India proposes bilateral exchange on agritech, fintech, intelligent financing with Philippines

March 30, 2021

The Indian government has proposed a bilateral exchange with the Philippines involving agricultural technology and fintech (financial technology) believing that vital technologies revolutionizing small farms in India can benefit Filipino farmers.

   On top of initially extending a $50,000 to the corn sector, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu S. Kumaran said India can exchange technologies with the Philippines that are in the forefront of improving how small farms operate.

   “We like to invite you to a discovery of India’s agritech ecosystem.  We’ll look at a bilateral workshop so you will see this vibrancy in India.  And India will see the positive developments in agri-tech in the Philippines.  This will be a two-way street,” said Kumaran at  a Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) business meeting.

   The bilateral meeting which may be co-organized by PCAFI and Indian Embassy may be held “sometime later this year.”

   Philip L Ong, PCAFI chairman, this fintech venture with India may involve PCAFI’s own Agrifood Hub Project.  The Agrifood Hub is also involved in technology that links farmers with the market.

PCAFI Chairman Philip L. Ong reports 37,343 farmers linked to the Agrifood Hub Project.

   Since its launch in July 2020, it has so far linked 37,343 farmers and 315 farmer groups, primary traders, and cooperatives to markets involving 109 municipalities. 

   It had posted over the internet through its website, and hotline 09178215408, a total of 980 food and crop requirements and matched these requirements with 924 sellers.  It has received 56 information requests and generated 55 active buyers per month, Ong reported.

   Kumaran said the Indian government has already touched based with Philippines’ Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez for a possible agritech and fintech exchange.

   “An Indian company allows banks to use geospatial data, satellite data to make informed lending decision.   You have the software, the tool which gets all data in a region.  It allows banks to cut the risk and understand where and when credit dispersal is viable. They will have constant stream of data,” Kumaran said.

Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu S. Kumaran proposes a bilateral meeting for digital technology, agriculture technology

   Because of this agri technology, an e-bank raised “half a billion dollar using this tool that brings about the revolutionary changes that I talked about.”

   Indian fintech companies are not big, but they address the critical gaps in technology.

   “We offer to Philippines the possibility that DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) could have this tool without having to procure it.  It will be free-of-charge.  The revenue model allows that the creditors and software companies, all have the benefit from using the technology.”

     Right now banks are afraid to lend to agriculture activities as they don’t have mitigation strategies and risk assessment tools to determine what is viable.  But this software makes that possible.

   From only a few agritech startups in 2013, India had 1,000 agri-tech startups as of 2020.
   These agritech startups are engaged in projects like addressing water stress and crop stress in farm production. They advise farmers on what crops to use.

   The possible replication of an Indian financing system called “Viability Gap Fund” (VGP) has also been proposed by the Philippine Maize Federation Inc.  This is to finance post harvest facilities critical to storing the corn production of farmers, according to PMFI President Roger V. Navarro.

   The VGP was put up in India to fund viable projects by “unviable” proponents, meaning small and medium farmers.

   Navarro said that the fund may come from the fund that form penalties from the Agri-Agra Law.  The penalties, he said, amount to billions coming from penalizing banks that do not allocate 10 or 15 percent of their loanable amount for agriculture or agrarian reform funding as mandated.

   As of 2019, given compliance of all banks, this agri-agra law fund would have been P1.384 trillion, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

   Kumaran affirmed the need for the VGF in the country.

   “We should have smart public policies.  Food security is an absolute non-negotiable. We have lots of small and marginalized farmers in India. They find it hard to access common assets, so government needs to come in,” he said.

   Kumaran said the bilateral meeting will have technical engagements, presentations, and contact building.  It will create platforms for conversation.

   Kumaran noted that while having been import-dependent for food in the 1960s, 1970s, now India is the largest producer of food grain. In addition to feeding its 1.3 billion population, it also exports some surplus.

