Fongwan to Alcala: “No to trading post closure”

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet– Local agriculture industry stakeholders will not allow the wrongly-timed closure of the vegetable trading post by January 1, 2015 because thousands of farmers and individuals relying on the lucrative vegetable industry as a major source of income will be displaced, Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan said here.
He cited that the provision of the memorandum of agreement requiring the permanent closure of the vegetable trading post to allow the full blast operation of the P1 billion Agri Pinoy Trading Center is not pro-farmers because a minimum of 5,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries from its operation will be displaced as they will not be absorbed by the new trading facility in the municipality.
“We will not allow the closure of the old trading post on January 1, 2015. We cannot easily provide for those who will be displaced with alternative sources of livelihood overnight,” Fongwan stressed.
He said concerned stakeholders will not just allow the outright closure of the vegetable trading post which had been their source of income over the past several decades as it will not be easy for them to shift their line of business to agriculture-related enterprises.
“We must give sufficient time to the affected entrepreneurs to adjust to their new line of business and not just outrightly close the trading post in accordance to their will,” Fongwan said.
The governor added the provincial government will not support the facility because it will defeat the original purpose that the agreement was signed.
He added it should be the project steering committee composed of representatives from the concerned government agencies, local governments, academe and farmers groups that should appoint the management team for the facility because the loyalty of those to be appointed will be with their boss and not to the project steering committee.
Fongwan explained the members of the project steering committee should be empowered to participate in the screening process of those who will manage the state-of-the-art facility and not just a mere “rubber stamp” of the agriculture department by confirming what will be appointed by the DA Secretary.
He assured stakeholders of the new trading facility that he will continue to raise his objections over some provisions.
“We should not be fence-sitters in the operation of the Agri Pinoy Trading Center. We should be decision-makers because we know what our farmers and traders really need,” Fongwan said.
He called on farmers and traders groups to continue voicing out their concerns which must be immediately addressed by the leadership of the agriculture department prior to the signing of the agreement so that the operation and management of the facility will be pursuant to the basic needs of the farmers who are supposed to be the direct beneficiaries of the new center that is equipped with packaging and processing equipment.
Fongwan appealed to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to continue heeding the issues and concerns being raised by the concerned sectors so that he could appropriately act on them before the agreement will be formally signed by the representatives of stakeholders in the coming weeks which will signal the operation of the new trading facility.

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