Writing and Public Relations

Hello! My name is Melody Aguiba.  Writing has been my passion throughout life. To be able to help institutions grow in their missions, I opted to become a Public Relations person. Here’s what businessman and politician Donald Trump said of the importance of PR:

“You can have the most wonderful product in the world, but if people don’t know about it, it’s not going to be worth much. You need to generate interest, and you need to create excitement. One way is to hire PR people…If the New York Times writes even a moderately positive one-column story about one of my deals, it doesn’t cost me anything, and its worth a lot more than $40,000.”

Of course PR has no cost if you do it for yourself. But even if you hire one, it’s still most cost effective. And the most important thing is its value is worth a lot more!

I hope you will get passionate too about the stories we write about—the products and causes we will share.  We hope knowing about them will be valuable for you, your home, your job, and your world!

For I will make many interesting business and socio-economic development missions more meaningful, relevant to our world, and even exciting!

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Me and a Dieg Mendoza artwork
Me and a Dieg Mendoza artwork

Biotechnology crop area down heftily 21% due to fake Bt corn seeds

 

By Melody M. Aguiba

 

Production of biotechnology crops in the Philippines fell heftily by 21% to 642,000 hectares due to the proliferation of counterfeit Bt corn seeds that had taken up an estimated 10% of the market for registered seeds.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) reported that while biotechnology area globally sustained growth by 3% to 189.8 million hectares, the local market fell as seven companies are reportedly involved in fake seed production.

Yet, the Philippines is still now one of world’s largest biotechnology producer at thirteenth place.

Monsanto, the pioneer biotechnology developer of Bt corn, the only genetically modified (GM—or biotechnology) crop commercialized in the country, is continuing to seek Department of Agriculture’s (DA) assistance in stopping fake seeds production.

“Under the regulations, only registered seeds may be distributed to the market.  Presence of counterfeit seeds is a disincentive to technology developers that have put in their investments,”said Gabriel O. Romero, Monsanto regulatory affairs chief, said in a press briefing.

Aside from the concern on fake seeds, ISAAA Vice Chairman Paul S. Teng said governments, especially developing countries like the Philippines, should improve other regulations in GM crops.

One major concern is the need to speed up approval of biotechnology crops in order to arrest opportunity losses placed at cost of $1.5 trillion by 2050 in low and lower middle income countries.

“Governments are concerned on the safety, access and profitability of biotech crops, as well as local interests on biodiverisity protection and trade competitiveness.  Hence, regulations become stringent which stifle access of farmers to the technology and its economic benefits,” noted ISAAA.

“Suppression of the technology in Africa is equal to $2.5 billion from 2008 to 2013.  Delays in Golden Rice release in India alone costs $199 million per year.  This is in the form of health costs. This is also hurting education because health is most important for learning in early childhood.  It impacts cognitive development,” Teng said.

The non-adoption of Bt eggplant in India is costing it $500 million per year.

Biotechnology crops commercialization approval have slowed under certain conditions as some sectors fear an adverse effect on health and the environment as genes are transferred from one species to another under GM.

Breeding experts asserted though that GM has extremely strict regulatory policy especially in the Philippines where GM crops go through scrutiny for adverse health effects like allergenicity and toxicity.  These also go through testing on effects to the environment and biodiversity and substantial equivalence (comparison to non-GM crops in nutrient content).

Teng stressed that benefits to ecosystem of GM crops is huge with 183 million hectares saved from destruction due to higher yield from these crops that require  a smaller area for a bigger yield.

GM crops have also cut carbon dioxide emission equivalent to 16.7 million cars off the road.  There is also a reduction of use of insecticides-pesticides by 18.4% from 1996 to 2016.

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Moreover, gains of farmers have grown by $186.1 billion in the form of increased yield and income largely from Bt corn, GM soybean, Bt cotton.  These have helped 16 to 17 million small farmers globally and their families totaling 65 million.

Teng also cited opportunity costs of non-adoption of biotech canola in Australia is estimated at $377.9 million.

 

Innovations in sustainable agriculture sought to be recognized amid typhoon destructions from climate change, Covid 19 pandemic

January 18, 2022

With the Philippines’ growing population and the many challenges faced by the agricultural sector already burdened by the pandemic situation to sustainably meet demand for food supply, the need to help both people and planet thrive is stronger than ever.

   To recognize and support much needed sustainable agriculture programs in the country, the Pest Management Council of the Philippines, Inc. (PMCP) and Bayer CropScience Philippines is now opening the PMCP-Bayer Agricultural Sustainability Award for nominees.    

   The Award aims to put the spotlight on high-impact programs and initiatives accomplished by individuals contributing towards promoting and strengthening agricultural sustainability in the country.

   The PMCP-Bayer Agricultural Sustainability Award is open to individuals from the private and public sector – such as researchers, scientists, farmers, entrepreneurs, government officials, employees, or part of the academe.