   These are India’s other proposals:

  1. A partnership on training of skills where India may conduct “pilot projects for modest funding from india.”
  2. Strong dialogue on market access considering Philippines is a big garlic importer, while India is a garlic producer.
  3. Solar energy production.  A lot of irrigation canals in India are now used as areas for lake solar panels.  These supply of energy is used for farmers’ needs, and any excess electricity goes to the national grid.
  4. Exchange in integrated farming strategies. Here, waste generated from farming is used for other farming processes  (energy generation).  This helps in combatting climate change and its adverse effects.
  5.  Partnerships in organic food production. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

At least 10% of local government budget should be allocated for agriculture—PCAFI

March 26, 2021

At least 10% of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of local government units (LGU) should be allocated for food security and agriculture to ensure rural development once national budget is devolved locally under President Duterte’s proposed executive order (EO).

   The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) has reiterated its call for government to raise the budget for agriculture.

   This is in consideration of agriculture’s big contribution of 9 to 10%  to the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP). 

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said a minimum of 10% of the IRA of LGUs should be made mandatory allocation for agriculture if national government fund will be devolved to local governments.

    “This is just proper since agriculture accounts for 10% of the GDP.  Budget for agriculture should increase, rather than decrease,” said Fausto.

Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri speaks at PCAFI membership meeting

   Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, guest speaker of the PCAFI’s virtual membership meeting Friday, said given an increase in budget for agriculture, the proposed EO will play a significant role ensuring farmers’ welfare and agricultural production.

   “Some of our LGU leaders are lawyers or doctors.  That’s why it’s important to elect leaders who have the heart for agriculture,” said Zubiri.

   Fausto has been stressing that the agriculture sector gets barely 2% of the total national budget while contributing 9-10% of the GDP. With the P4.5trillion 2021 budget, DA should get at least P405 billion in the national budget, he said.

   Duterte’s draft EO ordering some executive functions’ transfer to local government supports implementation of the Supreme Court ruling on the Mandanas-Casas cases in 2022.

   Zubiri said he is pushing for other important agriculture policies to be legislated in order to advance growth of the farm sector.

   He noted that the proposed expansion of the minimum access volume (MAV) by eight times will cause a collapse of the local hog industry.  This should not be allowed if the local hog industry has to recover from the devastation of the African swine flu in say 3 to5 years.

   HE also supports an amendment to the Cabotage Law in order to allow entry of international players in the domestic shipping industry. 

   “It is cheaper to ship goods from New Delhi to the Philippines than to ship this from Bukidnon to Manila,” he said. 

   This shipping restriction must be one of the reasons why agricultural products such as pork and poultry products in Mindanao  cannot be easily shipped to where the market is in Metro Manila.

   In credit access, Zubiri said government will continue to prod Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the PHIlippines to minimize requirements for loans.  This is for easier access to credit of the smallest of farmers who rather resort to borrowing from loan sharks that charge onerous interest of 20% per month.

   Zubiri advised organic food producers to organize and establish a formal policing organization against unscrupulous food producers that claim to produce organic food that are not authentically organic certified.

Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Indian Ambassador Shambhu Kumaran, PCAFI President Danilo Fausto, PCAFI Director Ernesto Ordonez (clockwise from lower left)

   Fausto said livestock and poultry should get at least P112.5B billion from the national budget.

   Poultry and livestock plays a highly significant role in the economy as it has important multiple effect in many other sectors.

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

   Fausto also said DA does not really need to raise imports of meat and poultry given adequate distribution nationwide of the supply. 

   The supply is enough to fill the local demand.  The need is to channel poultry and meat production, particularly from Visayas and Mindanao where these are produced, to where these are needed—Metro Manila and other cities. 

   Poultry and livestock plays a highly significant role in the economy with its multiplier effect in many other sectors.

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

   The Supreme Court ruling was based on a petition of Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas and former Bataan Gov. Enrique Garcia Jr. to base LGU’s IRA on 40% of the collection of all national taxes.  These include those collections of Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenue. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Former talahiban, now an eight-tonner rice producing land

March 18, 2021

A formerly wild grassland in Brgy. Sampot, Paniqui, Tarlac has turned into a productive  eight tonner rice producer that ushers Philippines towards a rice farming with reduced labor.

   The previous “talahiban” dryland employed a mechanized farming system, particularly for seeding and  harvesting.

