Govt urged to give incentives for private sector to invest in smart agriculture, renewable energy, tap ESG bonds for climate actions

April 18, 2023

Multilateral financier World Bank has urged government to give incentives for private sector to invest in climate smart agriculture and renewable energy and to tap ESG bonds to finance climate actions countering disasters.

   Presenting its Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) 2022 in a forum of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), World Bank officials stressed government has to raise access of climate financing to private sector.

   That along with making investment policies for climate action attractive and encouraging access particularly to ESG bonds.

   “Public and private investments are needed to finance adaptation through climate-resilient infrastructure.  Financing mitigation measures from private sector should be incentivized by new regulatory technology-push and demand-pull policies,” said Souleymane Coulibaly, World Bank project leader and lead economist, at the SEARCA forum.

   “On the private side, issuing ESG bonds under the recently introduced Sustainability Financing Framework could leverage private financing for climate actions.”

   ESG bonds (environmental, social, governance) are generally part of sustainability financing supported by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Eligible green expenditures are clean transportation, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction projects, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower).

   Dr. Stefano Pagiola, World Bank senior environmental economist, also said at the SEARCA forum that attractiveness to farmers of climate smart agriculture practices should be improved as these have triple wins. 

   These are higher productivity, higher resilience, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

  Some policies must be avoided.  A policy for farmers not to pay for water does not give farmers incentives to use water efficiently.

   In Luzon and Cordillera, a technology that may have higher financial return for farmers is the use of blight resistant white potatoes in crop rotation with green cabbage and rainwater harvesting.

   Financial return is estimated at more than P500,000 per hectare.

   In Visayas and Cordillera, another technology with good financial return is rice-onion crop rotation with the use of early maturing rice.

   Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director, said that talks on climate policies are now so critical.  He himself has been immersed since 1986 in developing adaptation solutions to climate challenge.  

  “Sustainable Development Goal 13 for climate action is close to my heart. I have been a plant breeder for abiotic stresses, (developing rice) for drought tolerance, submergence tolerance, and salt tolerance,” said Gregorio.

   Climate change adaptation techniques in agriculture enable crops to withstand increasing temperature from global warming and receding rainfall. 

   Gregorio stressed collaboration from the academe and industries are important to promote sustainable practices.

Focus on benefitting the poorest

   The poorest population will be the most adversely affected by climate disasters– with consumption reducing by almost 9% compared to the richer population’s lower 6%.

 As such, solutions should prioritize the poorest, along with women, for their target beneficiaries.

Climate smart agriculture benefits Credit-World Bank

   The Philippines is extremely vulnerable to erratic climate change, with temperature that has risen by two 0.68 degrees C (Centigrade), further rising by 1-3 degrees C, on various scenarios. 

   As financing the cost of climate solutions is extremely high, total gross domestic product (GDP) of the Philippines is foreseen by 2030 to shrink by 7.6% than what it should be in the absence of climate shocks, the World Bank experts said.

   The good news is climate solutions are well-known as the Climate Change Act (RA9729) has been ratified 15 years ago. 

   For Philippines, these include no construction in flood-prone or coastal areas and prohibition of water facility built-up in areas where ground water is shallow—where land subsidence is high.

   Other solutions are investing in irrigation and in farm technologies that emit less greenhouse gas (such as methane produced in rice farms).

   “When you apply the solutions, you reduce the cost of climate change by two-thirds.  (The other) one-third is inevitable,” said Coulibaly.

   “You see a lot of opportunities for win-win solutions like scaling renewable energy to reinforce energy security and reduce the cost of electricity.” 

Mitigation measures

   With climate change mitigation measures, ominous predictions on GDP could be reversed.       

   Mitigation actions that reduce greenhouse gas emission such as from the use of renewable energy and electrifying transport GDP could increase by about 0.5 percent and generate about 80,000 jobs in 2040. 

   These measures have a positive impact on GDP if carbon tax revenues are used for investment, said Coulibaly.

   To enhance budget procurement, government can also use green public procurement and “layered Disaster Risk Financing Strategy.”

   “Setting a moderate price of $5 per ton of carbon dioxide could signal firms to adopt low carbon technologies while raising revenues of up to 0.4 percent of GDP per year.”

Renewable energy

   Reducing power rates is a significant factor for Philippines’ competitiveness.  Decarbonizing brings enormous savings in health costs as it reduces pollution.

 The greatest reduction in emission of greenhouse gas is from converting transport to electricity. Reduction in GHG may reach 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent given renewable energy investments up to 2050. This entails electrifying 90% of public transport and 72% of private vehicles with $100 billion investment.

   Other climate solutions are scaling up mass transit, additional bike lanes and non-motorized transport, promoting inter-regional passenger and freight rail, and promoting telecommunity through Internet access.

Local approach

   Aside from the private sector, local government units (LGU) should be empowered and trained in capability for climate actions.

  “It’s important to get down to the local level.  You need numerous localized interventions to address local climate change realities,” said Coulibaly.

   Forum participants asserted LGUs should invest too in climate actions as the Mandanas Ruling is enabling these to have increased budget.

  International financing—concessional and grant–  may be limited given many countries’ need for the climate actions.

   “Financing should be concessional to sweeten investment that government wants to do.”

Urban development

   Pagiola said another key sector that must be addressed and financed is urban development as 50% of Filipinos live in urban areas.  Construction in floodplains vulnerable to storm surges must be avoided.

