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Vigan City, Ilocos Sur -Gathering around 500 participants, the Ilocos Region successfully hosted the 2017 National Convergence Initiative for Sustainable Rural Development (NCI-SRD) Summit held at Vigan Convention Center, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur on June 20, 2017.

The NCI-SRD is a multi-sectoral and integrated planning approach adopted by four rural agencies, the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) towards more efficient use of resources.

A national event of the NCI-SRD that is conducted once every two years, the 2017 NCI Summit aims to provide an overview of the NCI-SRD to the new administration and present success stories of convergence sites at different stages of implementation.

Gracing the event as Guest of Honor and Speaker during the opening program is no less than the Senate Committee Chair on Agriculture, Senator Cynthia A. Villar who happens to also now hold chairmanship of the other three rural development agencies, DAR, DENR and DILG.

Other honored guests during the summit include DAR Secretary Rafael V. Mariano, DA Undersecretaries (USEC) Ranibai D. Dilangalen and Evelyn G. Laviña, DAR USEC Rosalina Bistoyong, DENR USEC Atty. Jonas R. Leones, DILG USEC Austere A. Panadero, DOT USEC Silvino Q. Tejada, NCI-SRD National Focal person Dir. Angel C. Enriquez, Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis V. Singson, 1st District Congressman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano, Vigan City Mayor Juan Carlo Medina and DA-RFO I Regional Executive Director Narciso A. Edillo, among others.

Sen. Villar acknowledged the need for collaboration among agencies to impact rural development change in the countryside. “The goal of the NCI-SRD is for the DA. DAR, DENR and DILG to reduce poverty and ensure sustainable countryside development through farming and fishing which is aligned with my own goal and advocacy.”, Villar said. “I am confident that the collaboration of the four government departments will create a positive impact in the lives of many Filipinos in the countryside.”, she added.

Villar talked about the various senate legislations she had worked on that would help secure better income for farmers and fisherfolk. She mentioned the Farm Tourism Development Law or RA 10816 that benefits farmers and farming communities. Farm Tourism is the development of farms into tourism sites where a farm school can also be established. Here, farmers can derive income thru farming, from the tourists that visits the farm and from the operation of a farm school where other farmers and agriculturally inclined individuals can learn new technologies in farming, mechanization and agribusiness sense.

She said that the Farm Tourism Development Law is a concrete example of an effective collaboration of two government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Department of Tourism. An important provision in the RA 10816 according to Villar is for the DA and DOT to encourage the establishment of one farm tourism site in every province of the country.

Villar also mentioned how she is working with TESDA for an allocation of Php500M per year to pay for the scholarship of farmers and farmers’ children. In particular, TESDA shall pay P12,000 per student for about 45,000 students who will enroll at farm schools. “It is very important that farmers will learn how to be profitable in agriculture and they can learn that from our farm schools.”, she explained. She assured that she will work on the legislation of said funding so that TESDA will still be able to implement it even if she will no longer be in the senate.

She also mentioned a legislation providing free irrigation to farmers and that has already been passed to make it permanent starting this year 2017 and onwards. With an allocated budget of Php8 billion, farmers are eased with the burden of added production cost thru irrigation fees collected from them.

Other legislations she is giving focus on which she mentioned are the provision of free agricultural insurance to farmers; review on the legislation of the Agricultural Mechanization (AFMech) law that is supposed to be implemented by the PhilMech; and the review on the implementation of the Agri-Agra law.“I will continue to pursue legislations that will compliment the actions and programs of the government departments and the local government units.”, she assured.

Meanwhile, other activity highlights during the summit include the Signing of the NCI-SRD Joint Resolutions such as: Designation of Master in Public Management Major in Rural Development graduates as members of the National and Regional Technical Working Groups of the NCI-SRD; Adoption of One convergence area per region. Also, the NCI-SRD National Steering Committee and the DOT Secretary signed the NCI-SRD – DOT Memorandum of Agreement. Updates of the NCI-SRD and the key successes of the local convergence strategy were also presented during the opening day of the summit.

To recognize the successful convergence initiatives implemented, the NCI-SRD also launched the Search for Best Convergence Site of 2018. To showcase the success stories of the convergence sites per region, a total of 17 tarpaulin exhibits by the RCI-TWG were featured at the exhibit area of the program venue which also include showing of an AVP of shared testimonies of stakeholders and programs underscoring the ridge to reef approach.

Taking the opportunity that the summit was hosted by Region I, the Province of Ilocos Sur likewise conducted the Ceremonial Launching of its proposed convergence area which is the IDAIT or the Institutionalization of District-Wide Agro Industrialization, Innovation, and Tourism. Championed by Congressman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano, the IDAIT Convergence site aims to realize an integrated area development model that shall position the province of Ilocos Sur among top economic performers in the Northern Luzon Quadrangle cluster. As an entry point, the IDAIT convergence shall initially focus on the development of the value chain of egg/poultry industry in Ilocos Sur.

Part of the 2017 NCI-SRD Summit is also the conduct of the NCI-SRD 2017 Midyear Assessment and Operational Planning at One Vittoria Hotel in Bantay, Ilocos Sur which was conducted following the summit opening program and which will conclude on June 23, 2017.

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