   The fact that this piece of land has been barren for a long time did not deter it from yielding satisfactorily.  The drone broadcasting has made planting fairly stable on the ground and more uniformly spread.

   “Unlike the human hand which can differ in broadcasting strokes, such as when it is already tired, the machine made seed spreading more uniform in plant gaps,” said Aaron Cano, BCS new business activation manager. “It appears wind pressure from the drone also helped firmly establish the seed on the ground.”

   The use of this land for rice creates a windfall profit as this has never been considered useful for rice as there is no irrigation in the area.

Grain-filled harvest from Arize 8433 hybrid rice

   “We just used two pumps, so the land never received the water it needed.  It is a very marginal area in terms of water supply and land preparation, never been tilled or fertilized but we still got a good yield from the trial,” he added.      

   Danny Tongol of BCS’s Bayer Learning Center said Bayer’s planting protocol called “Bayer Much More Rice”  makes a big difference in yield compared to farmers’ practice.

   “The eight tons yield in Paniqui could not have been achieved under usual farmers’ practice. For some farmers, if there is around 20% weed occurrence in the farm, that is considered acceptable to them. For us and our “Bayer Much More Rice” recommended package of technology, we aim to maximize yield output and this includes effective weed control” said Tongol.

   From the start, all Arize seeds have inherent resistance to Bacterial Leaf Blight, which is a common problem during the wet season.     

   The recommendations include sufficient fertilization, control of weeds and plant diseases using of herbicide, fungicide, insecticide, and related crop protection solutions.

   The Carlos O. Cojuangco Foundation Inc. (Cocfi) has linked up Tarlac farmers with drone supplier New Hope Corp  (NHC) and the Bayer Learning Center to come up with the successful technology demonstration farm.

     “We should advocate the use of these technologies so that we can at least catch up with our neighbors who are now ahead of us in farming mechanization,” said Robert Randolph Moulic of Cocfi.

Former ‘talahiban’, now an eight-tonner rice producing land

   While only a small 2,000 square meter land, the model farm yielded 28 cavans at 57.5 to 58 kilos per cavan.  Converted into a hectare, this is equivalent to a potential yield of 8.055 tons (8,055 kilos).

   High yield is primarily attributed to the use of hybrid rice Arize 8433 DT which is resistant to Bacterial leaf blight and Brown plant hopper.

  The yield stands out significantly compared to the average three tons per hectare rice yield in the country.

   More important, planting of rice has been done through “direct seeding” with the use of drone technology. 

   Traditionally, direct seeding has been considered less productive yield-wise compared to the transplanted seeding since transplanting maximizes space or land area.

   Nevertheless, through the use of drone, no space has been wasted as the machine systematizes spread of the seeds/seedlings.

   Given yield potential of the mechanized rice farm, gross earnings may reach around P150,000 per hectare in one season, at P19 per kilo. Deducting about P50,000 production cost per hectare, net profit could reach a whopping P100,000 per hectare per season.

   Cost already includes P3,500 for direct seeding service using drone and P850 per hectare for mechanized crop protection spraying. Both mechanized activities are supported by Bayer through the service provider.

Mechanized harvesting of Arize 8433 hybrid rice seeds

   As the same land in Brgy. Sampot will be used again this rainy season,  Tongol said the Bayer Learning Center hopes harvest next time will be higher with the added rain water.  Rain could supply what has not been provided for by the two water pumps installed last season.

   The drone seeder is being received enthusiastically by Filipino farmers in Central Luzon as it substantially cuts labor and cost of direct seeding.

   Typically, labor cost for transplanting rice ranges around P11,000 to P13,000 per hectare. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Private sector pressed PPA to approve location for First Border Control to stop foreign entry of ASF-infected meat, livestock

March 4, 2021

PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto, DA Sec. William D. Dar, PMFI President Roger Navarro (2nd from right to left)

The private sector has pressed the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to approve the location of the  First Border Control (FBC) facility in to arrest massive spread of African swine fever (ASF)-infected meat and livestock that wreaks havoc on farmers’ livelihood.

