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Dr. Emil Javier

Free irrigation: A better way

One of the major concerns raised by the Agriculture and Fisheries Alliance in our dialogue with the candidate Rodrigo Duterte weeks before the May elections was the need for continuing investments in irrigation and drainage. The Agriculture and Fisheries Alliance is a coalition of small farmers, fisherfolk, rural women, livestock and poultry raisers, food processors and exporters, and academics led by convenor Ernesto Ordoñez. We were only too happy when Mayor Duterte volunteered that should he get elected, God willing, not only will his administration continue investing in irrigation and other rural infrastructure, he will likewise waive the irrigation fees required of farmers. We are therefore fully behind the initiative of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to make good on the President Duterte’s promise to relieve farmers of the water fees. However, we propose …

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Bt talong case: Not quite a total victory but at least the science can go on

After so much anguish and frustration, this week’s decision of the Supreme Court (SC) reversing itself on the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) talong case came as a most welcome surprise to farmers and livestock raisers, the public regulators, and the science community. Voting previously 12 versus zero, with three justices not participating, who would have thought that only six months later, eventually the same court would unanimously SET ASIDE its permanent injunction on the conduct of field tests of eggplant bioengineered to resist insect pests. Instead, the High Court dismissed the petition for Writ of Continuing Mandamus and the Writ of Kalikasan and prayer for issuance of a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) filed by Greenpeace and other parties on the ground of mootness. The Court agreed with the University of the Philippines Los …

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Strategic directions for Philippine agriculture (Part I)

‘There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream  of things that never were, and ask why not?’ – Robert Kennedy Addressing the problems associated with small, fragmented farm holdings Rural poverty and lack of productivity in Philippine agriculture trace their roots to many causes but the most serious shortcomings are: 1) the problems associated with small, fragmented farm holdings, 2) insufficient linkages of primary producers to markets, 3) lack of product diversification and value adding (processing) especially at the village level, and 4) failure to fully exploit the potential of our vast fisheries and aquatic resources. If we were to modernize our agriculture, to make it more productive, competitive, equitable and sustainable, these four major limitations must be addressed. The most obvious explanation why our farmers …

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Making over the Department of Agriculture

‘There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?’ – Robert Kennedy Poverty remains as our most urgent national concern. While our fellow members in the ASEAN against whom we usually bench mark ourselves are achieving remarkable progress in reducing poverty among their people, our poverty index has remained stuck at 26 percent. In comparison, in 2014, the poverty incidences of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia were 18 percent, 17 percent, 11 percent and one percent, respectively. A large part of that poverty is attributed to low farm productivity and lack of gainful employment in the countryside. Again the statistics show very clearly how far we lag behind our ASEAN neighbors. The incidence of rural poverty in the Philippines …

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Raising farmers’ income not necessarily rice sufficiency

Easily the most contentious issue in Philippine agriculture today for which we have yet to see closure is the long-standing policy of rice self-sufficiency. This had been the banner agriculture program of all post-war administrations. To critics, the resources monopolized by the national rice program are better spent on other commodities with higher returns and where we enjoy comparative advantage. The debate has resurfaced with the recent announcement of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol that the department has submitted a plan to achieve self-sufficiency in rice in two years’ time in, 2018, with a price tag of P62 billion. The scenario brings us back to 2011 when then Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala resolved to erase the huge rice imports incurred by the Arroyo administration and promised to lead us to …

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Outright redistribution of coconut levy funds to farmers is unwise

‘There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?’ – Robert Kennedy One of the major contentious issues in agriculture for which we have yet to reach closure is what to do with the coconut levy funds (CLF). In 2014, after three decades of litigation, the Supreme Court dismissed the claim of some private parties and ruled with finality that the coconut levy funds belonged to the Philippine government to be spent for the exclusive benefit of coconut farmers and the coconut industry. But the manner how the CLF will be managed and spent were left by the Supreme Court to Congress and the Executive branch. After many public consultations and hearings, the appropriate bills were filed in both …

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What to do with Land Bank

‘There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream  of things that never were, and ask why not?’ – Robert Kennedy One of the key concerns raised by the five-member Agriculture and Fisheries Alliance led by convenor Ernie Ordonez with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, and later separately with Agriculture Secretary-designate Manny Piñol, was accessible, affordable credit to small farmers and fisherfolk. The food exporters, processors, traders, input suppliers and logistics providers who complete the modern food supply chain are bankable and have access to the formal banking system. Problematic are the small farmers and fisherfolk who are unable to obtain credit to purchase good seeds, breeding stock, feeds, fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs such as equipment and machineries with which to increase their productivity, competitiveness and consequently, income. The …

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Marching orders for coconut

The broad outlines of what are in store for agriculture and fisheries under the Duterte administration are becoming clear as incoming Agriculture Secretary-designate Manny Piñol systematically address the concerns of the subsectors under his watch. The ambition recently pronounced by Secretary Piñol for the Philippines to regain the status as the world’s largest coconut products exporter, even if it means planting 600,000 additional hectares in the next six years is most welcome by coconut farmers. These are the kinds of marching orders we in agriculture like to hear. But lest Piñol suffer the opprobrium which befell his predecessor with the latter’s ill-advised pronouncement that we will be self-sufficient in rice in two years’ time (by 2013), the target of 600,000 additional hectares need to be qualified. The 600,000 hectares of new coconut plantings …

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PCCI reaches out to academe

Background Philippine agriculture had been in the doldrums during the last 30 years. Farm productivity and rural family incomes have not kept up with population increase and inflation. Poverty among Filipinos had remained at 26 percent, most of them among small farmers and fisherfolk, even as our gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a healthy rate of six percent per annum during the last five years. The economy is growing but the benefits are not filtering down enough to the masses, particularly true among rural folks, who remain jobless or underemployed, destitute, and wanting of the basic necessities of proper nutrition, health care, shelter and education for their young (non-inclusive growth). Meanwhile, world agriculture is undergoing vast structural changes with rapid industrialization, rising incomes, advances in technology, growth in international trade, and increasing concerns …

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Fast start for Agriculture Secretary-designate Manny Piñol

‘There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?’ – Robert Kennedy Agriculture Secretary – designate Manny Piñol is off to a fast start. As part of his preparations for his new assignment he embarked on what he called “Biyaheng Bukid” pilgrimage to as many key agricultural production areas as he could before he formally assumes office on June 30. His objectives: to meet in person his many constituents, particularly small farmers and fisherfolk; to see for himself the challenges and opportunities they face, and to test ideas with them which can guide him and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to make good on the promise of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte of Available and Affordable Food for …

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