March is “Buwan ng Gatas” in Soccsksargen Region

KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato (PIA) — Soccsksargen Region launched Thursday, March 2, its first “Buwan ng Gatas” celebration geared towards achieving the goals of Republic Act 11037, otherwise known as “Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino” and addressing problems of poverty, malnutrition, and peace and order.

The event, held at the South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center and attended by officials of the regional line agencies, local government units, and other stakeholders, also introduced Region 12’s GATAS Program to the public.

GATAS (Government Action Towards Transformation in Agriculture for Sustainability) Program is a convergence initiative led by the Department of Agriculture (DA) 12 that promotes sustainable agri-rural development, particularly in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA), indigenous people communities, and barangays formerly affected by communist insurgencies (popularly referred to as ELCAC barangays).

Zaldy Boloron, OIC regional technical director for operations of DA 12 and team leader of Task Force GATAS, said GATAS Program carries out several projects, including Palayamanan, Corn-Livestock Integration, Gulayan sa Barangay, Organic Agriculture, and Inland/Marine Fishery in the target communities.

Centerpiece of the GATAS Program is the Community-Based Dairy Production Project, which promotes raising cattle, carabao, and goat for milk production as livelihood for the target beneficiary communities and ready supply of milk requirement for the families.

“We see this as the institutional mechanism to address three issues: 1) poverty, 2) malnutrition, and 3) peace and order,” Boloron said.

Major government players in the promotion of dairy livestock production are the National Dairy Authority, Philippine Carabao Center for the dairy animal dispersal with support from several government agencies such as Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and others as well as special programs such as Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD), Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran para sa Kababayang Katutubo (4K), and Balik Probinsya Program (BP2) to re-align their aid and livelihood programs towards dairy livestock raising, milk production, and beefing up supplemental milk feeding in the region.

“Bakit dairy? Ito ay simpleng teknolohiya na hindi mahihirapan ang ating mga indigenous people recipients kasi sipag, tiyaga at damo lang kapital,” he explained.

Boloron said that with only two milk-producing cattle, a family of five could set aside about 5 liters of milk for family daily consumption and still sell about 15 liters per day and earn approximately P18,000 per month. This income, he underscored, is way over the poverty threshold of P12,082.

“Sa gatas pa lang ‘yon. Eh, ‘yong income nang tatay sa mais, sa palayan, sa bakahan, at kung ano pa yong income mayroon siya, Mayroon pa bang pobre sa Pilipinas? Mayroon pa bang malnourished? May gulo pa ba, kung ang pamilya ay economically stable na? So, mayroon na siyang matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay,” Boloron said.

Soccsksargen is the only region in the country that has designated an entire month to advocate public awareness on milk.

In December 2022, the Regional Development Council 12 passed Resolution No. 156 designating March as “Buwan ng Gatas” in Soccsksargen Region.

The monthlong advocacy focuses on strengthening the milk feeding program, increasing public awareness on the nutritional values of milk, presentation of the GATAS Program, and data benchmarking of the region’s milk production.

Prior to this, the RDC 12 also passed several resolutions supporting the dairy industry of the region.

These include Resolution No. 82, s. 2018 requesting LGUs in the region to allocate funds for the buy-back scheme of pregnant cattle and carabao to minimize the reduction of population of these animals and Resolution No. 67 s. 2020 requesting all regional line agencies and LGUs to serve milk and milk products during meetings and similar activities

Soccsksargen Region covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sarangani, and Sultan Kudarat and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, and Kidapawan. (PIA-SOCCSKSARGEN)

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