LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Farmers from Benguet have called on the Central Office of the Department of Agriculture to conduct a review of the existing guidelines of the current food lane used by truckers in the transport of high-value crops and highland vegetables coming from the provinces.
In the dialogue on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last October 25, 2023, the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Area Incorporated (LTVTA), Benguet Vegetable Truckers Association, the Department of Agriculture Regional and Central Office, Sangguniang Panlalawigan and Sangguniang Bayan representatives, and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Region 1, the vegetable truckers voiced out the hassles being experienced in the transport and delivery process of perishable agricultural products.
Rudy Bulawan, President of the Benguet Vegetable Truckers and Traders Association (BVTTA) explained that although the food lane seeks to ensure the efficient delivery of agri-fishery commodities, reduce postharvest losses and transportation costs through the elimination of additional fees and unnecessary checkpoints, some local government units in Metro Manila refuse to adhere to the existing guidelines set by the DA and other government agencies by applying their own system of permits needed by the truckers.
“It is a good thing that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered a stop in payment for permits charged to us Benguet truckers through Executive Order 41, however, traffic enforcers in some local government units in areas in Metro Manila where we pass through continuously disregard the EO of the President and charges Benguet truckers through their alleged local road users tax permits. We hope that a revival of the Task Force of the Food Lane will again be activated to address these hassles that we encounter,” Pulawan said.
The food lane project created in 2018 is a collaborative effort of DA, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Philippine National Police, the Metro Manila Development Authority, and will soon include the Department of Transportation and Railways following a review of the existing guidelines.
Among the revisions in the guidelines being studied are changes in the routes of the food lane, aside from disseminating the final revisions of the guidelines for the Benguet truckers, other neighboring local government units, and local government agencies that need to collaborate with the food lane project.
The products covered by the project include fresh fruits and vegetables, livestock and poultry, and other agri-products as a result of value-adding.
The project entails the accreditation of agriculture and fishery suppliers to be given special incentives such as, but not limited to, truck ban exemption, ease of passage and checkpoints, and designation of food lane routes.
During the dialogue, aside from a review of the existing guidelines which will soon be finalized this November, the DA confirmed the approval by the toll regulatory board in principle of the exemption of Benguet truckers ferrying perishable agricultural products in the increase of toll fees by accredited food lane truckers passing through San Miguel Corporation and the Metro Pacific Corporation managed expressways where the Benguet truckers pass through.