The Abaca Coalition of Eastern Visayas elected its first set of officers during the conclusion of the Regional Abaca Summit hosted by Visayas State University on June 20-21, 2018.

Dr. Feliciano G. Sinon, Professor and Director of the National Abaca Research Center at VSU, will sit as the first Chairperson of the largest abaca interagency group in Region 8.

Dr. Sinon, through NARC, spearheaded the realization of this year’s abaca conference. This is three years after the first national abaca summit held at Southern Leyte State University (SLSU), Sogod in 2015.

“I am so overwhelmed by [the participants’] presence. This is a realization of our dream to come together as members of the Abaca Coalition… For about two years, we have been planning this. When I was assigned as the NARC Director in 2016, I happened to go through the proceedings of the national summit in 2015. I wondered what happened to the Abaca Coalition after that event. It went silent,” told the director.

The newly elected chairperson said that this was one of the reasons why he organized the summit — to look into the status of the Abaca Coalition in the region. This is aside from NARC’s goal to help rehabilitate the failing abaca industry in Eastern Visayas, caused by the bunchy top virus that has beset the local abaca farmers for decades.

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The Department of Agriculture has tapped NARC and VSU for the Sogod Opportunities for Abaca Rehabilitation or SOAR project in Sogod, Southern Leyte. SOAR, a pet project of DA through Secretary Manny Piñol, turned-over P50 million to LGU-Sogod (with an initial commitment of P100 million) for the rehabilitation of the local abaca industry, starting in Southern Leyte which is considered as the largest abaca producer in Eastern Visayas.

The project aims to produce disease-free and quality abaca planting materials to be distributed to abaca farmers all over the region. Piñol assigned Dr. Remy Baltazar, an expert in bunchy top disease management to guide the farmers in the abaca rehabilitation effort.

The regional summit aims to address issues and concerns affecting abaca production in the region and identify solutions to alleviate these problems. The previous summit led to the creation of the Abaca Coalition of Eastern Visayas.

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Other newly elected officers are Engr. Wilardo Sinahon, acting Director of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority 8 (PhilFIDA 8) as Vice-Chairperson; Dr. Christina A. Gabrillo, VSU Department of Development Communication Head as Secretary; Dr. Prose Ivy Yepes, SLSU President as Treasurer; Engr. Edgardo Esperancilla, DOST Regional Director as Auditor; and, Dr. Vilma Patindol, ATI-RTC8 Director as PIO.

About 300 abaca farmers, experts, researchers, government and non-government personnel participated in the 2018 summit at the VSU RDE Hall.

The Abaca Coalition of Eastern Visayas is composed of the academe (IPB-UP Los Baños, NARC and DDC-VSU, and SLSU); government agencies (DOST-8, PCAARRD, PhilFIDA-8/PhilFIDA, DA-EVIARC-8, DA-BAR); private institutions (Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Eastern Visayas, and Cebu Gifts, Toys and Housewares Foundation, Inc.); media organizations (Philippine Federation of Rural Broadcasters, VSU DYDC-FM, DYSL); local government units (Municipality of Sogod, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of Southern Leyte, the four pilot barangays of Sogod—Maac, Mahayahay, Maria Plana, and Javier); and WorldFish that initiated the organization of the abaca coalition through its Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) program.