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.

 

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)

Philippines should boost agar seaweed production to further raise $200 M export– Isko Moreno

November 28, 2021

The Philippines should boost the production of export winner “agar agar” seaweed to create jobs and alternative rural livelihood while generating export reaching to $200 million yearly from Philippines’ fisheries-rich natural resource.

   Presidential Aspirant Francisco “Isko” Domagoso said during Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc’s  (PCAFI) “Agri 2022” that agar agar’s production should be raised considering Philippines’ rich coastal areas.

   “At a certain height in coastal areas, you can already plant agar agar. And agar agar is a very good way of alternative livelihood for our fisherfolks,” said Domagoso.

   Dr. Emil Q. Javier, national scientist and Coalition for Agriculture Modernization of the Philippines (CAMP), affirmed that the country’s experts are ready with the technology in seaweeds.  These experts are with the Marine Science Institute, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, and University of the Philippines-Visayas.

   With seaweed as one export product that Philippines earns from at around $200 million yearly, the country should further enhance its fisheries position by asserting its fishing right to the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

   “Our ambition  should be to be a truly maritime nation. Asserting our right at the West Philippine Sea should be done to be a truly maritime nation,” said Javier who is also PCAFI officer.   “We’re very rich in fisheries resources, but our fishermen are among the poorest.”

   The Philippines should indeed stand in asserting its WPS fishing right, whatever the size of its armed force is, being a sovereign nation.

   “We must co exist as a country.  We will insist on what we have and what we own.  Yes there are countries that are superpower trying to intimidate us.  But when we stand our ground, we are respected by (bigger) countries because we have our own disposition.  I made it clear to our fisherfolks that we will fish in the West Philippine Sea –undeterred unharmed and unbullied,” said Domagoso.

   It should be Philippines’ policy to impose penalties on foreigners who violate Philippine’s territorial rights.  

   “Once you enter into our geography, I don’t have to make war with you, when it’s illegal (one should be penalized).   Why do we imprison our fellow Filipinos when they do something illegal, but when it comes to foreigners, we just watch them,” Domagoso said. “We will guarantee that our navy, whether small or big, our coast guard, whether small or big, whatever capacity we have as a nation we will go there with our fishers because it’s ours.”

   In the first place, Philippines enters into international treaties.  And its defense should also be its allies’ defense.

Mayor Isko Moreno and National Scientist Emil Q. Javier

   “I don’t think the other side will push the button.  Nobody can afford it because we are a sovereign nation with allies. We’ve been signing agreements, treaties. It shouldn’t always be one way road. This is the time they should come (to our defense) because why will I sign treaties with you? Where were you when we need you most?”

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said that for Philippines to further specialize on fisheries since its territorial waters is bigger than the land, a Department of Fisheries should be created.

Seaweed farming. Credit– BAFPS

   Domagoso assured “we will separate our Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources from DA (Department of Agriculture).  You can’t be good on both land and water. There will be enough attention in land based (function) for food security (as well as in sea-based).”

   PCAFI has been orienting presidential candidates on the state of Philippine agriculture and has 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)

Isko Moreno to implement laws ending excessive agri imports, to put forth “Filipino First” policy for food security

November 28, 2021

Presidential aspirant Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso will “make sure” to implement laws such as the Safeguard Measures Act to curb excessive importation and put forth a “Filipino First” policy to ensure food security, consequently national security.

   In a series of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc’s  (PCAFI) “Halalan Para sa Agrikultura 2022” held Friday, Domagoso committed to abiding by international treaties the Philippines signed into.

   Yet, he said it is but reasonable to look after the welfare of Filipino farmers first.

   “We live in a new world in a competitive time,  We must also adhere to our relationships to the world.  But first things first.  Filipino first,” Domagoso said.

   “I agree with treaties.  I agree with contracts.  But my question is what is it for us?  Nobody can blame us if this will be our attitude as elected leaders, as government leaders in this issue of national security.”

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto stressed during the forum that Philippines has not at all implemented laws regulating unnecessary importation as sanctioned by the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA-Republic Act 8435 of 1997).

    This has caused flooding of imports, particularly pork recently.  This has brought losses of more than P100 billion to date, to the detriment of the local pork sector and its farmers.

   But the Safeguard Measures Act allows for the increase in duty of imported products in cases where this hurts the local industry and farmers.

