Moving up
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - July 19, 2018 - 12:00am

To a third world country like ours, moving up to first-world status is a dream. However, to have “nice things” like advanced technology and a certain level of discipline and the so-called “urbanidad,” while seemingly far from our reach right now, is attainable. We just need to have a mindset that is focused on continuous improvement.

Take for instance, our electoral processes – it hasn’t even been a decade since we had our first automated elections. Before 2010, we were always slaves to the uncertainties and vulnerabilities of manual counting. Certainly, many of us still remember the hassle of making sure that our writing was legible, or that our spelling of our preferred candidates’ names was correct. It was even worse on the part of the poll body’s workers.  Imagine having to count millions of ballots and  ensuring  that  the transmission of results were accurate despite the high chance of human error. And that’s not even including the security risks afforded by guarding ballots from the clutches of those with unsavory motives.

Well, we’ve moved up from those days as we’re now scheduled to have a second automated midterm elections in 2019 and our third automated national election in 2022.  Sadly, it seems that these plans are still up in limbo because some entities are pushing for a “hybrid” electoral system that will still use manual counting, but electronic transmission. Something which is entirely possible, but the clamor for such a system seems counterproductive and, to most of those in the know, unreasonable.

It makes sense, therefore, to look to a first-world country, the United States that has had automated elections for as long as anyone can remember. And, yes, we have the same concerns: potential electronic tampering, machine-error, and many others. However, never has any entity opted to “downgrade.” Logic dictates that processes should move forward, not backward.

A more specific example would be Los Angeles County’s Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) project, which aims to further modernize the voting system of LA County for the 2020 elections. While the current election system of LA is modern and still viable for basic electoral needs, LA County saw that it still needed to improve its system to be able to cater to the diverse needs of its electorate. The new system, provided by Smartmatic, aims to make it easier for voters with disabilities and limited English proficiency to vote. It is said that Smartmatic has made the system flexible enough to be customizable, non-proprietary, and completely ownable by the County itself. Dean Logan, LA County’s Registrar of Voters, was extremely pleased with the latest improvements in their system, and they’re looking forward to improving it further to meet the needs of the electorate.

This kind of first-world mentality is not only applicable to electoral systems, but also to our everyday life. Whether it’s something personal or professional, we should always be looking to continuously improve: never settling for less and never stepping back. It’s the way a nation can move forward.    

* * *

The Marine Protected Sanctuary in San Vicente,  Samar is bound by two islands with  a beautiful pristine beach, with pink colored sand.

The area between the two islands  covers approximately 250 hectares, and was  once a vibrant haven for all types of marine life specially tropical fish. 

Through the years, however, marine life has virtually  disappeared due to irresponsible activities of fishermen i.e., dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, muro-ami  etc. 

This has turned the waters surrounding  the  islands  into virtual wastelands.

?The incumbent mayor, Tito Luneza, has vowed to  revive the  marine ecosystem between the islands. 

Through start-up funds of P2.6 million from the provincial government, a marine protected area is being created complete with guardhouse facilities, a patrol boat, marker buoys and security personnel to secure the MPA 24/7. 

?Initially, 200 Reefbuds will be deployed. The area, however, has room for over 50,000 Reefbuds and will be subject to a continuing solicitation program from those who would want to make a contribution to environmental rehabilitation. The project will have several positive impacts, namely:

• Creation of livelihood through tourism, preventing beach erosion by bringing back corals which studies show absorb over 90 percent of wave energy;

• return of  fishing livelihood but strictly managed and controlled; 

• environment rehabilitation which mitigates the effects of climate change, and 

• any sponsorship of a Reefbud will be documented with a deed of donation from the municipality, i.e. it will become tax deductible.

For more information, contact Marivi Dizon, corporate consultant of Reefbuds Project, 0926-5347727.

* * *

 The country’s farm tourism sector will once more get a major push as a driver of inclusive economic growth in the first-ever Global Farm Tourism Summit ongoing at the Summit Ridge Hotel in Tagaytay City. 

Themed “Managing Climate Risks through Sustainable Farm Tourism,” the event is organized by the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST), the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). 

According to ISST president Mina Gabor, the conference will put the spotlight on the unique fusion of farming and tourism which has become a worldwide trend.

The former tourism chief said that the summit will take to the global level the annual farm tourism conferences they have been undertaking since 2013. 

“Farm Tourism attracts visitors to areas for educational and recreational purposes that encourage economic activity to provide farm and community income. It is one of the country’s sunshine industries which can be developed because of our vast agricultural resources,” she told media. 

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, a farming advocate, keynotes  the three-day meet and spells out the Department’s directions based on Republic Act 10816, known as the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016 authored by Sen. Cynthia Villar.

 The event is supported by the Tourism Promotions Board, provincial government of Cavite, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, and the Automobile Association of the Philippines.

 Topics include farming by millennials by Cainta vice mayor Pia Schuck-Velasco, women empowerment by Dimataling (Zamboanga del Sur) mayor Maria Dolores Baya, and climate-smart farming by International Center for Tropical Agriculture director for Asia Dindo Campilan. 

Leading practitioners who will share their experiences are Villa Socorro Agri-Eco Village and Farm Resort general manager Raymund Aaron; Puentespina Farm by co-owner Dr. Roberto Puentespina Jr.; Rapha Valley owner Albert Jo; Nurture Wellness Village president Cathy Turvill; Movement of Incentive Travel Executives president Rose Libongco, and Costales Farms president Josephine Ferreras Costales.

Providing global outlook on farm tourism are Sapa O’Chau founder Tan Thi Su (Vietnam), Phutawen Farm  owner Dalounny Douangpaseuth (Laos), National Institute of Agricultural Science senior agricultural researcher Dr. Lock-Hwan Jo (South Korea), and Ohtawara Tourism Co. Ltd. president Daisuke Fujii, and Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Jesus Domingo.

Government resource persons include La Union Gov. Francisco Emmanuel Ortega III, Surigao Del Sur Vice Gov. Manuel Alameda, DOT 4-A regional director Vernie Morales, Bureau of Soils and Water Management assistant director Dr. Edna Pangan, and Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standard Dr. Vivencio Mamaril.

 Complementing the talks is a side exhibit of locally grown agricultural produce from partners and participating farms.

 The conference  concludes today with an ocular visit to the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction in Silang, Cavite to offer participants a first-hand experience on its successful projects.

* * *

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

AUTOMATED ELECTIONS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
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