   The Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc.(PCAFI)  and member group Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) have re-asserted their petition after the Department of Agriculture (DA)  promised to put up the FBC facility in July last year.

   “ASF as we know comes from outside of our country.  We are very strict and compliant with all protocols in our movements from within our soil.  Yet we failed in the First Border on what is coming into our country,” said PMFI President Roger Navarro.

   Navarro said reports indicate the delay in the FBC construction is due to the delay in the approval of the location where the facility should be put up.

   “We are told there are obstacles to implement the First Border Control facility due to pending approval from the Philippine Ports Authority to give the area.  So we are calling on PPA and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC)  to cooperate and help,” said Navarro.

   Danilo V. Fausto, PCAFI president, said government seemed to have allowed wayward spread of ASF with the delay in the FBC construction and the absence of systematic and organized hog vaccination program.

    PCAFI urges government to implement all-out all measures to spread ASF through massive vaccination.

   DA and Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI)   should get vaccine from Vietnam to stop ASF similar to how vaccination program for Covid 19 is being accelerated.

   Fausto said the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) has developed rapid test kits for the early detection of ASF in hogs.

   “This use of CLSU’s rapid test kits must be coming in too late after ASF’s discovery  in 2019, but it’s better late than never,” he said.

   Navarro said even if it is not its direct concern, PPA-DOTC should be pressed on the critical importance of the FBC.

   “While we are experiencing the devastation of ASF from the consumers, piggery owners down to the lowly corn farmers, authorities that need to help seems to be asleep and does not care. DOTC should wake up. This is the time we need you on rescue mode and be partakers to save our country and farmers,” said Navarro.

   PCAFI has also been petitioning before Congress long term development plans for the hog, poultry, and livestock sectors, not just short-term solutions to crises like ASF.

   It is unfair that poultry and livestock gets only an average of 3% from the budget of DA while it contributes an estimated 35% in total agricultural production revenue. On the other hand, palay gets the whopping 40% of budget despite contributing only 22% in production revenue.

   Moreover, livestock and poultry actually accounts for a significant 2.5% of the Philippines’ total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) revenue generation.   That makes it a critical mover in national development.

   Agriculture sector gets barely 2% of the total national budget, while contributing 9-10% of the GDP. With P4.5trillion 2021 budget, DA should get at least P405B in the national budget, livestock and poultry with at least P112.5B from the national budget.

   Poultry and livestock plays a highly significant role in the economy as its condition has multiple effect in many other sectors.

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

   Fausto also said DA does not really need to raise imports of meat and poultry given adequate distribution nationwide of the supply. 

The supply is enough to fill the local demand.  The need is to channel poultry and meat production, particularly from Visayas and Mindanao where these are produced, to where these are needed—Metro Manila and other cities. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Govt urged to standardize operations of day care centers proliferating nationwide

Manipulative devices in Match; Source:;

March 2, 2021

The government should standardize the curriculum and operation of day care centers, ensure training of teachers of  Madrasah (religious school for Islam), and promote technology use if it has to further make a success of K-12 early education.

   Top education research center Philippine Normal University (PNU) asserts that  standardization of operations of day care centers should be legislated has to be even as day care centers have proliferated  in the country. 

   Day care centers have sprung up, and these do not have to keep up with any government quality standards.

   The emergence of many day care centers indicate positive attitudes of parents and the society  toward their young children’s education. 

   Still, children should be assured of learning outcomes in day care centers.

   “The Department of Education (DepEd) should mandate how the operations of these day care centers should be, what learning services they should offer, and how these can be carried out,” according to the PNU research compiled by Dr. Edna Luz Raymundo-Abulon in “Policy Implications for Basic Education”  

   Facilities in day care centers should be adequately provided.  Moreover, teachers’ training in instructing very young children is a unique competence that must be honed and developed

   “More formal training needs to be given to teachers who work in day care centers.  While early childhood education courses may prepare teachers to handle preschool children, the children in day care centers are much younger and are in a different developmental stage,” said Abulon.

   PNU”s report is a compilation of researches from 2010 to 2020. It covers a total of 89 published researches in recognized refereed scientific journals  and 38 research reported to the Educational Policy Research and Development Center (EPRDC).      

