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Paete is more than just about woodcarving and lanzones

Last Friday, I went to Paete and discovered that the coconut also played an important role in the shaping of this ancient town in Laguna. It could not have coconut plantations with so little land hemmed between mountain and sea. I thought that the suggestion was made because of its fame as a tourist destination that would show the versatility of the coconut. We would have a workshop where coconut farmers from the surrounding towns with more coconut trees would come and know the derivative. Did you know that they can even make coffee out of coconut?

Every time I come here I ask for particular dishes cooked with coconut that you will not find anywhere else.  We were guests for lunch by the indefatigable Nilo and Mac Valdecantos both dentists who run the Kape Kesada the place to go for Paete cuisine. My favorite dish was small shrimps cooked in coconut milk and flavored with kamias.

Among the guests was Mayor Mutuk Bagabaldo and founders of Filipino Coconut Society led by Constancio Castillo. We were there to discuss whether we could make the small, historic town as a center for producing derivatives of the coconut which would give a decent livelihood for the poorest farmers of the country.

 We came to discuss if we could put up a coconut workshop in the town. My daughter, former CNN, BBC and Al- Jazeera anchor asked me to pitch in for her while on a UN assignment in Bangladesh in what she called a coconut project as her way of returning to her roots. She introduced me to the Filipino Coconut Group led by June Castillo who set up the Coconut House in the Quezon Memorial Circle.

 Mayor Bagabaldo was enthusiastic about the project. He told us it was a misconception that there were no coconut plantations in Paete. These were high up in the mountains and he invited us to go up in a jeep to make the climb.

 The coconut played such an important role in the development of the Philippines. The virtues of this tree should be widely known. As I mentioned it in yesterday’s column Quezon City was built because of coconut. This is the story that needs to be told and June Castillo has written a few paragraphs on it for the sake of this column’s readers.

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“In 1935 when President Manuel Quezon was installed as president of the newly established Philippine Commonwealth, he pleaded with President Roosevelt to help in budget funding his new government.  The year before, the US Congress passed a law (Public Act No. 127, 73rd Congress) imposing a tax on all coconut oil products that were imported by the US from the Philippines.  This became known as the Coconut Oil Excise Tax.  This law was passed purportedly to protect the US vegetable oil and dairy industries from the competition by coconut oil imports which could not be really mitigated due to the huge demand for coconut products.

 The US Congress agreed to Roosevelt’s request to return the tax collections to the Philippine government on one condition: “Not a single cent or centavo of these shall be used to develop the Philippine coconut industry.”

 President Quezon after his visit to Mexico City dreamt of a new city that would become the future capital of the Philippines.

 In 1938 he railroaded the idea of this new city by first purchasing the 1,529 hectare Diliman Estate of the Tuason family.  Then he convinced the Commonwealth National Assembly to enact Commonwealth Act 502 known as the Charter of Quezon City (originally called Balintawak City) on Oct. 12, 1939. The city later expanded to 165 square kilometers to include parts of Caloocan, Mandaluyong, Rizal and Bulacan. 

 In creating Quezon City, President Quezon “envisioned a place where the common man will find his place with dignity.”  And where did he get the funds to build and expand his dream city?  From the Coconut Oil Excise Tax. It was the first coconut levy.  It may have inspired the second coconut levy of the Marcos-Cojuangco partnership, It is time that we give the fruits of the industry to the coconut farmers themselves who are the poorest among farmers.”

In the same column yesterday I also touched on the issue why Liberal party members under the former discredited President Noynoy Aquino keep using the UN as their tool to put down the Duterte administration for its efforts to campaign against drugs. The UNHRC has made its own report on the worldwide problem of drugs and it did not single out the Philippines. It does not support criticisms that the Philippine president’s war on drugs is responsible for what they call “extra-judicial killings.”

Kit Tatad made accusation by just pulling a figure from out of the blue.  Someone should challenge him where he got the figure of 14,000 EJKs and how from this invented figure he says “it has been adopted as a state policy of the anti-narcotics campaign. Yes, Mr. Tatad – please identify each and every one of the 14,000 and how each was an extra-judicial killing. 

The UNHRC itself, in its periodic review, says it is a problem of the world and member-states were “asked to discuss human rights policies and exchange views on how to improve the global rights situation.”

 It was good that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano spoke before the UN Human Rights Council to explain the situation in the Philippines. 

The Philippines was not included in the report. Countries named in the report were Algeria, Bahrain, Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Honduras, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

 Meanwhile, Taiwan has asked this column to say that it has never been the source of illegal drugs entering the Philippines. Rather, Taiwan is the best partner for the Philippines to jointly combat against the illegal transnational drugs.   

Dr. Gary Song-Huann Lin, Representative of Taiwan/ROC to the Philippines, has recently approached the relevant Philippine governmental agencies and the Senate to clarify the situation.

 Here is information unknown to most Filipinos. “Taiwan has never been the source of illegal drugs and that according to the available PDEA statistics, the majority of the drug is actually manufactured in the Philippines, not from overseas.”

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