   Individuals should have accomplished either of the following within the scope of both pest management and agricultural sustainability:

• Developed a research paper contributing to sustainable pest management practices

• Demonstrated the importance of sustainable use of agricultural technologies for small holder farmers

• Conducted a field trial or experiment that resulted to a milestone or learning on sustainable pest management

• Spearheaded an initiative leading to advocacy or promotion (ex. educational programs) of sustainable pest management practices and adoption of sustainable agricultural practices

• Contributed to enactment of significant policies or guidelines on sustainable pest management

• Acted as a catalyst within his/her community or organization that led to shift in pest management practices with sustainability principles

   A newly established Award, the nominee’s accomplishments should have been completed within 2019-2021 with sufficient documentation to show evidence of his/her accomplishment and its PMCP-Bayer Agricultural Sustainability Award open for Filipino agri changemakers — impact on agricultural sustainability, including letters of recommendation from the nominee’s network.

   Nomination period runs from January 15, 2022 to March 31, 2022 with an evaluation period from March-April 2022. Nominations must be sent via email to pmcpbayer.sustainabilityaward@gmail.com.

   After the evaluation period, the chosen awardee will be announced during the PMCP Annual Scientific Conference in July 2022.

   He or she will receive a plaque and 50,000 pesos cash prize. About the PMCP-Bayer Agricultural Sustainability Award Guided by its vision of “Health for all, Hunger for none”,    

   Bayer promotes inclusive growth and responsible use of resources to help people and planet thrive.

Bayer’s Sustainable Agriculture practices contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals

   Sustainability is an integral part of its strategy and values, with sustainability targets that include reducing the environmental impact of crop protection while promoting sustainable production and circular options that reduce, recycle, reuse and replace.

    Thus, recognizing the vital role of experts and stakeholders in agricultural pest management to deliver effective & practical solutions for farmers, the PMCP-Bayer Agricultural Sustainability Award aims to highlight high-impact initiatives geared towards agricultural sustainability.

   For more information, please email pmcpbayer.sustainabilityaward@gmail.com.

Phils should put up more Climate Field School, rainwater harvesters, organic compost facilities—Loren Legarda

January 17, 2022

Philippines should put up more Climate Field School (CFS) similar to one in Siargao Island, rainwater harvesters, and organic compost facilities in order to adapt to climate change and flourish its agriculture sector amid weather-related disasters.

   Climate change, and its destructions as that of Odette all over Visayas and Mindanao, can no longer be ignored if Philippines’ agriculture sector should take off, according to House Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda.

   Speaking at the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc.’s (PCAFI) Halalan 2022 Para sa AGrikultura, Legarda said she will be pushing for “greening” of the supply chain once elected senator.

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto, along with Alyansa Agrikultura’s Ernesto Ordonez, and three other farm-based groups are orienting 2022 election candidates on the plight of Philippines’ agriculture. Others proposing recommendations are Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Sec. Leonardo Q. Montemayor, National Scietnist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, and Rice Watch Chairman Hazel Tanchuling.

   A Climate Field School for Farmers and Fisherfolks was first established in Dumangas, Leyte.

   Its 16 module program for farmers includes 1. Climate, Pests and Diseases, Crop Growth & Development 2. Cropping System/Pattern and Climate-Related Risks 3. Understanding Weather and Climate and Climate Parameters 4. Weather and Climate Information Products 5. Forecast Interpretation, Translation and Communication, and 6. Forecasts Generation.

   The rest of the training is on Incorporating Climate Forecast in Decision Making, Understanding Forward and Backward institutional linkages in Agriculture Sector

Learning, and Implementing the Rice Integrated Crop Management System Palay Check.

   Legarda said coastal greenbelts, largely planted with mangroves as that found in Del Carmen, Siargao Island, should be put up nationwide.

Mangrove-planted coastal greenbelts help protect islands from disastrous typhoons. Credit-CNN 

   “Their mangroves, their coastal greenbelt in Del Carmen, Siargao, helped them against the (typhoon destructions).  Their destruction has not been as serious as those in other local governments units in the island of Siargao,” Legarda said.

   She may not be the author of the Rainwater Collection and Springs Development Act of 1989, said Legarda. But she is pushing for rainwater harvester’s establishment in each barangay.

   “It makes sense because there’s so much water, but we don’t have water,” she said.

   Arsenio “Toto” Barcelona, president of vegetable producer Harvest Agribusiness Corp, said during the online forum that National Irrigation Administration’s (NIA) irrigation facilities irrigate largely rice only.

   “It’s high time we rationalize how we use our resources especially we are made up of many islands, so our waterways are not continuous.  Water resources should be done on island basis.  There should be a regionalized development of water resources,” said Barcelona.

   “NIA, under the Office of the President, has its 85 to 90% irrigation going just to rice fields.  We should look into this. We should see the importance of irrigation on the productivity of vegetables and fruits.”

   Barcelona said the Philippines has one of the lowest yield in high value crops among Association of Southeast Asian Nations due to deficiencies in irrigation practice.    

   “So we should give importance to new technology in irrigation especially precision irrigation,” he said.

   Legarda said organic composting should also be practiced among farmers as rice straws, animal manure, and other organic wastes are a ubiquitous source of fertilizers.