   Likewise, the imposition of anti-dumping duties under RA 8752 makes sure unfair trade competition is stopped. 

   When government- subsidized goods abroad are dumped in the Philippines at very cheap price that render Filipino farmers’ produce uncompetitive, the duties may be imposed, Fausto said.

   Domagoso said such unfair competition for Filipino farmers should not happen again.

   “We’ll make sure there will be level playing field. I always tell businessmen that in Manila,   rules will be certain.  There is predictability,” he said.

   “It is good that we just have to implement those laws (on Safeguard Measures Act and Anti Dumping Act). When we implement, that applies to every John Doe and Mary.”

   As Fausto said the AFMA-mandated National Information Data System should be created to ensure there is data on import, export, demand, supply, Domagoso said this data system should be the basis if there is a need for importation.

   “Importation should only be when there is a delubyo (calamity).  Gone will be the days of hula hula (guessing the importation data),” he said.

   “Action should be based on facts, on quantifiable data. Or most likely it will be a shotgun approach. Nothing will be hit. If you have the data, then we will put actions. It may not be perfect, but results matter to me.”

   The clear threat of food security has not been observed as during the pandemic, Domagoso said.

   “The number one threat to national security is food security and it was made very clear to every John Doe and Mary in this pandemic – when Vietnam had an issue on (whether) to release their (rice) produce to the world in the middle of the pandemic.”

   Now is a high time for PHilippines to invest in agriculture, he said.

   “If our country, our leaders, not only the president, but legislative people, will not put our hearts into it, we’ll be subject into the situation of threat to food security five to 10 years from now.”

   Domagoso lamented that when he went to Tarlac lately, farmers complained having earned only P12 to P14 per kilo for their unhusked rice.

   “That means tabla talo.  If the cost of production is P12-14, then they not only lose money, they are also losing because of the work they put in. No wonder why our partners are aging, and technology and experience of our farmers are not being transferred to the next generation. I for one as parent will tell my children, ‘Don’t go to farming.  There’s no money there.’  Then we all lose,” he said.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Phil. Science High School teachers continue to inspire in CMB Natatanging Guro Awards 2021

November 21, 2021

Teaching in the middle of a pandemic is no easy feat, but three teachers from the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) continued to level up and inspire teaching excellence in the 5th Cleofe M. Bacungan Natatanging Guro Awards ceremony (CMB NGA) held online last November 19, 2021.

   This year, the CMB Natatanging Guro awardees are Kristine Joy Aguila of the PSHS Main Campus (Humanities and Social Sciences category); Ronna Magto of the PSHS Western Mindanao Campus (Mathematics and Computer Science category); and Erika Eunice Salvador of the PSHS Western Visayas Campus (Natural Sciences category).

   The CMB Natatanging Guro Awards aim to help maintain the high teaching excellence in the PSHS to shape globally competitive Filipino scientists equipped with 21st century skills.        

   The keynote message was delivered by Vice President Leni Robredo, who thanked the PSHS faculty and expressed her appreciation for all their extra effort in developing the country’s next professionals and leaders in science and technology despite the challenging pandemic situation.

   “Maraming salamat sa lahat ng sakripisyo ninyo para sa kabataan at para sa bayan. Bilang dating guro, alam ko yung bigat ng responsibilidad na hubugin ang values at thought processes ng susunod na henerasyon. Kaya saludo ako sa bawat isa sa inyo. This responsibility takes on even more gravity as we face the greatest challenge of our time. Edukasyon ang isa sa mga pinaka apektadong sektor at hanggang ngayon patuloy ang pag-aadjust natin sa online classes at modular learning” said Vice President Robredo.

   Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena of the Department of Science and Technology also congratulated the awardees, highlighting the critical role of teachers in social growth.

   He emphasized that the awardees performed beyond the minimum requirements of their duties and met the standards of the CMB Natatanging Guro Awards. 

   This made the Philippine Science High School the “home of exceptional teachers who are our engineers of learning, our advocates of critical thinking, and our partners in creating a new breed of Filipinos who will create a positive impact on our country” said Sec. Dela Pena.

   Bayer Philippines Inc., a global life science company and CMB Natatanging Guro Awards event partner this year, expressed appreciation for the PSHS teachers and the importance of supporting science education.

