Our coconut industry, our humanity

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Last week I said State of the Nation speeches are a waste of time and money, not especially the way it has  developed. It has become a fashion show to remind Filipinos that we have a lousy government in which members of Congress and their wives have the opportunity to display their wealth, most of them ill gotten, in a fashion show.

It has not changed through the years. But President Duterte’s speech made up for it all by saying that by the time he ends his term he will have fulfilled his campaign promises. These are many but the more important  is his build, build, build that will touch the lives of so many.

Duterte’s Build, build build program has been put in the hands of Arturo Tugade, the secretary for transport.

He is also the keyman for the Mindanao Railway which is the center of his program. He has a trusted man in Tugade both a friend and an efficient worker. I am here now waiting for him for an interview on his projects. Duterte supporters are anxious that his promises in the SONA will be finished on time.

Arthur “Art” Planta Tugade a Filipino businessman and lawyer from Cagayan. He is the current Secretary of the Department of Transportation after being appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to replace Joseph Emilio Abaya. He previously held the position of president and chief executive officer of Clark Development Corp., an attached agency of the government-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority under President Benigno Aquino III.

Tugade was born to poor parents from Claveria, Cagayan, Francisco Tugade and Lucefina Planta. His parents were both employed at the Public Works Department and he was in elementary school when they moved to Sampaloc, Manila.

Tugade attended law school at the San Beda College of Law where he was classmates with President Rodrigo Duterte. He graduated magna cum laude in 1971. (Sourced from Wikipedia)

I was not able to come because I still limp with fractures and osteoporosis. The first time I felt it was in PRRD’s first State of the Nation speech and I would not risk it again especially the long walk from the entrance to the Assembly Hall and I would certainly not make a scene coming in a wheelchair.

So I went to the Pagcor instead and found myself the only director present to sign a MOA between PAGCOR with the NAPSI.

What luck it turned out to be because I had been an advocate of the welfare of coconut farmers thanks to my daughter Veronica who met with them and saw their dreadful conditions as the lowest paid among our farmers and at the same time probably the most important agricultural industry.

I was watching the SONA on television and thought that was a streak of fate that I was signing the MOA with NAPSI while President Duterte was speaking about it in Congress. Is it luck or destiny?

This one comes from a column written by my daughter, Veronica.

The brightest moon shone over the countryside around me. Tall coconut trees cast long shadows, as I walked between them seeking the essence of a nocturnal magic that seemed to cast a spell over the place, resetting the ties between the land and we who live off it. Human experience of nature is rarely written about in the news except in disaster and tragedy, as we’ve seen with Hurricane Irma this week, but take a walk into the woods as I did near Lipa, Batangas, a few days ago… there is something immediately soothing and uplifting about being surrounded by trees slowly but surely unfolding themselves and reaching inch by inch to the stars, offering themselves up to the world.

There are 330 million fruit-bearing coconut trees in the Philippines, so common that they’re barely noticed. Even coconut farmers tend to take them for granted, expecting the trees to bear fruit as they have always done, exploiting them as they are themselves exploited in a system of economic subjugation that some call slavery.

Coconuts are the Philippines’ top export, and yet 60 percent of the country’s 3.5 million small-scale coconut farmers live below the poverty line, earning less than P20,000 a year. The head of the Philippine Coconut Authority says the crop is crucial to nation-building, with nearly a quarter of us Filipinos depending on coconut for our livelihoods, and yet everyone knows it is an industry in a coma. There has been little progress in the sector since the time of the Spanish colonization.



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