   PCAFI and the four farm-based groups have been orienting 2022 candidates on the state of Philippine agriculture and have filed the following recommendations:

  1. Allocation of at least 10% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) budget for agriculture which is just “fair” considering its GDP contribution of 10%.  At present, the sector just gets 1.5% budget.  Livestock and poultry contributes 27.7% to agriculture while it only gets 5.6% of the budget.  Corn contributes 6.4%, but it only gets 1.7% of DA budget.
  2. Tariff collections should be used to develop the corresponding sector—Corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry tariff should be used to develop corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry sectors.
  3. The Safeguard Measures Act, Anti Dumping Act, among others, should protect local farmers from unfair competition from imports.
  4. National Irrigation Administration should be administered by DA for proper irrigation coordination.
  5. The Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives should be created under DA
  6. Local government Units should allocate funds for agriculture extension as part of the proposed Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System (PAFES) to ensure farmers get direct assistance on technology.
  7. Convergence of DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Science and Technology to promote food and beverage manufacturing
  8. Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors
  9. Passage of Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands
  10. Diversification of agriculture production to invest more in horticultural and industrial crops, poultry, livestock, fisheries
  11. Developing biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization to enhance productivity and competitiveness
  12. Regreening, watershed management, and agro-forestry implementation. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Proposed Bureau of Cooperative under DA to play pivotal role in consolidating fragmented farm land to achieve economies of scale, agri modernization

January 13, 2022

The proposed Bureau of Cooperative under the Department of Agriculture (DA) will play a pivotal role in consolidating fragmented farm lands to enable Philippines to achieve economies of scale and agro-industrial modernization.

   Senator Richard Gordon said government should promote “cluster” farming or cooperative farming so large scale of land can be consolidated amid the agrarian reform’s land fragmentation.

   “There is strength in number.  Even in foreign policy, treaties are a result of equal bargaining strength.  We should encourage cluster farming or cooperative farming.  They do that in Del Monte,” Gordon said during the Philippines Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc.’s (PCAFI) Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura.

PHOTO Providing farmers cost-efficient farm mechanization becomes possible with land consolidation, farmers’ organization. Credit-DA

   “If farmers are  disorganized, if you let them by themselves, business will not come in as there are no rules.”

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto, along with Alyansa Agrikultura led by Ernesto Ordonez, and three other farm-based groups,  has been orienting 2022 election candidates on the plight of agriculture. 

   Also proposing recommendations through the online forum are Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Sec. Leonardo Q. Montemayor, National Scientist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, and Rice Watch Chair Hazel Tanchuling.

   In order for agriculture services to be rendered to farmers, such as providing for them cost-efficient farm machineries, their organization is pertinent.

   One of such way to organize farmers is for bigger farm companies to enter into contract growing agreements with small farmers.

    “Contract growing in the private sector will formally integrate small farmers into the supply chain,” said Javier, also chairman of the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization (CAMP).

   Gordon, a senatorial reelection aspirant, said the cooperative will be a way to protect farmers from exploitation of traders and middlemen who exploit farmers by paying the cheapest price.

   He said a law does not need to be enacted for the cooperatives to be put up.  The cooperative system has already been existing among successful groups such as the TADECO (Tagum Agricultural Devt. Co) or among sugar planters.

   Gordon envisions the establishment of industrial parks for agriculture ventures such as the parks in Subic where enterprises enjoy tax incentives in order to flourish.

   “The Department of Agriculture (DA) should create an atmosphere so farmers can sell their production and be supported with the extension.  Private sector can fund the farmers so that farmers have the assurance of a market for their produce,” he said.

   PCAFI and the four farm-based groups have also filed with the candidates the following recommendations:

  1. Allocation of at least 10% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) budget for agriculture which is just “fair” considering its GDP contribution of 10%.  At present, the sector just gets 1.5% budget.  Livestock and poultry contributes 27.7% to agriculture while it only gets 5.6% of the budget.  Corn contributes 6.4%, but it only gets 1.7% of DA budget.
  2. Tariff collections should be used to develop the corresponding sector—Corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry tariff should be used to develop corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry sectors.
  3. The Safeguard Measures Act, Anti Dumping Act, among others, should protect local farmers from unfair competition from imports.
  4. National Irrigation Administration should be administered by DA for proper irrigation coordination.
  5. The Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives should be created under DA
  6. Local government Units should allocate funds for agriculture extension as part of the proposed Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System (PAFES) to ensure farmers get direct assistance on technology.
  7. Convergence of DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Science and Technology to promote food and beverage manufacturing
  8. Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors
  9. Passage of Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands
  10. Diversification of agriculture production to invest more in horticultural and industrial crops, poultry, livestock, fisheries
  11. Developing biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization to enhance productivity and competitiveness
  12. Regreening, watershed management, and agro-forestry implementation. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Loren Legarda pushes for more creation of micro farm industries like Antique’s Robusta coffee and patadyong weaves

January 12, 2021

The Philippines should create more micro farm industries like Antique’s Robusta coffee and ‘patadyong’ weaving products that have their own domestic markets, thereby easing “logistics” problems, House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda said.

   During the “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Legarda, a senatorial aspirant, said her own province, Antique, hurdled the problems of Covid 19 as Congress supported marketing of local products.

   “We supported agriculture.  We had an amendment on the budget, provided mechanization to farmers and free seeds for palay and high value crops,” she said. 

