Mountain Province, a region known for its stunning rice terraces, is set to receive technical assistance from the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering (DA-BAFE). This initiative follows the implementation of Provincial Ordinance No. 465 through Administrative Order No. 13, series 2023, sponsored by Mountain Province Board Member Henry K. Bastian.
The creation of the Office of the Provincial Agricultural and Biosystems Engineer (OPABE) was not only a local initiative but also a mandate of the national government for all Local Government Units (LGUs) to establish such an office. This mandate was established through Republic Act No. 10915, otherwise known as the Philippine Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Act of 2016, and CSC Memorandum Circular No. 12, series of 2022.
Mountain Province Board Member Henry K. Bastian (fourth from left) and Office of the Provincial Agricultural and Biosystems Engineer (OPABE) Officer-in-Charge Engr. Winston D. Beyden (third from left) paid courtesy a visit to DA-BAFE Director Ariodear C. Rico at the BAFE office on September 15, 2023.
Interestingly, Mountain Province is the only province in the entire Cordillera Region to establish OPABE as a separate department. Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr was credited for his compliance with these national laws. Of course, this would not have been possible without the support of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in enacting implementing ordinances.
The new office headed by Officer-in-Charge Engr. Winston D. Beyden is staffed by four engineers from the Provincial Agriculturist Office and five job orders. OPABE is divided into three divisions: the Engineering Plans, Design and Specification Division; the Program and Project Management Division; and the Standard Regulation Division.
In a strategic move to boost local tourism, farm pathways along rice terraces will be developed instead of traditional farm-to-market roads (FMRs). This approach aims to ensure the safety of tourists visiting the province.
OPABE has been instrumental in validating FMRs and encoding proposed projects using GeoAgri, an interactive web mapping application that displays information on FMR projects and data on Agri-fisheries Machinery and Rural Infrastructure Projects such as irrigation, post-harvest facility, among others. Mountain Province OPABE’s future projects include irrigation projects (diversion dams and canals), sugarcane, high-value crops specifically coffee, heirloom rice, chicken, and goat raising.
DA-BAFE Director Ariodear Rico has assured that his office will extend technical assistance to Mountain Province. This includes the development of technical bulletins for farm pathways and tramlines. Additionally, BAFE will provide P3,000 fuel assistance to qualified beneficiaries in the province.
Mountain Province’s OPABE serves as a template showcasing to other offices in Cordillera what the office is capable of accomplishing. This collaboration between Mountain Province and DA-BAFE is expected to bring significant improvements in agricultural infrastructure and tourism in the region. (###Marshall Louie Asis, MC /DA-BAFE)