   Water infrastructure should also be beefed up.

   “Improving water storage is not only an infrastructure (solution) but also one of watershed management, along with forest cover improvement.  Their benefits are resilience, diversifying biodiversity, and carbon sequestration,”  said Pagiola.

   There is increasing risk of hunger as food price rises.  So, farm technologies and their financing should be attractive to farmers.  The poor and women will be most vulnerable due to agriculture’s dependence on climate and rainfall.

   Right incentives include using environmental taxes to discourage harmful activities, removing regulatory obstacles to private sector climate action, attracting foreign investors, and strengthening finance sector’s financing capability . 

   Training on green jobs should be made available, along with improving resilience of education system and introducing climate-sensitive health policies. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Rice farmers pleaded to PBBM to restore NFA’s ‘regulatory powers’ to assure farmers of a sure market, protect poor consumers

September 15, 2022

Rice farmers have pleaded to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to restore National Food Authority’s”regulatory powers” to ascertain farmers of a sure market that pays higher while also assuring lower-price for the poor segment of consumers.

The Mabandi Multi Purpose Cooperative (MPC) in Pulong Bayabas, San Miguel, Bulacan and the Federation of Central Luzon Farmers Cooperative (FCLFC) have also asked the president to raise farmgate price of clean and dry palay (unmilled rice) to P23 per kilo.

Palay buying direct from farmers used to be a major intervention of the former National Food Authority (NFA) prior to this function’s abolition under the Rice Tariffication Law.

While ‘ayuda’ (financial assistance) is given in cash, the farmers insisted they prefer to be treated with fairness and in a more business-proper manner. Ayuda is only given arbitrarily.

“Not everyone gets to receive ayuda. Only those that are close to those in power. But when palay price is raised to P23 per kilo at farmgate, that benefits all farmers,” said Atanacio Santos of the Mabandi MPC.

Only 75% of farmers get to receive ayuda, said Santos.

The Philippines’ food security problems can be significantly solved if government assures farmers of this palay market. Providing a stable farmers’ market is a function that has been practised by countries with progressive, profitable agriculture sector.

“Kung talagang magnanais tayo na magkaroon ng sapat na pagkain ay ipatupad natin ito at hindi puro salita lamang,” said the rice farmers in an open letter. “Ang patuloy na pagwawalang bahala ay hudyat ng kamatayan ng pangsakahan. Patuloy na maghihirap ang mga magsasaka at tuluyang mawawalan ng pagkain ang taong bayan.”

{Marcos should immediately implement the price increase, or ignoring farmers’ plea signals death of the rice sector. More farmers will be impoverished, and consumers will run out of food.)

The increase to P23 per kilo already covers all costs of production including those for seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, according to Simeon Sioson, FCLFC chairman. Farmgate price has dropped to P18 to P19 per kilo and even hit a very low level at P10 to 14 per kilo. This has caused huge losses on farmers and compelled many farmers to give up tilling the land.

“The P23 per kilo farmgate price will cover all increases in costs in the market including those for the higher price of fertilizer now, diesel, and pesticides,” said Sioson.

But aside from farmers, the government will also be a big beneficiary since government can collect additional value added tax (VAT). Such additional VAT may then be used to subsidize the cost of rice for consumers.

Prior to the RTL, the poor used to depend on cheap NFA rice for their staple.

“Now there is no more P27 per kilo NFA rice.”

Trade liberalization advocates stress NFA’s rice subsidy function for consumers renders it bankrupt, dependent on huge loans, and incompliant to free market principles.

But Danilo V. Fausto, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. president, said NFA is not supposed to be profit-making like private companies.

“NFA’s purpose is not to make a profit (but intervene and assist rice sector),” said Fausto.

But with the P23 per kilo farmgate price, government will even hit its targeted P20 per kilo price at consumers’ market– given government subsidizes rice price for all using the additional VAT it collects.

Sioson said government should strictly monitor the Philippines’ rice shortfall. This will prevent any excess in domestic rice volume that causes further rice competition to farmers.

“Importation only benefits farmers in Vietnam and Thailand. We should rather protect our farmers. Only the shortfall should be imported,” Sioson said.
Even government’s buffer stocking function for the lean months, with inventory level required is at 30 days, will be addressed through higher production from incentivized farmers.

“Our rice sector will flourish. Everybody will be benefitted,” said Sioson.
Mabandi MPC and FCLFC also said government should take into consideration the many climate disturbances adversely are affecting farming.

“Tinatamaan din kami ng climate change tulad ng mga bagyo, pagbaha at kung minsan tagtuot. Apektadong apektado rin kami ng inflation.”

“Dahil sa kasalukuyang tagtuyot sa China, apektado din ang mga bansang Vietnam, Cambodia, at Thailand–dala ng mababawasan ang tubig galing sa China. Babagsak (lahat) ang kanilang produksyon.”

(We are also affected by climate change’s including typhoons, flooding, and sometimes drought. We are also severely affected by inflation. The drought in China also affects Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand who suffer from lower level of water from China, Their production will also decline. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

PBBM urged to help restore demand for bamboo by compelling DepEd to use it for school chairs so as to boost largely private-led $4.6 million investment

September 5, 2022

The Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC) has urged government to restore EO 879 mandating Department of Education’s use of bamboo for school chairs–spurring demand for the crop that generates $4.6 million largely private-led investments.

PBIDC, chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) but has yet to convene since the start of President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr.’s term, also pressed Marcos to pick bamboo as the symbolic tree to plant.