   The series of agriculture online forum is being conducted by PCAFI led by President Danilo V. Fausto along with Alyansa Agrikultura led by Ernesto Ordonez, Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Sec. Leonardo Q. Montemayor, National Scientist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, and Rice Watch Chairman Hazel Tanchuling.

   While there has been difficulty marketing of agricultural goods since Covid 19 lockdowns hit Philippines in March 2020, it became an opportunity to improve farmers’ production.  

Senatorial aspirant Loren Legarda shows off Antique Coffee during the Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura

   The Antique government bought tomatoes, leafy vegetables, and melon from farmers. It hauled these via private cars and tricycles, and gave these away during the lockdowns to residents.  These– instead of giving away canned goods.   

   Also, Antique’s coffee received its needed promotion.

   “People don’t know that Antique has Robusta coffee.  I bought more than one ton (1,000 kilos) of coffee.  I arranged for its packaging, wrote its short story, and named it Antique Coffee.  It’s now being sold in online stores and the Echo store.  It’s my Christmas gift for friends,” she said.

   As another important industry for Antique women, the Antique local government also put up a small cotton processing plant in order to support the “patadyong” weaving craft.

   “When we speak of farming, it’s not just food crops.  In my province, we grow cotton so we won’t have to import cotton or we won’t have to use polyester for natural weaves,” said Legarda.

   “I put up a cotton processing facility, manual labor.  We have hand looms provided and cotton threads from our cotton farm.  We do the same thing for abaca.”

   Roberto C. Amores, President of the Philippine Food Processors Inc (Philfoodex) and PCAFI member, said logistics has been a perennial problem in the Philippines.  Cost of inter-island shipping is prohibitively expensive. 

‘Patadyong’ weaving in Antique. Credit-Benjie Layug

   Industries have been pressing for an amendment of the Cabotage law. Prohibitions against international shipping lines’ entry into the domestic waters are reportedly sending shipping costs to exorbitant levels.

   This is where supporting local products should come in, Legarda said.

   “The logistics issue is a challenge.  But by supporting local and selling and buying locally, then we don’t even have to think of export because our products may be easily consumed even within our islands,” said Legarda. 

   PCAFI and the four farm-based groups have been orienting 2022 election candidates on the state of Philippine agriculture and have filed the following recommendations:

  1. Allocation of at least 10% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) budget for agriculture which is just “fair” considering its GDP contribution of 10%.  At present, the sector just gets 1.5% budget.  Livestock and poultry contributes 27.7% to agriculture while it only gets 5.6% of the budget.  Corn contributes 6.4%, but it only gets 1.7% of DA budget.
  2. Tariff collections should be used to develop the corresponding sector—Corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry tariff should be used to develop corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry sectors.
  3. The Safeguard Measures Act, Anti Dumping Act, among others, should protect local farmers from unfair competition from imports.
  4. National Irrigation Administration should be administered by DA for proper irrigation coordination.
  5. The Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives should be created under DA
  6. Local government Units should allocate funds for agriculture extension as part of the proposed Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System (PAFES) to ensure farmers get direct assistance on technology.
  7. Convergence of DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Science and Technology to promote food and beverage manufacturing
  8. Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors
  9. Passage of Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands
  10. Diversification of agriculture production to invest more in horticultural and industrial crops, poultry, livestock, fisheries
  11. Developing biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization to enhance productivity and competitiveness
  12. Regreening, watershed management, and agro-forestry implementation. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Philippines signs Preah Sihanouk Ministerial Declaration in support of regional cooperation on coastal resilience on climate change

January 10, 2022

The Philippines has signed the Preah Sihanouk Ministerial Declaration in support of regional cooperation on coastal resilience to climate change programs and of PEMSEA 2030 which will address marine plastic pollution and foster the Blue Economy.

   Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu signed the ministerial declaration during the Seventh Ministerial Forum of the East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress 2021.

   “Being the most vulnerable region in the world to climate change, we need to enhance strategic partnerships under the existing mechanism which PEMSEA provides,” Cimatu said. PEMSEA stands for the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA).

   The Philippines also reiterates its commitment to the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia 2022 to 2027.

   Cimatu said the need for regional cooperation in coastal management has intensified even in light of the Covid 19 pandemic along with the challenges of climate change.

   He said the Covid 19 pandemic and climate risks have been adversely affecting the Philippine economy.  These have huge negative impact national revenue, people’s livelihood, and the budget for environmental protection.

   The Philippines lost in 2020 $8 billion in tourism revenue including loss due to closure of beach resorts and Marine Protected Areas  and may continue to lose 6% of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to climate-associated risks.

   “These have exacerbated the funding gap on marine environmental protection,” Cimatu said at the East Asia Seas (EAS) Congress 2021.

   PEMSEA 2030 is a decade program of collaboration in South East Asia for reducing marine plastic pollution, enhancing management of Marine Protected Area Network (MPAN), and adopting the SDS-SEA.

   The Philippines, Cimatu recalled, asserted before the  26th Conference of Parties (COP) that financing climate change mitigation and adaptation projects need three types of funding support. 

   These are grants, investments by private businesses in climate-ready technologies, and subsidies for renewable energy.

   Investments in climate-friendly systems are a necessity.  Or much more will be lost in national revenue because destruction of the environment destroys natural resources that are a source of income, jobs, and livelihood.

