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Monday, October 10, 2011

Pilar’s stand-out legacies: Education, agri reforms

PILAR Bohol, Oct 11, (PIA) – Local officials here leave two stand-out visible legacies with the potential to strategically pin Pilar as economic growth hub, just as Mayor Wilson Pajo’s last term winds down in May 2012.

But for other local leaders, the milestone infrastructure development shadows an even more beneficial treat to the people of a town that has been identified as the rice granary of Bohol.

Everybody however agrees that central to all these efforts, is Mayor Pajo who has a tight grasp of the town’s development throttles.

Faced with scarce fiscal resources, the mayor admits he has to engineer a rational spending pattern while leaving enough leverage funds for convergence projects that Bohol local government units have recently mainstreamed.

Pillar of Bohol’s Rice Production: Pilar’s Modern Rice Processing Complex

Biggest among Pilar’s key infrastructure development is the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) funded Modern Rice Processing Complex which is expected to improve domestic self-sufficiency in rice in Pilar and nearby communities as strategic rice-producing area here.

We have the largest irrigated farms in the region but without the proper post harvest facilities, there is a lot of wasted palay that should have gone to farmer savings, according to Mayor Pajo.

With the problem, the new facility enhances efficiency in the rice post-production by reducing post-harvest losses, enhancing the quality of milled rice, improving the distribution system, and maximizing rice by-products.

The project, pegged at P195 M gets a KOICA grant of P125 M while the local government of Bohol and Pilar town contributes significant amounts in the philosophy of convergence, he said.

The KOICA grant would be used to construct buildings, provide equipment and machinery, dispatch experts to provide technical advice on the project implementation as well as technical and managerial training.

Beyond that, the mayor disclosed that the Department of Agriculture has earmarked another P20M for the project Just as Pilar has put up a one hectare lot for the complex, spent for the clearing and land leveling including the putting up of drainage systems.

For Pilar Vice Mayor Wilfredo Bernante, the establishment of the modern rice complex in their town a manifestation of the government’s commitment to boost rice production and assures farmers that their government is looking for their benefit in facilitating technology that could bolster their income status.

The rice processing complex integrates state-of-the-art postharvest facilities that will provide continuous drying, storing and milling while its operation also allows buying wet paddy rice and selling high-quality milled commercial rice, Mayor Pajo added.

This too as records show that post-harvest losses in Bohol represent 14.5 percent of its total harvest, which went as high as 31,000 tons in a year.

Losses were primarily caused by insufficient drying and milling facilities, local sources revealed.

With its completion in time for the first cropping harvest next year, the facility will immediately serve postharvest and marketing needs of rice farmer-beneficiaries of the Bohol Integrated Irrigation System in the towns of Pilar, Dagohoy, San Miguel, Alicia, and Ubay.

These towns also are served by Bohol’s three large dams: Malinao, Bayongan, and Capayas.

According to the municipal agriculture office, the facility reduces postharvest losses of about 2 million metric tons per year or an estimated P22M per year.

It also reduces labor cost for efficient rice processing operation while saving 9 million pesos annually; provide additional P16,000 income for farmer-beneficiaries in patronage incentives; and increase milled rice market value.

For Pilarnons, the presence of the facility creates jobs for an estimated 300 individuals who will run the complex operations from buying to selling, said Agricultural Training Institute.

Striving to invest on human Capital: Pilar STRIVE models Bohol education reforms

Cognizant of the critical role education gives for the sustainability of its progress, Pilar took a hard look at its local priorities in education and found huge discrepancies.

There was a lot of student drop-outs. There were very few good schools. The equipments were so basic many leaders believe students, it they learn anything in school, its in a tough environment of creativity in adversity.

In the first place, Pilar’s fourth class standing merits no more than affording a little basic education fund, one barely enough to get all its students into classrooms.

We used to have students having classes in makeshift classroom from an abandoned construction warehouse, on community stages, under the trees and anywhere imaginable, shared Gualberto Jaspe, federated Parents and Teachers association president in the town.

Investments in education then came as a priority in the town as local leaders see it as a sustainable method of engaging the attitude towards learning, which may be ironically the fastest way out of poverty for our people, admits municipal social welfare officer Wichita Lagapa.

Priority project identified by the people who have been instilled into the rhythm of community driven development as an aftereffect of the Kapit Bisig laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI CIDSS) was a high school that could be a technical vocational training institute for quick employment probability of students.

From a World Bank Local Government Finance and Development (LOGOFIND), Pilar funds which would be the foundation of the education sector reform the town is bent on implementing.

Fifty percent of the amount was a grant, 35 % is a loan and 15 is equity. From it, rose a two storey school building with 22 classrooms, an Industrial Arts Building, Home Economics and a laboratory building for a more integrated training of ours students, Mayor Pajo revealed.

Besides, the classrooms came with complete facilities like teacher’s tables, desks, blackboards, laboratory equipment, he added.

But there was yet another problem, there were huge dropouts, Jaspe, who also works as the town Sanggunian secretary revealed.

Having been identified as a beneficiary of the Basic Education Social Reform Agenda (BESRA) and tapping DepEd and an Australian assistance, Pilar picked up the stride for Strengthening Implementation of Visayas Education (STRIVE)

The ultimate goal for the town was to reach out to drop-outs, reduce the casualties and retrieve those out-of school youth to get them back into the mainstream or offer a special program for the accreditation and equivalency benefits.

In their investigations, many drop-outs are caused by distance from school to homes, low family income to allow transportation allowances, financial incapacity and several other minor reasons, Pilarnons sought solutions. 

Finding a possible fund source in Support Options for Basic Education (SOBE), Pilar funded Sagip Bahay Eskwela, an 80 bedroom dormitory that charges minimal pay for boarders and prioritizes indigent students from far out barangays, Jaspe said.

The fund also allowed the student boarders to tend a demonstration farm as an income generating project for their daily sustenance.

Other stand out programs for educational reforms here include a Food Laboratory for student food technology and entrepreneurial skills training,  an electronic tracking system for students at risk of dropping out, purchase of learning equipment like multi-media and the stand-out project Reading Remediation: A Sing Along System option for practice reading for slow readers.

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