IN a bid to strengthen the agriculture industry and support local farmers, the Department of Agriculture (DA) recently closed a deal with the Israeli government for a P44-billion loan to complete a proposed solar power plant project.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and Israel’s Ambassador to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz signed the Implementing Agreement (IA) on Agricultural Cooperation at the DA Central Office in Quezon City.
The IA on Agricultural Cooperation is the final output of a series of negotiations between Israel and the Philippines, which started during the visit of President Duterte to the Holy Land in 2018.
“The banner program under the agreement is the transfer of technology, funding and establishment of solar-powered irrigation systems all over the country funded by a long-term loan of P44 billion being offered by the Israeli government,” Piñol said in his statement posted on social media.
THE project will involve the establishment of 6,200 units of computerized solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) intended to irrigate 500,000 hectares of rice farms and other high-value agricultural products over the next three years.
SPIS units will be interconnected with a computer program, which would allow the DA Central Office to monitor the performance of each system all over the country.
“The Israeli government is currently completing the installation of two prototypes of the SPIS: one for a small farm setup of up to 5 hectares and the other, for a big farm setup of up to 100 hectares,” the DA chief added.
The prototypes are a donation from an Israeli company, which is also one of those interested in undertaking the SPIS projects in the Philippines.
The prototypes are expected to be operational by the end of July.
Harpaz, in an interview with Philippine News Agency, added that the agreement also includes that of Mashav, the agency that offers international workshops and courses.
“Israel has been sharing knowledge and skills for many years in various areas such as agriculture, water management and innovation through Mashav. We are looking forward to deepen our cooperation with the Philippines in the near future,” the diplomat explained.
He added that the signed agreement reflects the good bilateral relations between the two countries.
Exchanging views on counterterrorism
MEANWHILE, Harpaz also had a meeting with the chief of the Philippine Army (PA), Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, to exchange views on counterterrorism.
Harpaz’s courtesy call is in line with the Counter-Terrorism Trainers Training (CTTT) between the PA and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
During his visit, the Israeli official recalled the time when former Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon opened the country to 1,300 Jewish refugees from Europe in 1937 to 1941. He said this gesture is one of the reasons Filipinos are welcome in Israel even without a travel visa.
Alberto added the PA is looking forward to more training exchanges with Israel to raise the army’s determination to defeat threats of terrorism.
In light of the recent terror attack in Sulu, the army chief pointed out the need for the country to learn from the IDF’s years of experience and victories against counterterrorism. He also emphasized that the mandatory military service in Israel is also key in addressing terrorism.
“Be strong,” the Israeli envoy told the audience composed of high-ranking officers of the PA. “We cannot have 100-percent success against terrorism, but we must continue to share our experiences on best addressing it.”
After the call, the PA’s commanding general and Harpaz flew to Fort Magsaysay to observe the ongoing CTTT.
“The Philippine Army recognizes the evolving security environment in the country and its neighboring states. Thus, we welcome the help from our international counterparts to enhance our counterterrorism capabilities through various training and information exchange,” Alberto said.
Christine Cudis, Priam Nepomuceno/PNA
Image credits: Department of Agriculture/PNA