   “Climate change exacerbates the current pressures that our coral reefs are experiencing.  Based on a study, the Philippines is estimated to lose 6% of its gross domestic product every year until 2100 if it disregards he risks associated with climate change,” he said.

   The application of “blended protection,”  the protection of both land and sea (rivers), and environmental protection through “adaptive management” will be done in the Philippines.    

    This DENR aims to do in order to protect biodiversity.   It includes imposition of a ban on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF).

   It also involves both the protection of river ecosystems and establishment of natural infrastructure (fortress, fence).  Both will support “human social, cultural, and economic needs” (according to the the Stockholm International Water Institute’s exposition on blended protection).

   Cimatu said the government is gratified that the famous Boracay beach has bounced back in attracting tourists. This is despite its closure for six months in order for government to set up sewage treatment facilities and water improvement measures.

   “The renewed image of Boracay worldwide now provides the local government and communities with sustained tourism and livelihood,” he said.

   Likewise, despite the seemingly insurmountable task of cleaning the Manila Bay, DENR has started pursuing its rehabilitation.  This cleanup includes cleanup of the 16 major rivers and 14 river outfalls that drain into Manila Bay’s shores.

   “Massive cleanup and dredging of esteros, construction of solar-powered sewage treatment plants, relocation of informal settlers, and beach nourishment of the baywalk are continuously being undertaken,” he said.

   “Significant reductions in fecal coliform counts were recorded at several monitoring stations in 2020.”

   Cimatu said generating income through the “Blue Economy” has become imperative to support protection of  coastal and marine habitats. Blue economy  is the concept of good stewardship of ocean and its resources.

   “To promote the Blue Economy, the Philippines continues to support sustainable tourism where we ensure the protection of coastal and marine habitats, resources and water quality as well as promote viable livelihood for coastal communities.”

   To promote the Blue Economy also means that the country will engage in sustainable fisheries through multi-species aquaculture and supplemental livelihood for fishers.  It is supporting traceability for sustainable tuna fisheries.

   “The country further invests in more green ports using renewable energy, solar panel lighting, and the establishment of shore reception facilities,” he said.

   Conservation of forests and terrestrial ecosystems to eliminate land-based pollution has to continue as land pollution also finds its way to oceans.

   The Philippines will also pursue emerging Blue Economy industries such as marine renewable energy, marine biotechnology, and green shipbuilding. 

   In relation to this, it will produce the National State of Oceans and Coasts Report.   It reports East Asian Seas’ progress in promoting sustainable and inclusive ocean economy and the nations’ ocean assets.

   The Integrated Coastal Management Act supports Philippines’ sustainable development of coastal and related ecosystems, food security, poverty reduction, and elimination of circumstances that makes the country vulnerable to climate change impacts.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

DENR averts climate-vulnerability in flooding-prone Ilog Hilabangan (Negros), Tagum Libuganon (Davao Region), “ecosystem-based” management done

January 7, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is implementing an ecosystem-based management on Ilog-Hilabangan in Negros Isalnd and Tagum-Libuganon in Davao Region (mainly Davao del Norte) in an aim to reduce their vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters.

  DENR and the Deutsche Geselschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) signed a technical cooperation agreement for the implementation of the Ecosystem-based Adaptation in River Basins (E2RB) project.

   DENR’s River Basin Control Office (RBCO), implementation partner of the project, initiated activities in 2021 despite challneges due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

   “A Project Management Committee has already been created.  We can start implementation this year after some delays due to Covid 19,” according to RBCO Executive Director Nelson V, Gorospe.

   The Philippine government is receiving a E4.6 million grant from the German government  for the “Ecosystem-based Adaptation in 2 River Basins” . 

Tagum Libuganon River in Davao Region

   It will strengthen the river basins’ ecosystem services, protect their biodiversity, and important, reduce their vulnerability to climate change as destructive flooding have been experienced in the river basins.

   “One of the basis for the choice of the site is perennial flooding,” said Gorospe.

   The German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservatin and Nuclear Safety through the International Climate Initiative has commissioned GIZ to implement the project.

   E2RB is in line with DENR’s program on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction Roadmap 2018-2022. It also aligns with the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, Philioppine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, and enhanced National Greening Program.

   “The effective protection of forests in river basins supports the objectives of the Philippine intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) in the area of mitigation through the contribution of forest sector to the planned total greenhouse gas reduction of 70% in 2030,” according to the DENR-GIZ implementation agreement.

Ilog Hilabangan, Negros

   The project intends to have the following impacts:

  •  Secure access to drinking water for 500 households and sufficient supply of water for 3,000 hectares of agricultural land
  • Introduction of financial instruments to support the EbA activities
  • Use of ecosystem services valuation instruments in government policies, plans and monitoring procedures for conservation financing for river basins
  • Reduce vulnerability to climate change  with improved biodiversity protection (from landslide, flood risk in four watersheds in at least 20 municipalities by 10 %.
Flood hazard map, Ilog Hilabangan. Credit- Mahar Lagmay

   Government has also been arresting extinction of important species in the forests in the river basins.     Among the threatened species in the Ilog Hilabangan watershed are hornbills (Penelopides panini and Aceros waldeni), the endangered Philippine spotted deer (Cervus alfredi), and the Philippine warty pig (Sus cebifrons (WCSP 1997). (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Philippines wins Global Wildlife Programme award as it combats illegal wildlife trade, fights Covid 19 traced to wildlife disease transmission

December 14, 2021

The Philippines has recently won the 2021 Knowledge Market “Most Useful Project Resources” award at the recently concluded Global Wildlife Programme (GWP) Annual Conference held virtually last November 30-December 2, 2021.