   “Bayer is here with the Philippine Science High School in support of science – to appreciate the teachers who are developing this country’s scientific talent,” said Angel-Michael Evangelista, Managing Director and Country Division Head for Pharmaceuticals at Bayer Philippines.

   “We look forward to collaborating more with the Philippine Science High School in the future because our country needs your scientific talent now more than ever. In the face of so many challenges like food security, climate change, and this pandemic – the world needs us to make science for a better life”

   Inspiring excellence in teaching the CMB Natatanging Guro Awards is the flagship program of the Cleofe M. Bacuñgan Natatanging Guro Endowment Fund instituted by PSHS Alumni Batch 1982 in 2007. It has since evolved into tripartite endeavor of the PSHS System; the PSHS National Alumni Association and the PSHS Foundation, Inc. The CMB Natatanging Guro Awards are open every three years to all PSHS faculty in its campuses across the country.  It aims to help maintain high teaching excellence in the PSHS.  This is key to producing globally competitive Filipino scientists equipped with 21st century skills guided by core values of truth, excellence, and service to the nation.

   The Awards are given to outstanding teachers in the following categories: Natural Sciences; Mathematics and Computer Science and Humanities. Criteria for selection are: Teaching Effectiveness; Research and Creative Work; Academic Background and Professional Development; and Administrative and Extension Work.

   The winning Natatanging Guros are awarded P50,000.00 and given the CMB Natatanging Guro trophy. This year’s awarding ceremony was held virtually and streamed live over the PSHS Facebook Page and on YouTube.

Zamboanga City cacao farmers started to supply dried cacao beans to Hershey chocolate’s Kennemer, help sustain Pasonanca Natural Park

November 22, 2021

A 100-strong cacao farmers association in Zamboanga City has started supplying dried cacao beans to Hershey chocolate-associated Kennemer Foods International while being able to contribute to sustainability of the watershed Pasonanca Natural Park.

   The Tolosa Buffer Zone Association (TBZA) and the Salaan Buffer Zone Association (SBZA), with around 50 farmer-member each, have successfully cultivated an estimated 8.2 hectares of cacao land in Zamboanga City. 

   Another market for their cacao beans is the and JAS Agri-ventures Inc.  

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) just conducted in August a five-day training for farmers in Tolosa on cacao farming,

   With an initial 10 to 20 sacks of dried cacao beans supplied to Kennemer Foods per month, this volume is expected to increase next year.

   “By the middle of next year (2022), we will have been ready to harvest from more cacao areas that we helped rehabilitate,” said Dr. Reynaldo C. Navacilla, field manager of Protect Wildlife. 

   Protect Wildlife, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is a consortium of agencies helping the watershed natives to learn agriculture and agro-forestry in exchange for destructive wildlife practices.

   DENR’s training on cacao farming was conducted with USAID’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP).

   Kasanyangan Center for Rural Development & Microfinancing Inc (KCRDMFI) has supplied UF18  and W10 varieties of cacao seedlings to the communities. KCRDMFI also supplied them the fertilizers..

   The  TBZA and SBZA have also been producing their home-made tableas sold at P120 per pack, producing around 50 packs per month.

   The cacao farms of TBZA and SBZA have helped forest communities within the Pasonanca Natural Park to sustain a livelihood for themselves.

   “Some of them used to poach wildlife in the area.  Some of them used to get firewood in the forests in order to produce charcoal sold to bakeries downtown. With a livelihood now, majority of them no longer do these destructive practices,” said Navacilla.

DENR Protect Wildlife project donates cacao processing facility to Pasonanca community

   As to their agforestry and intercropping practices, the farmers are able to help conserve soil, reduce soil erosion, and stabilize slopes in the mountains. Intercropped with cacao are coffee and vegetables.   

   Inday Campaner, protected area superintendent at Pasonanca Natural Park, said DENR’s vision is for the Pasonanca Natural Park to become recognized as an ASEAN Heritage Park.

   ASEAN Heritage Parks are selected based on their  “unique biodiversity and ecosystems, wilderness and outstanding values in scenic, cultural, educational, research, recreational and tourism.”  As such, they become significant sites for conservation.

   Strengthening the conservation program in Pasonanca is important even as new flora and fauna species are being discovered in the protected area.  Among these are the mistletoe and amorphophollus, according to Dr. Dante Oporto, former PENRO (provincial environment and natural resources officer) of Zamboanga Sibugay.

