“If there is anything I can be of help, I’m your voice in [the] Congress,” says Congressman Eddiebong Plaza, Representative of the 2nd District of Agusan del Sur. This was during his courtesy visit at the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) Headquarters last February 9, 2023.
Congressman Plaza shared his view on the importance of getting support and budget for agricultural R&D projects. He also emphasized the need for science-based strategies to expand the Upland Sustainable Agroforestry Development (USAD) Program to other municipalities in Agusan del Sur that are interested to be part of the program due to land or crop suitability issues and concerns.
Initiated by Congressman Plaza, USAD is a poverty alleviation program through a rubber-based cropping system designed for the uplands in Agusan del Sur.
Recognizing the interest of the Congressman, DOST-PCAARRD showcased its Science for Change Program (S4C), Regional Consortia, and Programs and Projects on Soil Resources and Soil Health Management. Congressman Plaza with the other delegates also toured the DOST-PCAARRD Innovation and Technology Center (DPITC) Exhibit.
Congressman Plaza was also joined by his Chief-of-Staff (COS), Attorney Jaybe Quiñonez, with Ms. Patricia Anne Plaza and Ms. Ron Santiago during the visit.
They were welcomed by DOST-PCAARRD Executive Director Reynaldo V. Ebora, Deputy Executive Director for Administration, Resource Management and Support Services (ARMSS) Melvin B. Carlos, Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the Agricultural Resources Management Research Division (ARMRD) Adoracion Armada, and OIC of the Office of the Executive Director for Research and Development (OED-RD) Faustina Baradas.
Other participants of the meeting were representatives from DOST-PCAARRD: Mr. Ramon Oliveros, Dr. Procy Sobreviñas, Ms. Ma. Josette San Luis, Ms. Ofelia Domingo, and the secretariat of the Policy Coordination and Monitoring Division (PCMD). Officials from ACIAR Philippines, Ms. Hazel Aniceto, Ms. Mara Faylon, and Ms. Jaclyn Damaso-Grey, were also in attendance.
Prior to the visit, Congressman Plaza and Dr. Ebora met with Dr. Peter Horne, ACIAR General Manager for Country Partnerships, last September 21, 2022, to discuss possible collaboration.
An advocate of science-based solutions
Congressman Plaza is an advocate of science-based solutions for soil in land suitability and fertilization program for increased productivity among smallholder farmers.
During his privilege speech at the First Session of the 19th Philippine Congress last August 10, 2022, he mentioned and acknowledged the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and DOST-PCAARRD for the technical support to the project, “Land Management of Diverse Rubber-based Systems in Southern Philippines (SLaM).” The project was conceptualized, developed, and implemented to address the research gap faced by the USAD in Agusan del Sur.
The SLaM project was identified to be a key support for Research, Development, and Innovations for diversified rubber-based farming in Agusan del Sur and was highlighted as instrumental for USAD to winning the Galing Pook Award in 2021.
Commending how the ACIAR and DOST-PCAARRD-funded project has been mutually beneficial in complementing the Local Government Unit’s (LGU) investment in policy development and delivery of extension services, the office of Congressman Plaza sought the assistance of ACIAR to facilitate their request for an in-person meeting with Dr. Ebora and other DOST-PCAARRD officials and staff to discuss prospects for a National Soil Health Strategy and other research and development (R&D) opportunities in the agriculture sector.