A large portion of farmland in Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm will be allotted for the Reformation Enhancement for Sustainable Environment for Food Security (RISE) demo farm through a joint venture agreement between Department of Justice, Bureau of Corrections, Department of Agriculture and the private sector.

The Reformation Initiative for Sustainable Environment for Food Security (RISE) program, whose pilot phase will be at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF), aims to enhance the productivity and relevance of persons deprived of liberty.

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. stated that in addition to serving as a program for the rehabilitation of persons deprived of liberty (PDL), RISE importantly aligns with their efforts to support the government’s food security and sufficiency campaign.

He made this remark during the signing of a memorandum of agreement last Friday, August 18, among the Department of Justice (DOJ) represented by BuCor, the Department of Agriculture (DA), and its partner private companies for the establishment of a demonstration farm for the program.

“I want BuCor and the PDLs to be relevant and their lives to be sustainable. Relevant in a sense that they will in the future produce all the food that we need here, and kung may sobra pa kami, meron tayong mga investors who will also help in food security,” Catapang stated.

He said that a majority of the PDLs, particularly those in the National Bilibid Prison (NBP), are idle, which adds to the government’s burden.

He conveyed his wish for them to participate in agricultural tasks to improve their efficiency, and the remedy to tackle this matter involves transferring all PDLs from NBP to the penal farms.

“So imbes na expense sila sa gobyerno at P120,000 per year, almost 30,000 sa kanila ang nandoon sa Bilibid, wala silang produce except yung handicraft na yung barko ilalagay nila sa bote,” he said.

He explained that once the necessary actions are taken to address existing issues, the NBP will be redeveloped into a government center with the aim of enhancing its productivity. This initiative is driven by the observation that the NBP’s vicinity is rapidly evolving into a significant trade hub, aligning it with the growing trend in other cities within Metro Manila.

“Muntinlupa has become a commercial area [with all the subdivisions surrounding NBP]. Ang lupa diyan, ang bilihan P200,000 per square [meter] so we want to convert that area. Unang-una, with the guidance of Secretary (Gilbert) Remulla, gawing government center,” he said.

He also said that the recently signed joint venture involving the DOJ, BuCor, DA, and the private sector is a welcome development. He views it as a solution to both past and present problems.

With BuCor’s idle lands covering thousands of hectares, he said he wants to help DA in food processing and storage centers.

“We will also establish an aqua farm here. There’s a small one already but we can make it bigger. So (with) all of these things coming into play, the PDLs will become very much relevant,” he said.

Penal farm superintendent C/CInsp. Gary Garcia said in addition that the partnership’s scope extends beyond mere income generation for BuCor. He stressed that it has a dual purpose—not only will it yield revenue, but it will also empower and enrich the technical expertise of the PDLs.

This empowerment will encompass diverse areas, from cultivating valuable crops such as high-value produce and rice, to participating in therapeutic endeavors like edible landscaping and the cultivation of flowers.

“This project will provide a significant advantage to our PDLs, as it will serve as one of their reformation platforms, preparing them to lead a normal and productive life upon reintegration into mainstream society,” Garcia said.

Meanwhile, DA Mimaropa regional executive director Engr. Maria Christine Inting explained that the MOA was an offshoot of a collaboration also signed by DOJ and their department in Malacañang last July 13, which authorizes BuCor to enter into agreements with other government agencies and enter into public-private partnerships with stakeholders from the private sector.
She said the agreement for IPPF will include technology demonstration (farms) s will be established here in IPPF by our private sector partners as part of their CSR. An initial 40 PDLs will be trained to handle the demo farm.

She added that 10 private companies will be partnering with the government agencies for the provision of supplies to be used in the farms, three of which will procure the products.

“The techno-demo farms will cover a total of 5.5 hectares of land to be planted with 1.75 hectares of rice, 2.75 hectares of fruits and vegetables such as seedless watermelon, sweet corn, eggplant, bitter gourd, sili, squash, tomatoes, cucumber, pechay and onions. Another 1 hectare is allotted for edible landscaping and sunflower farm,” Inting stated.

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