On September 13 2022, Marcos will celebrate his first birthday as Philippines’ president and as customary will have a tree planting ceremony.

PBIDC OFficer Deogracias Victor Savellano said PBIDC hopes Marcos will use bamboo for the symbolic tree planting as this will stress bamboo’s high valuation as an indigenous highly-marketable Philippine product.

“Bamboo is important. You can’t have fishing boats without bamboo outriggers. You can’t have fishpens without bamboo poles. Banana or export will yield to the ground without bamboo poles to prop it up,” he said during a Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food (PCAFI) press briefing that Savellano hosted at his family-run Victorino’s.

“Labong can only be harvested if there is enough bamboo. Maybe now that PBBM is the DA Secretary, bamboo can be given due focus and its large potential realized”.
Investments in the bamboo industry has been largely private sector-led. The PBIDC hardly had any budget and “could not fully function because of lack of budget,” according to PBIDC.

PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said government should support bamboo planting considering its versatility in use. Demand should also be encouraged as it is not only DepEd that’s mandated to use it, but even government offices.

“Garlic (like other commodities) has been allocated with a budget of P100 million. But the budget went missing. With bamboo, there is no budget that was lost. Why? Because there is no budget at all,” according to Fausto.

Executive Order (EO) 879 which created PBIDC mandates that 25% of all desks and tables of the Department of Education (DepEd) schools shall be made of bamboo.
However, there is limited supply to meet the 25% threshold. Thus in 2021, the DepEd unilaterally removed bamboo as part of acceptable material in teacher and student chairs and tables.

The industry has yet to take off and realize its full potential.

“This is the fastest growing tree that can be harvested in three to four years. Hopefully before PBBM steps down in 2028, it is already a huge industry,” said Savellano.

Edgardo C. Manda, PBIDC president, also said during the PCAFI briefing that he hopes PBIDC will soon convene in order to revive the industry. This is considering that Philippines is fifth largest bamboo and rattan product exporter in the world and faces even bigger export potential.

PBIDC’s members include secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, Department of DepEd, Department of Science and Technology, and Department of Labor and Employment.

Bamboo’s many uses

Bamboo is climate smart crop and useful in controlling erosion. It grows faster than hardwood trees and is considered a renewable resource as it is grown as a plantation crop.

“Bamboo propagation battles climate change and global warming by growing faster than hardwood trees and absorbing more carbon to support agricultural productivity and sustainablity,” said Manda.

It can be used as timber for major construction and building uses, along with its many uses for food and beverage.

For food it is cooked as “labong,” baked bamboo shoots, braised bamboo shoots, spicy pickled bamboo shoots. Bamboo culm is used to make wine and beer. Bamboo leaves are used as food for livestock.

The special flavor of a fresh culm is used for cooking rice and fish. Bamboo is used for vegetable fruit garden stakes and hangers, pole to support banana trees, and as tobacco curing barns.

Bamboo is used for irrigation as poles carrying water. It is used as planter and container for rural food products, basket for crop harvesting, structure for animal cages, farm fence material, katig in boats, fish cages in fish ponds, and fish traps.

Bamboo takes many forms as crafts and rural home utensils, material for bridges in rural communities, and bahay kubo and resthouses. Bamboo wagons are used to transport farm goods. It is even used as a musical instrument, textile, and Christmas decor. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

ADB commissions SEARCA for 10-year agriculture modernization plan that needs a multi-trillion budget

August 17, 2022

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has commissioned the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study & Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) for a 10-year plan in an aim to catapult Philippines to be a major agricultural producer, probably a farm produce exporter.

This endeavor apparently aligns with the pronouncements of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. about Philippines’ pursuing food security aims, even agriculture modernization, having himself taken on the task as secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio told a press orientation that the “National Agriculture and Fisheries Organization and Industrialization Plan” has an indicate implementation schedule for 2021 to 2030.

The press orientation was in conjuction with the lauch of the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Young Generation (SHARING) Cafe.

“We have already submitted our recommendations to the Department of Agriculture (DA),” said Gregorio.

The industrialization plan has a nine-point track to carry out:

  1. Consolidated production and post harvest facilities (commodity systems-oriented
  2. Construction of critical infrastrucutre spatially integrated within agri-fisheries industrial business corridors (AFIBCs
  3. Modernized food terminal facilities and similar facilities linked to transport nodes in urban and peri-urban areas.
  4. Smart irrigation and water impoundment or retention systems serving two or more commodities
  5. Other large-scale infrastructure (waste management facilities, fish ports, ICT (Information Communication Technology) including high-speed connectivity
  6. Scaled up mechanization and adoption of other commercial scale-oriented technologies
  7. Large-scale production and distribution of biologically safe technologies including biopackaging
  8. State-of-the art R&D (research and development) facilities linked to PAFES (province-led agriculture and fisheries extension systems) networks
  9. Development of agri-fishery enterprises and business incubation initiatives linked to large investors.

Gregorio said the 10-year industrialization plan requires a budget of P5.03 trillion.

“The budget should come from the public sector, P2.5 trillion, while the other P2.5 trillion will come from the private sector,” he said.

SEARCA itself has launched its own programs inspiring investments in the knowledge economy which taps on the economy’s intellectual resources in order to generate wealth.

For one, the SHARING Cafe provides for creative learning experience that can lead the young generation to contribute to farm industrialization.

