THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) said that 1,200 municipalities from major rice-producing provinces will benefit from the P5-billion mechanization component of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

In a briefing on Thursday, Rodolfo P. Estigoy, head of applied communications for PhilMech, said that the implementing guidelines for the mechanization program were approved last month. The rules identify six clusters nationwide as the channels for spending on mechanization.

Luzon will have three clusters, the Visayas one, and Mindanao two.

An initial P2.1 billion was allocated to the agency by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), with the remainder to follow. Some P2 billion will go towards machinery procurement, while P100 million will fund extension services.

The distribution, delivery, and installation of the machinery will be needs-based. PhilMech had previously considered providing farmers with a whole set of machineries for the whole process of farming.

Under the needs-based scheme, farmers in need of a particular type of equipment will be provided the needed machinery. If PhilMech starts distributing dryers, for instance, all farmers needing dryers will be prioritized.

The agency will start gathering information on needed equipment this month, with procurement to start in September.

By February, PhilMech hopes to start with distribution, delivery, and installation of the procured items.

To join the program, a farmer must be registered with the DA, work within the six clusters identified by the agency, and must be a member of a farmers’ group, include irrigation associations, farmers’ cooperatives, and agrarian reform beneficiary organizations. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang