The city government of Puerto Princesa is detailing its earlier pronouncement to shift its focus towards agriculture and addressing food security, having realized had relied so much on tourism which had been severely affected by the pandemic.
City mayor Lucilo Bayron, in an interview with Palawan News on Tuesday, said that initial plans are being finalized to utilize some 270 hectares of land in Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) to solidify its “food security measures”.
“We learned not to put all our eggs in one basket. Ngayong pandemya, nakita natin ang epekto sa tourism kaya we are adjusting our focus. Palalakasin natin ang agrikultura para hindi na tayo mag-angkat ng gulay at ibang produkto,” Bayron said.
A tripartite agreement is being drafted among the city government, IPPF, and Yamang Bukid Farms Palawan.
Raul Levita, chief superintendent of Iwahig Corrections Facility (ICF), said that the recent venture would help the penal farm in securing its lands from illegal settlers, restoration and rehabilitation of prisoners, and income generation.
“Since magagamit na siya, hopefully, mas mase-secure natin ang lands against illegal settlers. And itong farming, it will help the prisoners in their restoration, as well as give them income,” Levita said.
The Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) last week has said that around 29,000 tourism-related workers have been displaced by the pandemic, including Puerto Princesa City.
“More than 14,000 doon sa tatlong munisipyo ang apektado nitong nangyayari. May 15,000 direct[ly affected] employees naman ang sa PPC based sa report din. Siguro ‘yon ang other side of the story dahil masyado tayong naging dependent sa isang industriya, sa turismo,” said Maribel Buñi, PTO chief.
Earlier, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that over P3 billion in tourism receipts were lost due to the imposition of travel restrictions and community quarantines.
“Billions ang losses during this time pa lang ng pandemic na almost three months na, nagkataon kasi na ang pandemic ay sumakto doon sa season na pinupuntahan tayo, peak season kaya makikita talaga natin na apektado talaga. We really took advantage sa tourism na dahilan para mag-fuel ng ating livelihood,” Buñi said.
Bayron also stressed that additional infrastructures would be in place to support the anticipated boom in agriculture.
“Magtatayo tayo ng markets, ‘yong sa [Barangay] Irawan at sa [Puerto Princesa] Baywalk market, para doon dadalhin ang mga produkto at hindi na iisipin ng mga farmers saan dadalhin ang ani nila,” Bayron said.
Recently, several makeshift community markets have propped throughout the city after two major markets, the Old and New Public Markets, were temporarily closed for decontamination after a vendor has tested positive for the new coronavirus disease.
Bayron pointed out that the plans were merely under initial talks and would soon be polished as the city government also eyed to include other agricultural produce such as dairy and swine raising.
The Puerto Princesa Food Security Council was hatched mid-June after the city government realized the need to be self-sufficient on its food production needs, following the tight import experienced during the imposition of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) mid-March.