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Dr. Emil Javier

Time to take a fresh look at GOCCs

‘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 A significant part of government functions and services are administered or delivered by government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs). Over the years, for various reasons, such functions and services were justified as better or more efficiently performed using corporate entities rather than regular agencies. In 1965, at the start of the administration of President Marcos there were only 37 GOCCs. The number grew to 175 in 1975 and by 1984, the number of GOCCs had ballooned to 303. When President Cory Aquino assumed power in 1986, she ordered a massive restructuring of the bloated government corporate sector. She signed Presidential Decree 50 which abolished, merged and …

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No More 5/6 lending

‘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 This is in reaction to a recent news item attributed to President-to-be Rodrigo Duterte who announced that usurious lending in the countryside will not be tolerated in the coming administration. Specific reference was made to the 5/6 lending operations of Indian nationals whom Duterte threatened to deport should they persist. This news is music to the ears of small farmers and fisherfolk because this means that their concerns are very much in the mind of the president-to-be. The poor people in the countryside are fully aware that borrowing at 5/6 cost them dearly. However, shutting down these operations without providing alternative sources of affordable credit will …

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New plant breeding techniques: CRISPR/Cas9 system

Conventional plant breeding for the most part involves the hybridization of two parents — a recurrent parent which has otherwise desirable attributes except for one or two traits, e.g. susceptibility to a disease, and a second parent called a non-recurrent parent which possesses the desirable trait missing in the former. After the initial hybridization, the offsprings with the new desirable trait are backcrossed to the recurrent parent to recover the rest of the desirable genome. By the 6th backcross generation, 99 percent of the recurrent parent genome would have been recovered. This backcrossing procedure makes conventional plant breeding time consuming, expensive and imprecise. For an annual crop like rice with a generation cycle of four months and twice a year planting, the process would take at least three years. However, for a …

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What to do with agriculture in 2016 and beyond

Control of Pests and Diseases After availability of water, good seeds and fertilizers, come the need to protect crops from pests and diseases to raise yields, minimize losses and produce quality products. Majority of the pests are insects but rodents, birds and snails are also very damaging to crops in certain locations and at certain times of the year. Pathogens include bacteria, fungi and viruses as well as nematodes (very tiny worms infesting roots). The first line of defense is planting of species/varieties best for local growing conditions and with natural resistance/tolerance to prevalent pests and diseases. Next are quarantine and sanitation .i.e. removal and burning of diseased materials. Pests and diseases are also contained by mechanical/physical measures like handpicking, use of barriers, insect traps and tillage. Chemical control with synthetic chemicals and botanical preparations …

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What to do with agriculture in 2016 and beyond (Part XIII)

Communal irrigation systems Part 4 (31 January 2016) and Part 12 (03 April 2016) of this series dwelt with the need for continuing investments in irrigation and drainage systems, and specifically, support for small-scale irrigation projects as strategic complements to the large systems. In both columns we expressed support for the agency plans of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM-DA) to continue expansion of our irrigation facilities in the medium and long term. NIA will need P35 billion a year for the next ten years while BSWM-DA is asking for P5 billion a year. Of the potential irrigable area of 3.02 million hectares (flat areas with slope of less than three percent), 1.71 million hectares (56 percent) have been developed, leaving a balance of 1.31 …

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Non-browning GMO apples and potatoes

‘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 Since we do not grow apples and not much potatoes and both are minor items in our diets, what are our interests in non-browning genetically modified (GMO) apples and potatoes? Not much really, directly, except for the implications of their commercial release with the debate on the relevance of genetically modified crops to our economy. Recall that last year the Supreme Court (SC) banned further field trials of GMO Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant and required government to craft clearer regulations to guarantee the Filipinos’ right to healthful and balance ecology under the Writ of Kalikasan. The five departments (Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Health, Science …

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What to do with agriculture in 2016 and beyond (Part XII)

Small Scale Irrigation Systems Among the inputs which raise crop production, the greatest impact come from provision of irrigation, ahead of good seeds, fertilizers and crop protection. In the wet tropics like the Philippines where moderate temperatures allow year-round growing of crops, irrigation not only increase yields and minimize risks from drought but more importantly make possible the planting of a second or third crop. This last benefit i.e. multiple cropping on the same piece of land each year addresses our most serious handicap in agriculture which is very limited per capita availability of farm land. For these reasons continuing investments in irrigation and drainage systems should constitute the biggest single item in the agenda for agriculture in 2016 and beyond. Part 4 of this series (31 January 2016) dwelt on the rationale for …

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What to do with agriculture in 2016 and beyond (Part XI)

‘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 What To Do With  Agrarian Reform Agrarian reform is part of the broader social reform agenda initiated by the Cory Aquino government after the EDSA revolution of 1986 and continued by succeeding administrations. The original Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was ordained by Proclamation 131 signed by President Cory Aquino in 1987, and affirmed a year later by Congress through R.A. 6657. CARP was programmed for the period 1988–1998 but was renewed under the Fidel Ramos administration until 2008 by R.A. 8532. It was further extended for five years to June 2014 by R.A. 9700 under the Arroyo incumbency. After 28 years of implementation it …

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What to do with agriculture in 2016 and beyond (Part X)

What to do with Agrarian reform Together with rice policy, the other most contentious issue in agriculture is what to do with agrarian reform. Calixto Chikiamco of the influential Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) contends that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is the biggest obstacle to agricultural growth and productivity. Because of the uncertainty over property rights fostered by CARP, there has not been much private investment in agriculture. He argues further that the prohibition of ownership beyond five hectares prevents efficient farmers from buying out the inefficient ones. Successful farmers cannot scale up because CARP prohibits them from doing so. This assessment of CARP draws inspiration from the conclusions of National Scientist Raul Fabella who posited that the cumulative weight of evidence suggests that in economic terms the hypothesis that …

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What to do with agriculture in 2016 and beyond (Part IX)

What To Do With Organic Farming By and large, the needed policies and legislation to make our agriculture more productive, competitive, equitable and sustainable are already in place. We would like to see the level of spending particularly for rural infrastructure like irrigation and drainage, farm-to-market roads and processing facilities further accelerated but we can accomplish a lot already with the P90 billion at hand provided we are more smart and effective in designing programs and executing them. Nevertheless, there remain a number of very important concerns/issues which are holding us back but for which we have yet to reach closure. In previous columns, I dealt with rice policy, delivery of extension services and rural credit. Considered most crucial by some analysts is what to do with agrarian reform which will be …

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