong ito,” Piñol stressed.

“We can’t change things overnight but we can start today. Remember this day, a day before Valentine’s Day, sapagkat simula po sa araw na ito ay hindi na kayo pababayaan ng gobyerno. Ito na ang unang araw ng pagsikat ng bagong araw para sa mga tao dito sa Tawi-Tawi,” assured Sec. Piñol.

While in Bongao, Piñol announced that the government will make Tawi-Tawi rice-sufficient.

As such, he immediately instructed the Rice Coordinator in the province to select 10 agricultural technicians and 10 farmer-leaders to be trained at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), in Nueva Ecija.

“We really need to train our farmers here in order to develop their farming methods and eventually increase production here in the province,” he added.

In line with the same initiative, DA will help put up a rice processing center for Tawi-Tawi and provide hybrid rice seeds, tractors, and other needed inputs. (DA)