Food production not ‘farming’
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 18, 2019 - 12:00am

The latest news from the agricultural side is that 2019 will see a partial El Niño or dry spell that presumably affect crop production for agriculture, then after that we can expect the rainy season, typhoons, bugs and what have you that all comes with traditional “farming” in the Philippines. El Niño, depending on its severity, also drastically affects the production of chickens and pigs.  Sadly when things don’t work government officials automatically lament about the weather, lack of water and limited irrigation as well as poor farming practices. In the meantime, so many well off retirees and weekend farmers proudly post their bountiful harvests, their modern greenhouses, orchards and backyard plantations that utilize all the necessary science and technology required for self-sufficient food production. What should be a national model remains largely as a hobby of the rich or the informed enthusiast.

I make a distinction between “farming” or traditional old world farming versus food production to drive a point. I am of the opinion that Filipinos and the government have to come to terms that farming as we know it is obsolete, a long term losing proposition, that many advances in technology have not been programed and utilized into manageable food production centers the way the Israelis and the Taiwanese and the Dutch have, all with very limited land area. We need to redefine our terms of engagement and approach toward food production.

Instead of using the formula where we try to produce the volume of crops based on land mass, we should be setting up modernized farming communities or localities that have the latest technology, protected facilities, computerized irrigation, feeding and lighting, selected crop varieties all designed to maximize space, water and nutrients. Israel, Holland and Taiwan all excel in food production and related technologies in spite of their limited land area. What they lacked in size or square kilometers they made up for by using “smarts.” Israel was the first to fully develop the Kibbutz or “Collective Community” farming in 1909. From there, this food production model has evolved into a high tech solution of resource management and agricultural productivity that “accounts for 40% of Israel’s agricultural output worth over $ 1.7 billion by 2010 (Wikipedia).

Sooner or later we have to face up to the fact that we throw so much good money after bad by promoting traditional farming methods. All the money being wasted due to crop loss or damage can slowly be diverted toward developing high tech farming communities. By doing this we can also redistribute or spread out where crops or vegetables are planted or sourced instead of having limited rice bowls or vegetable bowls as sources. Last but not the least, instead of depending on interventions such as airlifting crops or vegetables to stabilize food products, the government should promote vegetable production as an alternative to ornamental gardening and landscapes. Developing backyard or urban gardening will serve as a stabilizer against price manipulators and shortages. The Department of Agriculture and the DepEd need to go back to basics and teach Filipinos to be producers and not just consumers.

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The leadership of the Department of Finance would be well advised to be proactive in managing, participating and guiding the conversation regarding the potential impact of Train 2 particularly the 2019 additional excise tax on fuel before they once again have a runaway train like 2018. News outlets and leftists organizations have slowly but surely been influencing if not determining the direction of information and news regarding the impact of Train 2. What the DOF officials don’t want to happen like in 2018 is a failure of communication as well as a failure to roll out and shout out what they have done in implementing the safety nets for the poorest of the poor as well as a definite communications plan and messaging to counter speculation and potential panic leading to artificial inflation.

This early in the ball game, Train 2 is highly susceptible to misinterpretation and manipulation simply because there is an absence of the “One Voice – One Government” response to powder keg issues. Better to be the “sirang plaka” or “broken record player” incessantly drowning out speculation than being turned yet again into the people’s whipping boy due to public ignorance. As they say during weddings: Speak now or forever hold your peace.

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“Do or Do not,” there is no try.

Our friends at the MMDA were featured on the evening news expressing frustration with drivers who simply drove over newly painted Solid Yellow Lanes around the Elliptical Circle. It reminded me of a Facebook post that demonstrated a pedestrian lane that turns a corner designed by engineers for foot traffic. But the image showed how pedestrians made their own path and avoided the corner because it was shorter. What the MMDA and the DPWH need to realize is that their “internationally recognized” solutions are all based on the premise that all drivers and pedestrians are educated, trained, law abiding. That is not the case in the Philippines. Don’t expect fine dining etiquette from someone who has never eaten at a table!

The MMDA should stop wasting their time, effort, and diminishing their image or PR points with solutions that are culturally out of sync. Do or Do Not. Put up concrete barriers, conduct intensified arrests and simply make violators pay through the nose. At the end of the day, if the job does not get done, it will be the MMDA loss. So why Lose? Treat them the way they need to be treated; herd them like cattle or hit them in their wallets.  

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I really enjoy Tagaytay as training center destination because many of the hotels in the city are well staffed and built for trainings and conferences, not to mention the cool weather. One thing that the City government really needs to address is the “noise pollution” that goes on all hours of the day and night particularly from motorcycles and service vehicles without proper mufflers. It’s so bad that if your room is near the main road, you will need to use ear plugs or have intermittent sleep. That spoils the experience regularly. Hope officials can clamp down on the noise makers.

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