   Partnering with USAID in the effort to help the communities and conserve the environment are Conservation International, DAI Global LLC, Orient Integrated Development Consultants Inc., Conservation International, Rare, and Tanggol Kalikasan.

   However, Lorna Guerrero, president of TBZA, said the farmers’ group needs support in maintenance of the cacao trees to make them bear fruit. They need fertilizers, pesticides, and perhaps sustained technical assistance for best agronomic practices in cacao farming.

   Nevertheless, numerous organizations continue to aid the farmers.  USAID provided the coffee grinder to them.  USAID gave each farmer a set of three tools (including knives and pruning tools) for maintaining their farms.

   The Pasonanca Natural Park is an important watershed that contains the headwaters of the Tumaga River in southern Zamboanga Cordillera Mountain.  It is the source of water for nearly one million residents in Zamboanga City.

   It covers an area of 10,560 hectares of forest reserve and is the largest remaining old growth dipterocarp forest in Zamboanga.

   As part of its conservation, DENR’s Protect Wildlife project with USAID has also introduced financing measures for its protected area management. This is to help fund the P30 million annual cost for watershed and environmental management by the Zamboanga City local government unit (LGU).

DENR-USAID Protect Wildlife project trains farmers in Zamboanga’s Pasonanca protected area on cacao growing

  The LGU hires around 120 forest guards in the protected area.

   Moreover, the project’s livelihood program ensures that the communities in the buffer zone become protectors of the watershed especially during critical times as the Covid 19 pandemic.

   “DENR distributed 5,400 ready-to-plant vegetable and fruit tree seedlings and 1,500 Acacia mangium seedlings to Tolosa and Salaan people’s organizations in the park’s buffer zone as part of the government’s livelihood assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic,” reported the USAID.

   The Zamboanga City LGU also allocated P1 million yearly for the conservation of the park, being known as habitat of Philippine eagle and the Zamboanga bulbul, flagship species of the park.

   Since the Pasonanca Natural Park is an ecotourism—trekking and adventure – site, the Protect Wildlife Project installed monuments and markers on strict protection and multiple use zones.

   “Park signage was installed to remind nearby communities of prohibited activities in the strict protection zone and to promote agroforestry in buffer zones. Signage was installed along marked boundaries, where the threat of encroachment is high.”

  The Protect Wildlife project also supported the Zamboanga City Anti-Wildlife Trafficking Task Force (ZCAWTTF).  It helps in the enforcement of environmental laws in Zamboanga City.

    Pasonanca Natural Park is home to a reported 96 highly threatened species. These include the Philippine Eagle and  Zamboanga bulbul Mindanao bleeding-heartPhilippine kingfisherPhilippine leafbird and little slaty flycatcher. It is said to be home too to the Mindanao broadbillazure-breasted pittacelestial monarchsouthern silvery kingfisherblue-capped kingfisherspotted imperial pigeongiant scops owlJapanese night heronChinese egretrufous-lored kingfisherPhilippine dwarf kingfisher and Philippine cockatoo(Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

20,000 households in Bohol island gets stable 24-7 green solar energy supply, enjoy sustained economic growth

November 16, 2021

A renewable energy project called “DREAMS” has brought a stable 24-7 solar energy supply to 20,000-household residents of Pamilacan, Baclayon, Bohol– stabilizing economic development in the island.

   Financed under the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Support Facility for Renewable Energy (SF4RE), the solar energy project installed a 39 kWP (kilowatts peak) Photovoltaic (PV) system to the Pamilacan Island Community.

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has expressed support for the solar energy project that will be generating carbon sequestration credits for Bohol Province.

   As the GEF Operational Focal Point in the Philippines is in DENR under the office of Undersecretary Analiza Rebuelta-Teh, DENR is gratified that  an entire 20,000 household community benefits from an energy source that contributes to reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission.

   A switch on event was held last October 28 in Pamilacan Island, Bohol to signal the operation of the Photovoltaic expansion project.

   The WeGen Laudato Si Social Enterprise and Bohol Electric Cooperative (Boheco I) will lead the operation of the PV system. 

   They will also coordinate with the LGU (local government unit) and assist the community partners to have the management capacity as an energy association.