SEARCA conducts sessions on Lego education robotics at its SHARING Cafe

“The SHARING Café is an interactive component of the SHARING innovation spaces, which aims to provide a creative learning experience geared towards Agriculture 4.0 in Southeast Asia,” said SEARCA.

“The SHARING Café will be an innovative venue for ‘play-to-learn’ activities for guests and fun learning modules for K-12 students in the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Amid imminent “food catastrophe,” government urged to support private businesses that invest 95% of agricultural production

May 25, 2022

The private sector has pressed government to bolster support for private businesses given the imminent “food catastrophe” arising from many global phenomena topped by the Russian invasion that compel food producers to ban export.

Russia, Ukraine, India, among others, have already stopped wheat exports while many other countries contemplate to keep their food production for their own security.

As such, Philippines faces food security threats, along with soaring food prices, because of its heavy food import dependence.

Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto said the private sector plays a critical role now that the country still lurks with travails from Covid 19.

“Government should provide the right environment and incentives for the private sector to invest, expand their production, value chain and supply chain logistics,” said Fausto at PCAFI’s first face-to-face assembly two years since the pandemic began.

“Government should not kill them with competition from cheap and subsidized imported products.”

While the Department of Agriculture (DA) has made importation its pivotal policy to produce food, this is a mere short term solution.

“Providing cheap food for the consumers and fighting inflation through imports is a short term solution. Producing our own food requirements, although a longer process, will be more sustainable for our people,” Fausto said.

The private sector provides 95% of the investments that bring about agriculture production, he stressed.

In the face of world hunger, the more should agriculture sector get a bigger share in budgetary increase even despite the country’s ballooning debt of P12.7 trillion.

“We appeal that food production should not be sacrificed as the Department of Budget and Management undertakes hair-cuts for future budget allocation.”

Livestock and poultry, contributing a third or 30% of agricultural production should get a sizable budget from only 3-4% of the DA budget.

With the supply of imported feed wheat now limited, local corn production should be raised. Corn supply is currently at measly 57% sufficiency level. Feed wheat is an alternative to corn which represents 60% of feed ingredients. Feed itself represents around 70% of cost in growing chickens and pigs.

Cheaper alternative to feed inputs should be tapped as those developed by Filipino scientists from University of the Philippines Los Banos.

DA should promote use of inorganic oil-based fertilizers, utilizing organic materials, resulting in equally high yield and efficient production of rice and other crops.

PCAFI expects ratification of the Philippine Livestock Industry Development Act.
It has repeatedly appealed for the establishment of a first border quarantine facility, undertaking food safety measures amid the debilitating African swine flu and fighting smuggling of agriculture products.

All tax revenues derived from imported commodities must be utilized to the same sector where it was generated to help develop the said industry.

If the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is ratified, incentives should be given for export winners to expand jobs creation. More protection should be granted to losing products facing stiffer competition from imports.

“More products have to be supported to expand our variety of agricultural exports to bring in more dollars, We must not suffer the same fate from our painful lessons when we joined the World Trade Organization,” said Fausto.

“Appropriate laws were passed by Congress and the Senate. But the implementation of these laws were not done to keep our affected agriculture sub-sectors protected, compared to other countries like Vietnam and Thailand.”

PCAFI also presses government to implement the following long awaited programs.

  1. Establishment of reliable and real time data information system.
  2. Incentives to investments and easy access to credit and capital. Review of the implementation priorities of Philippine guarantee fund.
    Out of the total outstanding guarantee done by Philippine Guarantee Corp. (PGC) of ₱207 billion, only ₱500 million is for agriculture credit and ₱300 million for micro small medium enterpries (MSMEs).
    But a whopping ₱203 billion is allocated for real estate, benefitting big developers that do not need to be guaranteed by government.
    The farm sector also needs more the institutionalization of the use of warehouse receipts in guaranteeing credit which is a former function of the bankrupt Quedan and Rural Guarantee Corp.
  3. Rationalizing legal framework for the use of generic seeds for corn and balancing the use of organic fertilizers to reduce dependence on expensive oil- based inorganic fertilizers
  4. Accelerate effort to farm consolidation and clustering for mechanization and economies of scale. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

UBRA poultry farmers opposes reappointment as DA secretary of Dar who promoted ‘vested interests’ of food importers 

May 20, 2022 

The United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA) has opposed the reappointment of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar who has promoted a regime of importation and the “vested interests” of importers “at the expense” of farmers. 

In an open letter to President-elect Ferdinand Bongbong R. Marcos Jr., UBRA said Philippines and its farmers became sacrificial lambs on Dar’s import policy that failed to lower food prices. 

Such misguided neo-liberalist position neglected to harness Philippines’ resources to achieve “food sovereignty.” 

“He (Dar) has been completely subservient to the misguided emphasis on import liberalization. The reality is that whether accidentally or intentionally, it has conveniently benefitted mainly the vested interests of importers at the expense of the majority of our people,” UBRA said led by its president, Lawyer Jose Elias M. Inciong.

  “Retail prices have remained high despite increasing importation through the years. It has made us dependent on overseas employment and business process outsourcing.” 

UBRA cited that during Dar’s term (2020), Commission on Audit’s (COA) found P9.454 billion in disallowances, audit suspensions, and charges, P17.542 billion in unliquidated fund transfers to implementing agencies and non-government organizations, P20.21 billion unliquidated fund transfers in prior years, and P9.806 billion returned to national treasury.  

