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NTA, Occ. Mindoro officials pledge support to displaced farmers

NTA, the provincial government of Occidental Mindoro, and the municipality of San Jose organized a dialogue with the local tobacco farmers who are displaced, following the closure of operations of the lone tobacco leaf buyer in the province.

PMFTC had earlier claimed that the sale of low-branded cigarette products using the produce of the province has weakened in the market, prompting the company to close shop.

For the past five years, the area planted to tobacco and the number of farmers have been decreasing in the province, from 988 hectares in 2012 to 325 hectares in 2017, and the number of farmers from 2,150 to 747 in the same period.

The dialogue was held at the Sikatuna Beach Resort in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro on September 11.

NTA top officials headed by Admin-istrator Robert L. Seares presented the project proposals of planting alternative crops like red onion and white corn, and of livelihood training courses to be jointly financed by NTA and the local government units affected.

Local officials headed by Governor Mario Gene J. Mendiola commended the tobacco farmers for their contribution to the economic and social welfare of the people in the province, through the LGU's share of the excise tax of Burley tobacco, as provided by Republic Act 8240. They were saddened with the cessation of tobacco production and promised the farmers in finding alternative crops and business or livelihood opportunities.

Bituin V. Manguera, President of the Tobacco Farmers Association in the province, had no choice but to embrace every proposal that can help them sustain their economic and living condition. She asked that an honest-to-goodness marketing assistance be provided in addition to the financial and technical supports pledged by the local officials.

San Jose Mayor Romulo M. Festin said that he is confident that the farmers can recover from the displacement as they already have the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitude that they have gained from their long experience in tobacco production.

With Administrator Seares during the dialogue were Directors Nestor C. Casela, Teofilo R. Quintal, Pedro J. Mendiola; Dr. Roberto R. Bonoan, manager of the Industrial Research Department; Imelda N. RiƱen, manager of the Farm Technology and Services Department (FSTD); Alona A. Manganaan, Executive Assistant IV; and Felisa R. Aurellano, Community Development Officer III, FTSD.

The NTA Desk Office in Occidental Mindoro, headed by Violeta E. Gayona, TPRO I, with her staff Yolanda E. Espeleta and Xandra C. Bravo, helped organize the said dialogue. (Violeta E. Gayona)