“Peace begins with a smile..” ― Mother Teresa
If peace begins with a smile, development definitely follows. Uniquely captivating and infectious are the smiles of children because it is also full of promise.
This I witnessed in a far-flung barangay of Ason as the teachers and school children of Ason Elementary School joyously welcomed the newly constructed two-classroom school building at barangay Ason, Garchitorena, Camarines Sur. It would definitely ease the overcrowding in the existing school facilities said the Teacher-in-charge. The 126 sq.m. school building will be used by the grades III and IV with 84 pupils. They have been sharing a classroom which will now be turned over to the grades I and II pupils, she added.
The school building is spacious, well-ventilated, and cost a little more than Php 2.0 million. It was co-funded by the Asian Development Bank through DAR’s Agrarian Reform Communities Project (ARCP) 2, the national Government Assistance to Local Government Unit (NGALGU), and the LGU of Garchitorena. DAR Camarines Sur I and ARCP2 Provincial Project Manager Leo M. Gaveria said that another school building was also constructed at Del Pilar Elementary School at barangay Del Pilar, Garchitorena ealier and another one has just started its construction at Sagrada Elementary school.
Garchitorena is a fourth class municipality in the province of Camarines Sur with a population of 25,204 based on the 2010 census. Its 23 barangays are mostly accessible only through sea transportation as road access have not yet reached many mountainous areas. Through the able leadership of Mayor Jesus Rico C. Sarmiento, Garchitorena was able to avail of 11 sub-projects with a total amount of almost Php48 million from ARCP2. It consists of 3 school buildings, 2 solar dryers, 2 health centers, 2 flood control embankments, and 2 farm-to-market roads that has a length of 9.5 kms with total project costs of Php28 million connecting barangay Ason to the Poblacion and barangay Bahi respectively.
After 25 years of implementation of Agrarian Reform, it has finally come to a full circle.
In 1989 during the term of president Cory Aquino, the Garchitorena land scam stemmed from the alleged overpriced purchase of P62 million for 1,888 hectares of former abaca plantation turned cogonal land and owned by Magdalena Garchitorena. As it turned out, the land was originally valued at P3.8 million and most of it was considered unsuitable for agriculture.
It was a bad time for CARP implementation. “Garchitorena” becomes a pariah which nobody would like to be a part of. It brought a gloomy future, and many finds no reason to smile at all.
Today, under the President Noy Aquino’s administration, Garchitorena is once again in the limelight. But this time, there are many reasons to rejoice, and smile.
Last September 27, 2013 officials from the Departments of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Environment and Natural Resources(DENR), Agriculture (DA), Interior and Local Government (DILG), Social Work and Development (DSWD), Education (DepEd), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) trooped to the coastal barangay of Ason via, a rugged 5-hour caravan to launch the town’s unprecedented program which is expected to change Garchitorena’s agricultural landscape.
By pooling the resources of participating agencies together to bring in the much needed rural development projects, the initiative’s ultimate goal is to reduce poverty by increasing the income of the people especially the farmers in agrarian reform areas. With the theme “DARamayan Bikolnon, Garchitorena Pauswagon,” Mayor Jesus Rico Sarmiento hosted the activities for the day, such as the launching of the convergence program, presentation of the development plan, declaration of commitment, awarding of credit assistance to recipient farmers, distribution of farm equipments and seedlings of various crops, and the turn-over of the newly-completed community-based potable water supply, sanitation and hygiene (CPWASH) project from DAR.
Camarines Sur 4th District Representative Felix William ‘Wimpy’ Fuentebella also committed his full support to the program as he revealed how his office will integrate its projects with the convergence development framework of Garchitorena especially on road networks. Under the Intervention Plan, Garchitorena will be provided rural infrastructures such as farm-to market-roads, school buildings, bridges (Tulay ng Pangulo), flood control projects, and potable water systems. Forty six (46) classrooms are likewise programmed for repair.
On the production support side, the town’s farmers will be provided farm machineries & garden tools; seedlings of seaweeds, coconut, and other high value crops; tilapia fingerlings; mangrove propagules and many more. The intensified coconut production, tree planting under the National Greening Program (NGP) and organic farming are also included in the package. A livestock and poultry multiplier farm will likewise be established in the area. In order to ensure sustainability, these projects will be complemented with appropriate livelihood programs, while the farmers will be made to undergo technology trainings as para-technicians and agri-extension workers. To date, the total worth of the convergence initiative is now more than 228 million pesos.
DAR Bicol regional director Luis B. Bueno, Jr., while taking note of the newly completed 2-classroom school building in Brgy.Ason and CPWASH project in Brgy. Canlong, recalled that the local convergence initiative started with the collaboration between DAR and PCA, when then RD Maria Celestina Manlagñit-Tam and PCA V Manager Eduardo Allorde agreed to expand their partnership by involving other line agencies.
When it rains, it pours. No wonder, the school children are smiling again. (joeyco)