Dar will be worsening Philippines’ vulnerability to climate change, consequently, food security.  

This is as irrigation source for rice farming has been adversely limited by conflict posed by China and droughts in countries where Philippines sources its food imports. 

“In Indochina, the area most relied upon by neoliberal economists for our rice imports, there has been saltwater incursion in the Mekong Delta up to at least 15 kilometers. Dams built by China have interdicted the flow of the Mekong River from its source,” Ubra said in the letter also signed by its chairman Gregorio San Diego.  

“In the Indian subcontinent, another source of rice imports, droughts are becoming perennial. The same with the whole of United States. The lakes along Rio Colorado are at 30% or normal levels. Australia has had drought problems for years. There is an increasing trend for banning export of food.” 

It will be the Marcos’s administration’s biggest fault to reappoint Dar.  

“He has been openly and aggressively campaigning to be retained as secretary of Agriculture. Please do not succumb to his shameless self-promotion and propaganda. As aptly stated by  Senate President Tito Sotto in a committee hearing on smuggling, that would be the ‘biggest mistake” of the next administration.” 

While some import liberalists assert that Singapore is a progressive food-importing nation, UBRA said “Singapore itself has decided to increase its level of self reliance given its limitations.” 

Singapore aims to reduce its food importation from 90% to 70%. That, despite its small population. End 

“Secretary Dar’s tenure has been about importation from heavily subsidized agricultural systems. We are on very dangerous ground because he implemented import liberalization to the hilt.   It (reappointing Dar) will not be an act of shooting oneself in the foot but in the head,” said UBRA. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Dairy farmers opposed DepEd’s sourcing of milk for its feeding program from multinational corporations, depriving Filipino farmers 

April 6, 2022 

Dairy farmers have vehemently opposed a proposed Department of Education (DepEd) policy to source from multinational corporations – instead of from Filipino farmers– the milk for its School Based Feeding Program (SBFP).  

The Dairy Confederation of the Philippines, in a letter to DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones, said Filipino milk farmers stand to lose P250 million from the policy. 

Besides, RA 11037 “states unequivocally that as far as practicable,” milk for the SBFP shall be sourced from local farmers and processors. 

“This is in violation of the purpose and spirit of RA 11037,” said DCP Director Danilo V. Fausto in the letter. RA 11037 institutionalizes the National Feeding Program for Undernourished Children in Public Day Care Center, Kindergarten, and Elementary Schools to Combat Hunger and Undernutrition. 

The latest policy is for implementation from April to June 2022. 

“We strongly deplore and object to this sudden and unilateral program implementation schedule for the 2022 GAA (General Appropriations Act) . The schedule will unfairly prevent the local farmers, cooperatives and local milk processing plants from supplying the milk requirements of the SBFP under the 2022 GAA,” Fausto said. 

Filipino-produced fresh milk-Gatas ng Kalabaw by DVF Dairy

The local dairy farmers, processors and cooperatives started serving the SBFP during GAA 2019 in the last quarter of 2020 and continued on to GAA 2020 and then to GAA 2021 which is currently ongoing.  

“They cannot possibly be expected to supply the GAA 2022 milk in the sudden and unilateral imposition of an April 2022 to June 2022 period within which to supply milk because the 2021 GAA is still ongoing. And the milk is still being produced and delivered,” Fausto said.  

The milk feeding for 2021 is still ongoing because of the pandemic and will finish by June 2022. DepEd wants to implement 2022 starting April to June this year, overlapping the ongoing milk feeding using the budget for 2021. 

This will in effect allow foreign multinationals to come in since “we will have to finish first the 2021 up to June, thus, local dairy farmers cannot supply the April to June request of DepEd.” 

DepEd is now asking NDA (National Dairy Authority) and PCC (Philippine Carabao Center) to sign a certification that local dairy farmers cannot supply the milk to allow the entry of foreign multinational dairy companies, dislodging the local dairy farmers for the GAA budget 2022. 

“The very spirit why RA11037 was created…to give livelihood and income opportunities for our local farmers. Local dairy farmers can supply the milk required under the program.”. 

DepEd wants to implement the milk feeding program only for 16 days, while the recommendation of the National Food and Nutrition Council is 90-120 days to have real and meaningful impact on the health of school children.  

Furthermore, majority of the local dairy farmers and cooperatives have reinvested their earnings to expand their capacities. 

“And now they will be shut out and excluded under the program, consequently resulting in losing millions of pesos for these dairy cooperatives, turning their expansion to white elephants,” said Fausto. 

“If they allow multinationals to enter, the rest of 2022 beginning July to December, the local dairy farmers & cooperatives will be shut out and excluded. The multinationals will advantage of the milk feeding program funded by tax payers’ money.” 

DepEd does have a commitment on fund utilization with the Department of Budget and Management, DCP admitted. But this unilateral decision to implement starting April 2022 effectively excludes local dairy farmers and milk processing plants.

The policy will double multinationals’ share to the milk feeding program in 2022 to 41.89% equivalent to 442.692 million from 19.07%  in 2021. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Kids Who Farm lure youth into agriculture using hydroponics that is less susceptible to pests and is “soil-less”

March 21, 2022

Non government organization Kids Who Farm KWH) has started luring the youth into agriculture using  hydroponics technology which  produces vegetables prolifically without requiring much pesticide and can grow “soil-less.”

   During a “Pista ng Pagkain at Kabataang Pinoy” festival held by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA),  KWH Founder Muneer Hinay said that households can significantly contribute to solving Philippines’ food security concern.

