MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is devoting P6.25 billion ($141 million) for the construction of farm-to-market roads all over the country in 2015.
In an April 22 press release, the DA said farm-to-market roads are a priority program of the government with the value of roads in the pipeline amounting to P70 billion ($1.6 billion).
Farm-to-market roads are lanes connecting farms or remote agricultural villages to hubs where agricultural goods are more accessible to buyers. (READ: Farm-to-market roads: A farmer's journey)
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said inadequate road networks are a major problem hindering the development of rural areas.
With no good roads, farmers are often forced to depend on middlemen to bring their products to markets. Even if they take the trouble to bring their products themselves, the difficult trip often adds to their costs.
The budget for farm-to-market roads this year is just a little over half than the budget last year – P12 billion ($271.5 million). In 2013, the budget allocated was P5.2 billion ($118 million).
Alcala said his department has policies to prevent substandard roads from being constructed. (READ: The future of rural roads)
The roads for construction using this year's budget must be at least 6 inches thick and 5 meters wide, said Alcala.
DA Field Operations Service Director Roy Abaya gave assurances the construction of the roads will be closely monitored to avoid wasting government funds.
Agricultural engineering teams of the DA regional offices are in charge of monitoring the project, from planning to implementation, alongside beneficiary local government units.
Geo-tagging, the process of embedding geographical data like coordinates into photographs, is also being used for monitoring.
"From the start of the planning, the proposals are geo-tagged. We can see if the proposal is legitimate. We can see in the map the connectivity of production to existing roads in the market," said Abaya in a mix of English and Filipino. – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com