   These are the other community partners of the PV project:

  1.  Pamilacan Solar Credit Cooperative, a women enterprise that collects payment from consumer households at P10 per kilowatthour (kwh).
  2. Department of Education which provides the school space or roof tops for the solar PV installation.

   The operation of the PV system generates financial benefits for the Pamilacan community as the share of the cooperative becomes a trust fund. 

   The GEF SF4RE is a $1 million facility under GEF’s DREAMS (Development of Renewable Energy Application Mainstreaming and Market Sustainability).  SF4RE’s aim is to generate renewable energy investments or financial support for renewable energy.

   The SF4RE also  builds partnerships among local government units, distribution utilities, power generators and community associations to attain energy security and 100% household electrification.

   The PV expansion system in Pamilacan Island is such a milestone since the island enjoyed power for only five hours per day five years ago. 

   Their electricity was powered then by diesel generators of the Boheco 1 through a Genset with 50 kVA (kilovolt-ampere) and 80 kVA for nightime power supply.

Solar energy lights up Pamilacan Island, Bohol. Credit– Cbholganza

   As soon as WeGen installed in 2017 an off grid solar PV system that supplied 24/7 electricity to the households, economic development was immediately observed.

   “Economic growth flourished as the island is an ecotourism area.  Living conditions improved with additional livelihood.  Energy demand increased due to more appliances and equipment for household use and business.”

   However, increased demand was ensued by shortage in supply and system malfunctions.

   Thus, the PV expansion at present is needed to match power demand from additional 357 households.

   “The expanded system would reduce the community usage of the diesel generators.  Thus it is expected that the average cost of energy at the family level will decrease since households will be getting cheaper power during the day.  This will also continue to support the electricity of the school,” reported the Department of Energy (DOE).

    The diesel generators will only supply night-time electricity.

10 Benefits of Photovoltaic Panels. Credit– Pinterest

   The additional installed power capacity may free up the demand on the Boheco Genset.  The Genset may potentially be used to run a small desalination plant which will be under a study.

   The installation will also lead to the compliance of Boheco to the Renewable Portfolio Standards (off-grid) under the Renewable Energy Law. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Proposed Philippine Corn Development Authority should restore aid to corn farmers “orphaned” by rice tarrification

November 15, 2021

Corn farmers are banking on the creation of a proposed Philippine Corn Development Authority so as to restore aid to the “orphaned” sector since the ratification of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

   The corn sector used to have at least P1.6 billion Department of Agriculture (DA) budget, according to Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) President Roger V. Navarro during the “Halalan sa 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food Inc. (PCAFI).

   However, the budget, mainly through the DA-attached National Food Administration’s (NFA), has been eliminated with the passage of RTL.  The abolition of the functions of NFA consequently abolished government’s buying program  of farmers’ corn harvest.

   “The budget for corn before was only P60 million. Then the budget increased last to P1.6 billion.   But the industry is worth P100 billion.  There is a very big gap.  Then the RTL was passed, the RTL even became rice-centric,” Navarro said during the PCAFI Forum.

   Audience during the PCAFI Forum is Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, vice presidential candidate.

   Pangilinan, also Senate Committee Chairman on Agriculture, said he will look into the possibility of first drafting an executive order creating the government corn agency.  

   The EO will be a temporary instrument until creation of the corn agency becomes official through a congressional legislation.

   “We will study it.  We can issue an EO to  convene the corn development board and provide funding for it while the bill is being debated,” he said.

   There are many issues confronting the corn industry which should be addressed by a higher authority such as a corn development agency.

   For one, the local corn sector cannot grow to its maximum capacity as it is only allowed to import.  But it is not allowed to export and take advantage of seasonal high price of corn in the world market.

   “Corn was the first commodity to be liberalized under the WTO (World Trade Organization).    But it was only importation that was liberalized for corn and corn substitutes.  The  government has never really agreed to allowing us to export. (Even worse), they have plans to  make corn to have zero tariff,” he said.

     A serious concern for the corn sector is post harvest facilities which the Philippines lack.

   “There are two croppings for corn.  The first cropping has the biggest production of 65% for the (crop year)).  That is from August September October.  But since it is rainy, and  we don’t have the post harvest facilities, there is so much loss.  The February to March harvest is just fine because it can be dried on the highway.  But we need to save the first season harvest,” said Navarro.

