Lasting Legacy of Pres. Duterte
Many years from now, the next generation of Filipinos and the people of the young nation of Papua New Guinea will remember the ceremony in Malacañang Palace on May 16, 2018 where the leaders of both countries witnessed the signing of a Joint Declaration on Agricultural Cooperation as the moment which assured both nations of food security.
I am proud to be part of that historic moment when I signed the JDAC on behalf of my country and Agriculture Minister Benny Allen signed for Papua New Guinea as President Rody Duterte and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill stood as witnesses.
For Papua New Guinea, the signing of the Joint Declaration of Agricultural Cooperation, will usher in the development of their vast tracts of uninhabited lands for agricultural production ensuring food, income and employment for the people of the 43-year-old Republic.
For the Philippines, a country with rapidly growing population and limited land area, the agricultural cooperation pact ensures the next generation of Filipinos of a source of food, especially rice, for the next 50 years.
The signing of the JDAC marks the start of the partnership between the two countries which will greatly benefit their people.
The agreement opens the PNG doors to agricultural investors from the Philippines to plant rice and other agricultural crops, including the establishment of huge dairy farms in Papua New Guinea.
Under the Agricultural Agreement, Filipino companies will lease PNG state or tribal lands to plant rice or other crops and raise dairy cows to supply the national requirements of Papua New Guinea.
Excess production will be shipped to the Philippines as export products of Papua New Guinea.
The Agreement also includes the transfer of technology and training of Papua New Guinea residents, especially in rice farming and the operation of agricultural machinery and equipment.
Papua New Guinea, a new Republic which earned independence from Australia 43 years ago, has a population of only 8 million in a land mass of over 46-million hectares.
The main land mass is in the main island of Papua which was divided previously by Indonesia in the West and Australia in the East.
While it is a rich fishing ground for Tuna, its agriculture is largely undeveloped and it imports 100% of its rice requirements totalling about 300,000 metric tons every year.
In spite of the fact that it is one of the two countries in the world (along with Indonesia) with the most number of wild rice varieties, the people of PNG have been made to believe that it is not viable to grow rice in the country.
Two years ago, however, Filipino rice experts who were invited to test the viability of rice growing in the country, reported a harvest of 8.6-metric tons per hectare even with minimal fertilization and irrigation.
This started a vigorous effort on the part of Philippine Ambassador to PNG Bienvenido Tejano to push for the forging of an agricultural cooperation agreement between the two countries.
When President Duterte and Prime Minister O’Neill met in the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam in December last year, President Duterte committed to send the Philippine Agriculture Secretary to PNG to forge an agricultural cooperation agreement.
In February of this year, I became the highest official from the Philippines after the former First Lady Imelda Marcos to visit Papua New Guinea.
In the meeting in Port Moresby, I extended the invitation of President Duterte to Prime Minister O’Neill to visit the Philippines.
On Wednesday, after a private meeting and an expanded Bilateral Meeting between President Duterte and PM O’Neill, the agricultural agreement was signed between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
The Agreement will be President Duterte’s lasting legacy to the next generations of Filipinos as this will assure the country of sufficient rice supply for the next 50 years.
By Manny Piñol
Secretary of Agriculture