SIX barangays in Atok are set to benefit from the opening of the improved Jose Mencio farm-to-market road (FMR).

The 11.9-kilometer road rehabilitation project is worth P202.33 million and is funded by the World Bank (P147.15 million) with counterpart funding from the agriculture department (P18.39 million) and the provincial government of Benguet (P36.78 million).

The Department of Agriculture (DA) led by Secretary William Dar, the Provincial Government of Benguet, the municipality of Atok and community stakeholders witnessed the inauguration and turnover ceremonies for the FMR.

Barangays Caliking, Topdac, Poblacion, Abiag, Naguey and Pasdong are said to benefit the most from the project with 11,825 individual and 2,561 household beneficiaries.

DA said the establishment of the farm-to-market road aims to reduce the average travel time from farm to market by 58 percent, increase traffic count in the area by 30 percent, reduce input and output hauling costs by 33 percent and reduce post-harvest losses of agricultural products by 10 percent.

The project started on April 9, 2017, and was completed on August 14, 2020.

Danny Sucdad, Liga ng mga Barangay president in Atok, has recalled how difficult it was for farmers and residents along the Jose Mencio FMR to travel and transport their agricultural products before the road was improved.

With the improved road, he said products coming from the different barangays of the town will reach the different vegetable trading areas in La Trinidad in good quality.

Sucdad added during emergencies, it will also lessen travel time and save lives.

Many non-residents of Atok farm in the municipality because of the improved farm to market roads, Sucdad said.

The Provincial Local Government Unit pledged for the maintenance of the provincial road.

Dar, in his speech, said the agency will continue to invest FMRs in the Cordillera and Benguet, which supply 80 percent of highland vegetables in the country.

He disclosed that in the Bayanihan Act 2 that was approved by Congress, P5 billion was allocated for FMRs given to the DA.

“This will start this year and next year. We have yet to receive budget from the DBM to obligate and transfer to DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways). So the regions work with DPWH in tandem with the LGUs,” he added.

The municipal government of Atok and the Provincial Government of Benguet thanked the agriculture department headed by Dar.

Officials also thanked lot owners who allowed the use of portions of their lots for the project.

Present during the event were Governor Melchor Diclas, Charen Tacio, representing Benguet Caretaker Congressman Eric Go Yap, Members of Sangguniang Bayan of Atok, Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet members and DA officials.

On the same day, P600,000 enhanced Kadiwa financial grant was turned over to Caliking Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative to procure a vehicle for the marketing of their products.

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