Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Thursday turned over the 11.91-km. farm-to-market road (FMR) in Atok town, Benguet, the second-largest producer of highland vegetables in the country after Buguias, also in the province.
The PHP202.34-million FMR project under the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) was funded by the World Bank, the department, and the provincial government of Benguet.
“We believe in the importance of farm-to-market roads, especially in Benguet, which produces 80 to 85 percent of the highland vegetables,” Dar said during the program.
The road project will benefit 2,561 households consisting of about 11,000 individuals in Atok’s six barangays – Abiang, Caliking, Topdac, Poblacion, Naguey, and Pasdong.
The improved road would boost Atok’s vegetable production as 3,060.59 hectares of potential farmland could now be developed, in addition to the town’s 1,199 hectares of agricultural land.
It is also expected to improve Atok’s coffee production by expanding its coffee plantation by 20 percent annually.
The road project, which began in 2017 and was completed last August, started at the intersection connecting barangays Caliking and Topdac and ended at the intersection connecting barangays Poblacion and Naguey.
Dar said the government would continue to invest in FMRs with substantial funds to support the vegetable industry.
“That is how important you are, so we need to protect you by supporting the industry,” he said.
Data obtained from DA-Cordillera shows that as of October, Benguet’s agricultural sector has received assistance amounting to PHP744.23 million to boost its production.
The assistance came in the form of production support, agricultural machinery and equipment, farm-to-market roads, research and development, irrigation, and infrastructure development from PRDP and SURE-AID.
Atok alone has received PHP240.2 million under the regular program of the DA and the PRDP for 2020.
For 2021, the department has programmed an investment support of PHP759.6 million for the province.
Road to save lives
The FMR will not only improve the livelihood and economic condition of the 11,000 residents of the six villages but will also save lives.
Danny Sucdad, president of the Liga ng mga Barangay in Atok, said the concreting of the 11-km. road would not only help the residents easily bring their produce to the market but will also benefit those in need of medical attention as they could now be easily transported to hospitals at the capital town or in Baguio City.
“Nobody will die on the road due to the difficulty of traveling the rugged road,” he said in Ilocano.
Finishing his secondary education at the Atok National High School located at the end of the road, Sucdad said he knows how difficult life is without a good road.
Having been raised as a farmer, he said he knows how industrious the townspeople are and given the paved road, they would surely be inspired to work harder to improve their condition.
Sucdad also expressed hope that tourists would reach their place.
Governor Melchor Diclas, meanwhile, urged his constituents to take care of the road “so that we can use it for a very long time and pass on the benefit to our grandchildren.” (PNA)