   “I realized that even a small child can actually propose solutions to the pressing problems of food security,” said Hinay. 

   That has been true for his family as his daughter Raaina jointly put up KWH’s micro urban garden in her school, Catalina Vda de Jalon Memorial School in Brgy Tumbaga, Zamboanga City.  She was only nine years old then – three years ago.

   Now KWH not only has a joint urban farming project with Raaina’s school.  But its partnership is with a host of other institutions who have the like mind to entice the youth that agriculture is a profitable venture. As an incentive to kids, they are able to bring home and eat what they produce and also get a commensurate pay for their efforts.

   Aside from its partnership with the Department of Education’s “Gulayan sa Paaralan,” KWH has micro farming project with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD Region 9, iVolunteer and Google.

   It had urban farming lectures for Haven for the Children and Haven for Women facilities, Rotary Interact Clubs from different universities in Zamboanga, Isabela City Youth Organization, and the Special Forces Battalion in Basilan. 

   With its advocacy, it has so far trained more than 400 youths in urban farming.

   Hinay, project manager  for sustainable food system at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), believes his own home province should be food self-sufficient.

    “There’s a big opportunity to really make Zamboanga city food secure.  At present it is 40% self-sufficient in vegetables.  As a city which is the third largest in the Philippines in land area, it’s very ironic that we import 60% of our food as far as from Baguio,” Hinay told the SEARCA seminar. 

Muneer and Raaina Hinay during the SEARCA hydroponics demonstration

   SEARCA aims to popularize farming technologies as part of its contribution to transforming food systems to better achieve food security.

    Obviously, it is important for households to have easy a nearby access to their source of food—making it fresh and nutritious, Hinay stressed.  And what a better way to have a nearby urban farm, no matter how small, than through the hydroponics technology.

   “When we talk about urban agriculture, a big challenge is on space.  But the truth is when you have a small space, then what you need is a big mindset,” he said.

   Hydroponics, which has been proven productive long ago from the Hanging Garden of Babylon to the Aztecs’ floating garden, comes from the Greek words “hydro” or water and “ponos” or work.  That is working or cultivating plants with water.

 “In hydroponics, the plant roots absorb balanced nutrients dissolved in water that meet all the plant development requirements. The basic setup is you have a container or grow box, water inside with nutrient solution, and an air space so the container is not filled with water,” said Hinay.

   The plants are in a growing media such as coconut coir  or coconut peat– instead of soil.   The plants get their nutrients from air and water—macronutrients, micronutrients—vitamins and minerals.

   Among the plants that can be grown via hydroponics are lettuce, pechay, kangkong, bell pepper, tomato, and herbs like basil.

    While the sizable portion of food production is still soil-based, 95%, producing food from hydroponics offers advantages.  Among these are its modular setup (vertical or horizontal), ability for monocropping season after season, and nearly pest-free nature.

   “There isn’t so much waste. There is no leaching (contamination of the water table since plants are in a contained area).  Generally, it is hygienic, and there’s no emergence of pest and diseases.  It is very rare that  hydroponics setup gets pests.”

   There are different types of hydroponics—wick system, ebb and flow which uses submersible pumps for irrigation, and nutrient film technique which also uses submersible pump.  The drip system has continued slowly-releasing irrigation.

  The deep water culture is a passive system without pump as the plant is submerged in the water. Aeroponics uses misting, or roots of plants are sprayed with water or mists using high-pressure pumps.

   The easiest type to use and requires less startup money may be the deep water culture, particularly the Kratky method. 

   Developed by University of Hawaii’s Dr. Bernard Kratky, the method requires less effort to set up and is nutrient and water-efficient, Hinay said.

   What is needed are a growbox, hydroponic nutrient solution (nutrients and fertilizer), a seedling plug (where you put or transplant the seedling ), and a growing media.  Instead of soil, the media uses coconut coir, coconut peat, or foam.

   For the seedling plug, styro cups, plastic cups, and many other waste materials can be used.

   The steps in Kratky are 1.  Make the growbox (using styrobox used as fruit containers),  2.  Transplant the seedlings (seeds should first be sown in a separate sowing medium like a seedling tray).  The upper box, which has holes, is where the seedling is placed. 3.  Make the lower box where you put the water and nutrient solution.  It should be well-sealed. 4. Grow and maintain (make sure the nutrient solution does not run out of water), and 5. Build a greenhouse.

   Soon, the roots can be observed, and the plants are soon harvestable—lettuces  can be harvestable 22 to 25 days from transplanting.  

   In cases when pesticide should be used,  KWH recommends a simple biopesticide.  It is just a mixture of chopped garlic (1 bulb), onion (1 medium), 5 to 6 chilli peppers, dishwashing liquid (1 tablespoon), and water (1 liter).  This is used as spray on plants early in the morning or late afternoon.

    With Kratky hydroponics, learning how to grow plants will not be discouraging for beginners since it is easy to experience success with it.

   “Within a short period of time, you can have immediate success or yield, so you will be encouraged to grow more,” said Hinay. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Pagtanaw sa 2050 nangangarap gawing dakilang pang-karagatang bansa ang Pilipinas

1 Pebrero 2022

Inilathala ni Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Nagpahayag si senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros ng pagsuporta sa vision  na kung tawagin ay “Pagtanaw sa 2050” na naglalayong pangarapin na ang Pilipinas ay maging isang tunay na dakilang pang-karagatang bansa. 