   Unfortunately, while the Department of Public Works and Highways has a huge budget of P700 billion for infrastructure, its projects do not really involve post harvest facilities for the corn industry.

   The same absence of post harvest facilities compels government to have a program for buying corn. This program for buying all farmers’ harvest for the first cropping is already a practice in Thailand.

   “In Thailand, the government sequesters all corn production, and so you will see warehouses saying ‘Property of the Government of Thailand,’” Navarro said.

   A corn agency is also important since the Philippines needs to attend to many needs in order to be self reliant.  For one, there is hardly a local corn seed growing industry as many seed growers are multinational companies, Navarro said.

   Also, farmers find it difficult to supply the needed fertilizers for their crops since fertilizers’ cost is very high.   Navarro cited that government-owned fertilizer companies including the Philippine Phosphate and Atlas Fertilizer are no longer operating.

   He cited that the cost of fertilizers urea, potash, and Triple 14 is now very expensive at around P2,000 per bag. Thus farmers find them prohibitive to use.

   Pangilinan committed to support the corn industry, recognizing its unique role in the livestock sector.

   “Corn plays a very important role in feeds.  And feeds play an important role in livestock.  So we should really look after the needs of the corn sector,” Pangilinan said.

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said earlier cited the significance of the feed industry which is comprised substantially by corn and corn substitutes.

   Fausto said that the government should allocate a budget of at least P112.5 billion for livestock and poultry. And yet, feed also represents a big cost of input for livestock and poultry.

   “The feed industry is a P510-billion industry. Assuming two-thirds (67 percent) of feeds go to livestock and poultry, that represents P340 billion,” he said.

   Assistance in post harvest facilities is what will significantly improve farmers’ lives.

   “We make our farmers become mendicant. We don’t bring them respect.  But we will put dignity to the people as we elevate our assistance in infrastructure,” said Navarro.

   With post harvest facilities, the corn sector will be stabilized.

   “We will have a stable price, stable supply of corn, and stable income for farmers,” Navarro said. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Philippines haggles for Least Developed Countries to seize bigger chunk of the Global Environment Facility Round 8

The Philippines has supported the interest of Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Development states (SIDs) to seize a significant chunk of the “green” funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) which is in its eighth round of funding replenishment.

As the pandemic has hit harder on LDCs and SIDs, the Philippine government, represented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the GEF talks, has supported the fund’s System for Transparent Allocation of Resources (STAR).

“On STAR, (Philippines recommends) general support for full flexibility, inclusion of the vulnerability index, and increased allocation for vulnerable countries, LDCs and SIDS,” according to  “GEF Asia Post Replenishment Debrief.”

The world has faced greater challenges these times as global temperature is estimated to be 1.1 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial times.  As the world could cross the 2 degrees Centigrade threshold by 2050, GEF supports funding for projects that achieve global goals against global warming.

The GEF is a trust fund created 30 years ago to enable developing countries to address priorities such as deforestation, desertification, climate change, biodiversity loss, and ozone depletion.

The funding for green projects is estimated to reach $6.5 billion for this eighth round of replenishment.

For this cycle’s second meeting, Philippines-DENR’s Analiza Rebuelta-Teh  represented the GEF Asia Region being the Asia observer for GEF Asia GEF Operational Focal Point for the Philippines . 

The region includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Iraq, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Syria, and Yemen.

With a united stand, the Asian Region has brought to the consciousness of  GEF its support for the vulnerability index as a factor in the prioritization of  GEF funding of projects.

The vulnerability index under the System for Transparent Allocation of Resources (STAR) is important in determining the real economic issues of countries on the ground. 

This especially applies among LDCs and SIDS which need more assistance especially due to the pandemic.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the country also faces significant challenges in financing projects for  intensified environment protection against the pandemic and climate-related calamities.

“There is a need to mobilize more resources to finance climate action and intensified environmental protection amidst the Covid 19 pandemic.  GEF-8 is an opportunity that the countries should tap for this,” Cimatu said.

GEF-8’s next four-year cycle spans from July 2022 to June 2026.

GEF-8 can balloon to $6.5 billion given an increase in allocation for non grant instruments (NGI) and Small Grants Program (SGP). The allocation is meant to support private sector and civil society participation in NGI and SGP.