   The country bested 36 projects in 31 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

   The award was part of a series of mini-competitions that included “Best Knowledge Market Pitch”, “Best Overall Knowledge Share/Need”, “Most Useful Project Resources”, and “Best HowSpace Collaboration.” Team Philippines was also nominated in the “Best Knowledge Market Pitch” category.

   As the prize, the GWP Team will co-design a webinar with Team Philippines.

   With the theme Working Together for Wildlife Conservation, the 2021 GWP Annual Conference focused on successfully collaborating, engaging, and empowering stakeholders to support wildlife conservation and sustainable local livelihoods.

   The Team Philippines’  Knowledge Products and videos may be viewed at Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Biodiversity Management Bureau’s YouTube Channel.

   The Philippines has been aggressively disseminating information on wildlife conservation considering its huge impact in human lives, surprisingly on human health.

   In “Illegal Trade:  A Conduit Through Which Coronavirus Transmitted to Human, Atty Theresa M. Tenazas said pandemics have clearly shown “links to virus reservoir in wildlife populations.”

   “The SARS outbreak in 2002, which infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in 774 deaths in 37 countries, came from a novel betacoronavirus sourced from bats through masked palm civets as the intermediate host before reaching humans,” said Tenazas.

   Tenazas is Wildlife Resources chief of DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

   “The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2012, which infected 2,494 and cost 858 human lives, also came from another coronavirus passing though dromedary camels to humans,” she said.

   Even African Swine Fever (ASF) which has caused huge economic losses to Philippines and many Asian countries is attributed to wild African suids.

   Tenazas noted that the wildlife of the Philippines includes a significant number of endemic animal and plant species. Sixty-seven percent of the 52,177 species in the country are endemic and 418 are listed as threatened by the Rest List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as of year 2000.

   Hunting for international trade, massive land conversion and climate change have all been wreaking havoc on these wildlife population.

   Today, wildlife trafficking is a transnational organized crime. It is the “fourth largest transnational criminal activity in the world next to drugs trafficking, human trafficking and counterfeit goods trafficking”.

   Disease transmission through animals have long been documented in the Philippines.

  Tenazas noted that evidence of Reston ebolavirus (RESTV) infection was found in domestic pigs and pig workers in the Philippines in 2008-2009.  And bats were suspected to be the possible reservoir of RESTV.

   DENR-BMB is now advocating for stricter penalties for illegal wildlife trade through proposed amendments to Republic Act 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.”

   It has so much to protect as Philippines is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world with its unique endemic flora and fauna species.

   DENR-BMB has been continuously holding workshops as part of controlling illegal wildlife trade (IWT).  It is training people on  IWT expertise including Online Trade Investigation, Financial Investigation on Wildlife Crimes Advance Prosecutor and Enforcement Workshop.     

    In these efforts, it has partnerships with USAID Protect Wildlife Project,  BMB-ADB/GEF (Asian Development Bank-Global Environment Facility) IWT Project and the United States Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, &Training Counter Wildlife Trafficking.

Automation of permits to trade endangered flora and fauna introduced

December 10, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has automated permit issuance for the trading of flora and fauna to enhance global trade transparency in a long term aim to prevent illegal trade and sustainably develop biodiversity.

   In compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Philippines has started issuing permits for the trading of flora and fauna electronically.  It will be through the eCITESPH.com.

   So that information can be accessible anywhere  thereby facilitating trade, the electronic permitting system will be integrated into the Philippines’ national single window system.

   As such,  international trade of threatened animal and plant will easily be monitored and controlled.

   “The system will improve control of international trade in endangered species.  Automation of CITES processes will help enforce regulations, increase transparency, and facilitate processing and electronic data exchange with customs and other agencies,”  according to Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Assistant Director Amelita Ortiz.

   “Electronic information exchange will reduce opportunities for corruption and the use of fraudulent documents in the trading of endangered species,” she said.

   The DENR has been tapping information technology to enhance capability building to produce experts in wildlife trade. 

35,000 species protected under CITES

   Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the addition of two online learning platforms “enables the DENR to uphold its mandate of educating the people about the country’s wildlife resources despite the prevailing COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic.”

   BMB has introduced the eTraining Course on Basic Wildlife Law Enforcement (BWLE) and the Wildlife Philippines Podcast. 

   This project is  under the DENR-Asian Development Bank/ Global Environment Facility Project on Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines.  

   The project  also involves aid from the United States Department of the Interior International Technical Assistance Program-Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Project 3.

Controlversial ivory trade. Credit– Deutsche Welle

   Modules under this e-learning project includes Wildlife Law Enforcement in the Philippines; Species Commonly involved in Wildlife Crimes; Substantive Laws on Wildlife Resources Protection; Other Crimes against Wildlife; Roles and Responsibilities of Government Agencies in Wildlife Law Enforcement; and Procedural Laws on Wildlife Resources Protection.