   Ang taglay nitong pulu-pulong heograpiya ay magiging pinaka-importanteng asset o kayamanang na pang-ekonomiya ng Pilipinas.

   Sa isang online forum na tinawag na “Halalan Para sa Agrikultura 2022” na inorganisa ng Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), nagpahayag ng paniniwala si Hontiveros na higit sa anumang katangian, ang pag-hinang ng kayamanang pang-karagatan ang mag-aangat sa ekonomiya ng Pilipinas. 

   Ang importansya nito ay higit pa sa anumang kayamanang pan-lupa o likas na yaman.

   “Naalala ko ang mga adbokasiya na naglalayong ang ating kasaysayang pang-karagatan ay dapat na ituro sa ating mamamayan.  Iyan ay mahalaga sapagkat ang ating karagatan ay mas malawak kaysa sa ating kalupaan,” sabi ni Hontiveros.

   “Kaya nga’t aking kinikilala kayong mga nag-balangkas ng ‘Pagtanaw sa 2050.’  Mas hinigitan pa ninyo ang ‘Ambisyon 2040,’” ayon kay Hontiveros  sa online forum na pang-agrikultura. 

   Ang ambisyon na ito ay maaring isama na mungkahi sa lehislatura para na rin suportahan ang mga Pilipinong mangingisda at lahat ng mga Pilipinong may ipinaglalabang karapatan sa kayamanang pang-enerhiya sa West  Philippine Sea, sabi ni Hontiveros.

   Ang kayamanang pang-karagatan ng Pilipinas ay dapat na laging ipagmalaki maging sa lokal man na  usapin o pang-daigdigan, sabi niya.

   “Dapat itong malaman ng bawat isang Pilipino, ng bawat mag-aaral.  Dapat isapuso ang ganito nating pagkatao.  At dapat tayong mamuhay ayon sa ganito nating taglay na katangian sa rehiyonal o pang-daigdigang kalagayan,” aniya.

   Ang forum na pinamunuan ng pangulo ng PCAFI na si Danilo V. Fausto ay kapwa inorganisa rin ni Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernesto M. Ordonez, Pambansang Syentista na si Emil Q. Javier,  Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Q. Montemayor, at Rice Watch President Hazel Tanchuling.

   Ang pangangarap sa Pagtanaw sa 2050,  na pinamunuan ng National Academy of Science and Technology o NAST ng Pilipinas, ay nagsaad na ang ating industriyang pang-karagatan ay magbubunga ng $3 trillion na kita. 

Hinahangad ng “Pagtanaw sa 2050” na ang Pilipinas ay maging dakilang pang-karagatang bansa

   Ito raw ay ayon sa projection na ulat ng Overseas for Economic  Cooperation and Development o OECD.

   Sinabi ni  Javier na ang Pagtanaw sa 2050 ang magbubunsod ng modernisasyon ng agrikultura ng Pilipinas. 

   At dahil dito, mahalagang maitayo ang isang Department of Fisheries.  Ito ay hiwalay sa kasalukuyang Department of Agriculture kung saan napapaloob ang Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources bilang isang maliit na unit.

   Ang tinatawag na “Blue Economy” ay ang uri ng ekonomiya na nagdudulot ng kayamanan mula sa karagatan sa paraang maka-kalikasan at sa paraang sustenable o nananatili sa pang-matagalan.

   Ito ay isang hakbang tungo sa pagyaman ng ekonomiya na kinakailangan upang matutustusan ang pangangailangan ng bawat Pilipino sa hanap-buhay, kaseguruhan ng pagkain, at paglalaan ng raw material para sa mga industriya.

   Kinakailangan lamang na maglaan ng puhunan para sa pangkaragataang transportasyon, turismong pang-ekonomiya, pangangalaga ng kalikasan, at maayos na pagpapatakbo ng mga pasilidad ng tubig at iba pang infrastructure.

   Para sa mga Pilipinong naninirahan sa mababang baitang ng mga lugar malapit sa baybaying dagat, magkakaroon ng maraming oportunidad sa turismo. 

   Ito ay magbibigay ng kabuhayan sa 5.71 milyong mangggagawa sa mga resorts. 

   Ito rin ay magbibigay ng hanap-buhay mula sa pag-aayos ng baybaying dagat, pangingisda, at aquaculture (1.6 milyong mangggagawa).

   Para sa industriya sa baybaying dagat, 300,000 na manggagawa ang magkakaroon ng hanap-buhay.  Magkakaroon rin ng hanap-buhay mula sa pagpapatakbo ng pantalan, industriya ng barko at pangkaragatang transportasyon, pang-karagatang enerhiya, pagmimina ng langis sa dagat, bio-teknolohiyang pang-karagatan at parmasyutiko, at serbisyong pang-kalikasan.

   Mapagsisilbihan na ng Blue Economy ang pangangailangan sa diet para sa protina ng mga Pilipino na ang kuwarentang bahagdan (40%)  ay mula sa pangisdaan. 

   Matutustusan na ang pangangailan ng 30 milyung Pilipino na umaasa sa karagatan para sa kanilang kabuhayan.

   Uusbong ang mga bagong industriya at teknolohiya mula sa Blue Economy.  Kasama na rito ang bio-enerhiya sa pamamagitan ng produksyon ng algal biofuel, mga gamot, kosmetiko, pagkain, pagkain ng mga hayop, produkto ng inumin, at multi-trophic aquaculture (produksyon ng hipon, tahong, talaba, sea cucumbers, sea urchins.)