   The report supports PNU’s mandate under Republic Act 9647 which designated PNU as the country’s  National Center for Teacher Education (NCTE).  It made PNU a center  on innovations and alternative systems and their utilization and application to teacher training and development.

    The report indicated an important need for more trained teachers in Madrasah. 

   The study of Madrasah among Muslim Filipinos has been integrated into the K-12 basic education curriculum.    

   However, teachers of Madrasah have been found to have limited training on pedagogic skills (teaching methods and styles).

   Furthermore, as the pandemic Covid 19 has prompted an abrupt change in the school paradigm, the PNU study also revealed technology has been found to be very useful in 21st century teaching. The crisis made even basic education institutions resort to online learning even among young children and young adults.

   The PNU research compilation also noted that institutional or administrative problems continue to hound the basic education sector.  These are among the problems:

  • There is inadequacy or absence of qualified teachers in private madaris (teachers who provide lessons from the Qur’an and Arabic Language) for the Muslim K-12 program.
  • Integration of environmental education in elementary and secondary schools (Trinidad & Garancho, 2017) should be carried out more intensively. 

   For instance, while a study (Camacho, 2012) found out that student-respondents were knowledgeable on the general water code provisions of the Philippines,  implementation of policies needs to be reviewed (such as on disposal of dirty water or of waste to rivers).

Day care center; Source: iStock
  •    Delay in the release of allowance of salary of teachers continues.
  • There was an observed lack of clear guidelines in hiring and retention of teachers in basic education.
  • There is mismatch between training and educational attainment of teachers.

   Despite some problems in early learning and basic education, PNU acknowledged important programs that may be replicated to improve early learning or K-12 basic education in the country.

  1. PNU teachers have developed manipulative devices for teaching Math and Science, micro lab kits for Chemistry  and Physics, and content area reading materials for K-12.

   “Teachers in basic education should be encouraged to develop creative and innovative instructional materials that would capture their students’ interests. Trainings/workshops that would provide teachers with skills and opportunities on doing innovative instructional materials are also suggested,” said Abulon.

Science graphics for K-12; Source: wileyonlinelibrary

2. The Headstart Program in Isabela for gifted and talented pre-schoolers is an excellent program to hone children’s intelligence at an early age. Administrators, teachers, and parents expressed their positive views about the program (Leaño & Malano, 2019).

“Children’s gifts and talents must be honed and supported early, and programs such as Headstart (Leaño & Malano, 2019) can be an exemplar in realizing this goal. Policies must be enacted to support the development and implementation of such programs,” noted Abulon.

3. A science teaching strategy called “Predict-Observe-Explain” or POE has been excellent in showing how immediate observations are good techniques in teaching the physical and material world (Physics).  

   “POE can be used for finding out students’ initial ideas; providing teachers with information about students’ thinking; generating discussion; motivating students to want to explore the concept; and generating investigations,” according to Assessment Resource Banks.

The PNU research concluded that the “predict-observe-explain approach intended to promote positive attitude and achievement among students (Garnale, 2015).A culturally-sensitive curriculum improves early learning among cultural minorities. Using the native language of indigenous people (IP)  as learning tool makes learning easier and homey for IPs. This prevents dropout among early IP learners..

4. An analytic scoring framework– rubric, transmutation table– was developed by PNU teachers as tool for scoring pupils’ school performance.  Such rubrics enable a standard for rating students’ performance.  Its use in early education should be promoted.

    “The development and application of methods that could facilitate proper assessment of students’ performance (e.g., Nivera, 2012) should be encouraged.”

5. Early learner teachers should have more training on teaching by observing pupils’ behaviors.  Behaviors of young pupils may determine whether they are having difficulty in learning.  For example, reading difficulty of Grade 1 learners have been noticed through their irregular behavior such as “hand, armhand,  shoulder-waist, and waistfoot; approximate behaviors”  

          Detecting pupils’ difficulty in learning through their behaviour and then helping out these pupils make very young children cope with the stresses of learning. Melody Mendoza Aguiba