   The BWLE training course can be accessed at https:// elearn.adb.org

   More than  38,700 species including  5,900 species of animals and 32,800 species of plants are protected under the CITES, an international treaty signed by Philippines.  It was entered into force in 1975.  Each species is under any of three appendices depending on the degree of of protection they need.

   Each year, the BMB issues more than 1,500 permits on a tedious manual basis.

   But the new automated permit issuance system eases burden of manual work. This is aligned with Republic Act 11032 of 2018 or “Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Private sector pressed government to plow in investments into agriculture as private enterprises put in 95% of investments

December 6, 2021

The private sector has pressed government to plow in investments into agriculture sector that drives economic development even as private enterprises pour in the bulk of 95% of investments in agriculture while government only contributes 5% to farm output.

   The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) has asked presidential candidates, given their election, to put agriculture sector as a priority investment venue given its significant contribution to the economy.

    That along with its potential to be a springboard for agro-industrial development as agriculture is the natural resource origin of food and beverage and many manufacturing industries.

   PCAFI just held Monday its “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” with presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as as a way to engage potential future leaders to adopt PCAFI’s 12-point recommendation.

   “The private sector contributes 95% of the investment in the agriculture sector.  It should be provided with the right environment for people to invest in it. Government contribution to the total agricultural output is less than 5% yearly,” according to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   Also proposing recommendations through the online forum are Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernesto Ordonez and Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Q. Montemayor.

   After long years of ignoring the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 (AFMA-Republic Act 8435), government should now implement it. 

   The AFMA-mandated Naitonal Information Data System (NIDS) should be put up to provide an accurate data on import, export, demand, supply, and prices of agricultural commodities. Such data is not provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

   Creation of the NIDS is critical so that excessive importation of agricultural goods that has been slowly killing the agriculture sector can only be resolved given accurate data.     

   ”Investors and food producers will have an informed business decisions (given this data),” said Fausto.

   Eighty Five percent of the country’s agricultural land is planted with just four crops–rice, corn, banana and coconut.

   Income from these crops traditionally planted on 1 to 2 hectares of land cannot adequately feed a family of five members.

   “Our small farmers can earn more by planting other crops (through intercropping) with greater value like vegetables, legumes, fruits and even ornamentals in rotation with rice and corn. Farm produce can be further processed into various products far more valuable than the raw form and create additional employment in the process,” he said.

    Importation has become the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) long prevailing system in ensuring food security, hurting many Filipino farmers.  Thus, PCAFI has asked for the implementation of laws to curb importation that only benefit importers and traders.  

   The Safeguard Measures Act (SMA– Section 13, RA 8800) indicated that “in reaching a positive determination that the increase in the importation of the (imported) product is causing serious injury or threat  directly to competitive (local) products,” an increase in duty on the imported product may be imposed.

   The SMA also provides that if importation poses threat on the local industry, a decrease in the quota (minimum access volume or MAV) on the product may be implemented.  MAV is an importation program that carries lower tariff rate.

   “The initiation of international negotiations to address the underlying cause of the increase of imports of the product, to alleviate the injury or threat thereof to the domestic industry (should be done),” according to the PCAFI position paper.

   RA 8751 is the law that sanctions imposition of countervailing duties on imported subsidized products “in order to protect domestic industries from unfair trade competition.”

   Whenever any product is “granted directly or indirectly by the government in the country of origin” any kind of subsidy upon its production, and importation of such product causes material injury to a domestic industry, countervailing duties must be imposed.

   Ra 8752 also provides that anti-dumping duty may be imposed whenever any imported product has a price less than its “normal value” and causes threat to a domestic industry.

   Dr. Emil Q. Javier, national scientist and chairman of the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization of the Philippines (CAMP) also filed with presidential candidates the following recommendations:

1. Farm consolidation to attain economies of scale

   Prospective solutions may be to a) promote farm leasing by small unproductive farmers to more progressive farmers or to corporations; b) promote contract farming as a business model between small growers and  integrators; c) support rural cooperatives, irrigators associations ( IAs), and agrarian beneficiaries organizations ( ARBOs). 

   The government may also consider raising limit to farm holdings under agrarian reform from 5 to 20 hectares.  It should consider creating a Bureau of Agro-industrial Cooperatives under the DA.

2. Promotion of value-adding and processing to increase farmer incomes , create more jobs and expand exports

   This will generate more margins derived from the processing, marketing and distribution stages of the  value chain.  Farmers directly involved mainly in farm production stage face risks that are highest  while margins are often the least.

3. More efforts to expand access of small farmers to timely and affordable credit.

   “The government should consider creating a Land Bank subsidiary exclusively dedicated to small farmer lending.  It should also improve operations and raise capital of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp.,” said Javier.

4. Creation of a separate Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources

   “Fisherfolk and coastal communities are the poorest among  Filipinos.  Fisheries and marine resources are severely underfunded and largely under-utilized.  Fisheries tend to be neglected and crowded out by crops and livestock in DA.”

5. Reform of rural extension

   “Agricultural extension should be the task of local government units (LGUs) to bring extension services closer to the people,” Javier said.