    “Ang ambag ng pangkaragatang industriya sa ekonomiya ay magiging napakahalaga lalo na sa pagpapalawig ng trabaho,” ayon sa Pagtanaw sa 2050.

   Noong 2010, ito ay tinataya sa $1.5 trilyon o 2.5 bahagdan (2.5%) ng pan-daigdigang gross value added (GVA).  Ang pang-karagatang industriya rin ay magbibigay ng direktang hanapbuhay sa 31 milyong katao, ayon sa Pagtanaw sa 2050.

   Dahil agrikultura ang pinag uusapan, sinabi rin ni Hontiveros na ang repormang agraryo ay dapat na maisa-katuparan ng lubusan.   

   Gayunpaman, mahalaga rin na i “cluster” ang mga lupa o malawakang pagsama-sama samahin upang makamit ang tinatawag na “economies of scale.” Ang layunin ng repormang agraryo at pag-oorganisa ng mga kalupaan ay hindi salungat sa bawat isa, ayon kay Hontiveros.  

   Sinabi ni Fausto na hindi makakamit ang economies of scale kung hiwa-hiwalay ang mga lupa sa Pilipinas. 

   “Dapat magkaroon ng win-win na solusyon para magwagi ang bawat isa.  Ang  Department of Agrarian Reform ay may proyekto na ang tawag ay ‘Split’ na pinopondohan ng World Bank. Ang isa nitong layunin ay ipamahagi ang mga lupa sa isang banda, at sa isang banda naman ay i-organisa ang mga agrarian reform beneficiaries upang lumawak ang kanilang kabuuang mga lupain bilang cluster.  Ito ay magpapababa sa gastos sa produksyon ng pagkain at iba pang produktong pang-agrikultura,” sabi ni Hontiveros.

    “Wag po nila gawing prublema ng agrikultura yung isang kasing-halaga na programa ng repormang agraryo. May win-win na solusyon po talaga kung ikakambal at ituturing nilang magkapatid yung dalawang programa.  May iba’t ibang modelo po iyon,” ani Hontiveros.

   Mahalaga na palakasin ang kapasidad ng mga agrarian reform beneficiaries, kahit sa unang award sa kanila ng lupa o kahit pa ipamana na sa kanilang mga anak ang maliliit na parsel ng lupa.  Pero dapat rin na may programa talaga ang gobyerno kasama ang  pribadong sektor (para sa repormang agraryo.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Investments in cold storage, amendment of Rice Tariffication Law, promotion of agri among young people to be pushed by Escudero, Cayetano

February 22, 2022

Investments in cold storage facilities, amendment of the Rice Tariffication Law, and promotion of agriculture among young people will be pushed by aspiring senatorial candidates Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano once reelected.

   During the online forum Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Alyansa Agrikultura and three other organizations, the two senatorial reelectionists also said agriculture’s budget increase will be top of their agenda.

   Escudero said cold storage will play a significant role in upgrading Filipino farmers’ livelihood status as it will enable the transport of farm goods to unserved areas. 

   It will preserve farm goods’ quality, raising their prices, while serving the needs of locations that do not produce these goods.

   “We lack cold storage facilities. We can’t assure the good quality of our produce without cold storage in each province. Why don’t we put up incentives for (those investing) in cold storage?” said Escudero.

Sorsogon Governor Francis Escudero (Photo above- Taguig Representative Alan Peter Cayetano)

   As most of the cold storage facilities in Metro Manila are designated already for imported goods, Escudero said government can assume what importers are doing—renting in advance these facilities.  That is to assure that Filipino farmers are equally accorded the benefit of preserving their produce’s good quality.

   There are hardly cold storage facilities in Bicol Region, Masbate, and Catanduanes. Such facilities are found only in Albay and Camarines Sur.

   Cayetano said during the same forum that integrating successful small farming models into the national program is needed in order to upscale agricultural production. For instance, Jollibee and San Miguel Corp, he said, are already entering into contract growing with farmers’ group.

   “Our good ideas are never integrated,” said Cayetano during the online forum also co-organized by the Federation of Free Farmers, Coalition for Agricultural Modernization, and Rice Watch.

   Regarding the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), Escudero said he will push for an amendment of the RTL. It has not achieved what it intended to do – supposedly to benefit the rice sector and rice farmers and bring rice price down for consumers.

   “Our imports should have a timing.  Why do we import (rice) during harvest? The imports compete with what our own farmers produce. We import galunggong. If only we supported fishermen with fingerlings, the benefit should have gone to our own fishermen,” said Escudero.

   Cayetano said there is so much fishing opportunity in Laguna Lake which only has a P40 million budget.  But the beautification of Manila Bay with dolomite received an initial P50 million, then P200 million.

   Presidentiables should be made to commit to complete a certain number of hectares of irrigation capacity during his term, he said. Commitment should also be done on a concrete number of farm to market roads to be constructed during a presidentiable’s term, Cayetano said.

   As the average of farmers in the Philippines is already at older side of 53 now, Cayetano said agriculture should be promoted among young people as “desirable and profitable.”  That is considering that there are many rich people engaged in agriculture, unlike what is popularized as the image of poor Filipino farmers.

   “You can see (poor) farmers shown on TV. But if they watch European or American movies where farmers are rich and using drone and high tech devices (our young people will be convinced to take up farming,” said Cayetano. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)