The GEF-8 $6.5 billion scenario allocates the biggest chunk for biodiversity, 34%, followed by climate change, 15%; chemicals and wastes, 14%; international waters, 12%; and land degradation, 11%. An allocation of $157 million is being made for SGI and $256 million for SGP.  

The following are among Asia’s other recommendations for GEF’s eighth round:

  1. Intensified support for countries in their blue (ocean) and green (forestry) recoveries with the pandemic recovery factored in the GEF strategy
  2.  Inclusion of fragile and conflict afflicted countries in the design and implementation of projects in these countries.
  3. Mobilization of private sector in the environment goals and the role of NGI and blended finance in this effort
  4. Inclusion of indicators on co-benefits of climate adaptation, private sector engagement and sustainability
  5. Criteria setting for participation of all GEF agencies in Integrated Programs; concrete measures to reduce transaction costs; provide analysis of GEF agencies administrative costs; explore and address why MDBs (multilateral development banks) receive less GEF funding.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Govt urged to counter WTO provisions that caused flooding of 440 million kilos of pork to the detriment of Filipino farmers, local hog sector

November 12, 2021

The government should have a way to defend Filipino farmers’ rights against excessive imports from trade agreements even as 440 million kilos of imported pork have already flooded the local market to the detriment of the local hog sector.

   Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, vice presidential candidate, said in a virtual forum on “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) said the food importation regime  should stop.

   “We should only import when needed. Importation should be a last resort.  All countries have a way of standing up against (trade agreement pressures).  What’s been happening is we choose to go blinded just following mandates. There are grey areas in trade agreements we can hold on to in order to defend our farmers,” said Pangilinan.

   Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (Propork) President Edwin Chen said it is unfortunate that despite pleas from the local hog sector for a cessation on importation, the government has ruled against the local hog sector’s request.

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto cited the Safeguard Measures Act should be invoked as section 13 provides for the protection of local farmers.  The law provides that importation should only happen in cases of extreme supply shortage.

   Propork also reiterated the sector’s petition for government to put up the first border inspection facility which should restrict the entry of infectious animals inflicted with the African swine flu, among others.

Pangilinan

   Chester Tan, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., said the Philippines should repopulate its hog sector in order for the country not to depend on imports.

   “But the DA (Department of Agriculture) is using the World Trade Organization (WTO) provision to import from different countries,” said Tan.  “Our advocacy is to repopulate so we won’t have to depend on imports.”

Pangilinan also committed to support the creation of the Philippine Corn Administration which will take care of the welfare of corn farmers.

   Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) President Roger V. Navarro said corn farmers have been orphaned after the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

   National Food Authority (NFA) used to have a corn buying program.  But when RTL was ratified, the corn buying program was  abolished as RTL just focused on rice.  

   Navarro said government’s aid to corn farmers should be in the form of post harvest facilities. The absence of dryers and storage facilities cause many losses to farmers at harvest time when farmers are forced to sell their corn at low prices.

   The government budget for corn is only P60 million even if the corn sector is worth  P100 billion, said Navarro.

   Pangilinan said an executive order can already be issued in order to convene the Corn Development Board, a multi-sectoral group that used to meet to discuss development of the corn industry. 

   PCAFI also proposed the following measures for the development of the agriculture sector:

  1. Full representation and participation of the private sector in the granting of import permits, first border inspections, road map preparation and review,and other agriculture policies and programs for agricultural development.

2. Creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic resources

3. Return of the authority and supervision of the National Irrigation

Administration (NIA) to the DA

4.  Creation of the Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives and Associations under

DA

5. Mandating LGUs (local government units) to provide appropriate funds for the establishment of agriculture extension services and to support

agriculture production and value and supply chain.

6.  Diversification of agriculture production giving more attention and

investments in commodities other than rice, i.e. horticultural and industrial

crops, poultry and livestock and fisheries, re-directing food production to

farming systems and multiple cropping.

7.  Passage of the Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands.

8. Ensure and prioritize provisions for post-harvest facilities for fisheries and

aquaculture, livestock and poultry, rice, corn, coconut and high value

crops.

9.  Convergence of DA (Department of Agriculture), DTI (Department of Trade and Industry)  and DOST (Department of Science and Technology) initiatives to promote food and beverage manufacturing both for domestic needs and exports.

10. Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors

11.. Harnessing advances in science to raise productivity and competitiveness,

e.g. modern biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization, IT

technologies. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)