   This LGU function has weakened for lack of direction, manpower, operating funds and expertise in the poor third to the sixth class municipalities where most of agriculture production is located.

   Therefore, it is better to locate the locus of planning, coordination and extension delivery at the provincial level. A Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Service ( PAFES) should be created.

6. Promotion of multiple cropping to create more jobs, produce more food and raise farmer income

   It is imperative that a shift from monocropping to multiple cropping must be done for economic and environmental sustainability.

   “Intercropping, relay cropping feasible with most crops, have more control on amount and time of availability of irrigation water.  We need to invest more in small irrigation systems to supplement large irrigation systems.   The National Irrigation Administration must also be returned to the DA for proper coordination of irrigation development, management and maintenance,” said Javier.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Robredo successfully transformed Filipino farmers in Bicol into agri-entrepreneurs, now selling directly to Bigg’s Diner, LCC Supermarket

November 30, 2021

Vice President Leni Robredo has successfully transformed Filipino farmers in Bicol into “agri-entrepreneurs” through the “Umasenso sa Kabuhayan” that now sells directly to commercial establishments including Bigg’s Diner.

   During the forum “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Robredo said there are already nine municipalities in Bicol with farming communities that are directly selling to hotels, restaurants, groceries, and supermarkets.

   “Farmers’ transition from subsistence farming (into entrepreneurship) is gradual.  But if we can show them the benefits, it is possible,” said Robredo.

   PCAFI held the forum to orient presidential aspirants on the need of Filipino farmers and the fact that agriculture has been neglected in many years, according to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   Among the needs are an increased budget of at least 10% of GDP which is but “fair” as agriculture contributes 10% to GDP and even up to 35% when agriculture processing industries are included.

   Farmers need to be aided to become businessmen as “agriculture should not be treated as a charity work but as a business,” Fausto said.

 Recommendations on agriculture were also presented during the forum by Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Montemayor, Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernie Ordonez, and Rice Watch Executive Director Hazel Tanchuling.

   This program with Bicol farmers started in 2018 when the Office of the Vice President (OVP) conducted a simultaneous survey.  The survey asked commercial establishments on the top 10 agricultural goods they need and the top 10 crops that farmers grow.  

   Both the commercial establishments and the farmers’ groups cited the top 10 agricultural crops they need or grow.

   The businessmen cited these crops as what they need, in order from the most important to the least– calamansi, ginger, chili pepper, lettuce, and cucumber.

   “We told the farmers, ‘Grow calamansi, and we will provide you with the financial grants and the seedlings,’” she said.

Vice President Leni Robredo and PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto

   Initially, the farmers were resistant since they were used to growing cash crops (such as vegetables harvested in three weeks) or a set of crops just to make them a complete set –such as pinakbet vegetables talong, ampalaya, and kalabasa. 

   These farmers were also basically rice farmers who are among Philippines’ poorest.

   But there were enterprising farmers who dared to grow what they were advised, while there were businessmen who were willing to commit to buying these produce upon the prodding of the OVP.   

   It was also OVP’s partnership with the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

   The first big buyer is the Bigg’s Diner in Naga.

   These businesses used to buy produce from Baguio or Sariaya, Quezon, instead of from Bicol farmers because of various reasons (more expensive, etc).

   “We found it hard at first.  But when daring farmers started becoming successful, the other farmers followed,” said Robredo.  “Now we already have a lot of contracts.  You just need to be focused on the program.”

   The success is also attributable to collaboration.  The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) assisted the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB).  The Department of Agriculture (DA) assisted the non-ARBs.

   The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provided shared service facilities for selling the agricultural goods that cannot be bought by institutional buyers.   Now there are nine municipalities with shared service facility for this direct trading activity of farmers.

   If there is a need for value adding, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) comes in.

   “The OVP became a platform where everybody is on board—DA, DOST, DAR, DTI.  We are the ones that tell them this is what we need from you. Even the agencies are happy.  Now the farmers have a delivery truck.  And their earnings are far bigger than what they earned as mere rice farmers,” said the vice president.

   The farmers now also have an arrangement with LCC Supermarket, Bicol’s largest supermarket chain, to which the farmers commit to selling their produce.

   With the financial grant from government along with their higher income, farmers were able to buy greenhouses for their produce.  They were able to put up their drip irrigation facilities for efficient garden watering.

   The Umasenso sa Kabuhayan also has another successful agri-entrepreneurship program with the Sumilao Farmers in Bukidnon.  It is in partnership with Pilipinas Shell Founation.

   “They are our clients in Saligan (a non government organization of lawyers helping the poorest). Sumilao farmers won their case, and they’re very inspiring. Now they have become rich. Our program with Pilipinas Shell taught them to maximize resources. They just grew corn before, now they’re into livestock.”

   The OVP introduced these interventions to small farmers as Robredo observed that it is the traders that earn a lot from transactions on agricultural trade. 

   The farmers, who toil hard on the soil, just registered an income of an additional 6% throughout many years, Robredo said.  

   “If  agencies will not work on silos, programs will not be doubled, and gaps will be filled.  I tell farmers to just specialize on products (that are in demand).  Let us not insist on growing what is not needed.

   Specialization is achieved as one town takes on growing calamansi, another sili.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)