Experts from the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) assured the public that the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Mechanization Component is pushing through despite the COVID-19 pandemic. They announced the news over the RiceMech Kapihan via Facebook Live on PHilMech’s Facebook page on May 26, 2020, as part of the agency’s 42nd Anniversary Celebration.

Technology Management and Training division chief Helen Calica said that training courses have already been conducted in 2019 and early 2020. A shift to online training courses will become the “new normal” so long as quarantine restrictions are still in place.

Calica’s team are looking to tap the youths in coops to assist its members once training courses are online. Hands-on training will still be conducted once quarantine restrictions are lifted.

Delivery of machines to 624 Farmers’ Cooperatives and Association (FCAs) under the program will start by June 2020 according to Facility Management and Field Operations division chief, Joel Dator. Bidding for the remaining 1068 FCAs will start in June 2020, with deliveries to follow shortly after.

Dator’s team will continue to validate FCAs in order to provide them with additional machines if they need it. FCAs who did not qualify in 2019 can apply for 2020 as long as requirements are met.

A total of 34,000 information, education and communication (IEC) materials have been produced and distributed to farmers and stakeholders nationwide over the past year, according to Applied Communication division chief, Engr. Aldrin Badua.

With info campaigns broadcasted through television and radio, Badua plans to create segments for a school-on-the-air, as well as TV programs to provide further information to farmers and stakeholders, especially those in far-flung areas.

A text hotline is also in the works to allow farmers and the public to send questions regarding the mechanization program or anything related to postharvest machines and its procedures.

Headed by Engr. Genaro Tolentino, the enterprise development, a subcomponent of the program in charge of institutional enterprise and sustainability, have trained 51 FCAs to create business and operational plans.

An operations management manual is also in the works which will educate FCAs on how to utilize the machines, as well as how to earn from it post-program.

Tolentino says that consultations among FCAs will be conducted which will address their needs in terms of facilities and equipment for enterprise. FCAs will also be assessed on how well they use their machines in order to achieve the goal of the mechanization program of lowering the cost production.

Despite the pandemic, PHilMech will continue its efforts in making sure that the mechanization program will continue in the most efficient and safest way possible.

Article by Gio Anton T. Barroga