world bankTACLOBAN CITY, (PNA) – The World Bank has already released PhP700 million funds for the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) in Eastern Visayas in the bid to spur economic development in poor farming communities.

The downloading of funds represents the first tranche of release to local government units (LGUs) in the region for the foreign-funded projects, said Department of Agriculture Regional Executive Director Leo Cañeda.

“About PhP680 million of the PhP700 million are for farm-to-market roads and the rest are livelihood projects,” Cañeda said.

At least 36 LGUs received the amount through a ceremonial distribution on Friday. These are located in the provinces of Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, and Southern Leyte.

“These LGUs already got a no objection letter from World Bank and PRDP coordinating office. That means they can already proceed with the regular procurement. The timetable is to complete the procurement process early next year,” Cañeda explained.

The World Bank and DA-PRDP released the budget requirement to 36 LGUs after their respective local legislative bodies have approved resolutions allocating the 10 percent counterpart for the projects.

“This signals the first release of funding assistance for PRDP. The next release would depend on how fast they could implement the project,” the DA regional chief added.

In consultation with local government units, tagged as priority commodities of the region are coconut and banana.

PRDP deputy project director for Eastern Visayas Jennylyn Almeria said that for the region alone, the total funding requirement could be PhP1 billion for infrastructure alone. These include projects that are up for bidding and under evaluation.

Almeria reported that as of Nov. 20, one project in Sogod, Southern Leyte is ongoing (PhP30.38 million), five projects are for rebidding (PhP196.50 million), one project for preparation of bid evaluation (PhP188.39 million), one project for bid opening (PhP33.35 million), one project for feasibility study review (PhP232.95 million).

There are 13 projects for issuance of no objection letter (PhP844.88 million, three projects with ongoing drafting of feasibility study (PhP208.38 million), one project covered by validation (PhP45.6 million), and 10 projects for validation activities (PhP596.61 million).

“Although infrastructure is a major component, we are encouraging farmers to consider the benefits of other components such as enterprise development, which aims to engage broad sections of the sector in the production of marketable surplus,” Almeria said.

Unlike other farm infrastructure projects, PRDP sets no limit for budget requirement for each project, to make sure all access roads would be completed.

PRDP is a six-year program (2014-2021) designed to establish the government platform for a modern, climate-smart and market-oriented agri-fishery sector. It seeks to improve agricultural competitiveness and expand market access for any identified priority commodities under the project.

The project aims to attain at least five percent increase per year in real household annual incomes of farmer and fisherfolk beneficiaries; 30 percent increase in incomes for targeted beneficiaries involved in enterprise development; seven percent increase in value of annual marketed output; and 20 percent increase in the number of farmers and fisherfolk with improved access to DA services.

The PRDP, which was approved by World Bank on August 29, 2014, has more than PhP27.5 billion is being funded through a loan worth PhP20.56 billion, and Php7 billion counterpart from the Philippines government and LGUs.

PRDP also highlights the utilization of transparency and monitoring tool—geo-tagging—as a measure to prevent corruption and fabricated sub-projects as well as facilitate supervision of the sub-projects’ progress, especially in remote and conflict-stricken areas. (PNA)