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Opinion

Cemetery or farms?

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Before the main topic, just a commentary on our political state of affairs.

Are the peoples’ representatives so numb and detached from their constituents that they have started to believe their own fairy tales? After their countless denials of being directly engaged in or masterminding the signature campaign for the people’s initiative, the House now comes up with tales of Congress under threat, even dredging up a motorcycle bomb attack in the past that was linked to political opponents and not someone in disagreement with Congress.

The only real threat to the members of Congress are their fellow congressmen who have a history of violence or selling each other out when the price is right or politically convenient. If only the TV crews recorded all the congressmen leaving the Batasan with their convoys complete with sirens, red and blue blinkers and HPG escorts, it would soundly prove that no one can touch a member of Congress except perhaps an imported suicide bomber.

For the second time, members of Congress have come out with a resolution of support for Speaker Martin Romualdez. The only reason I can think of is to pre-empt any adventurism among the ranks of Congress where someone might push to dethrone the Speaker of the House for miscalculating and mishandling the people’s initiative, much to the embarrassment of the House of Representatives and Malacañang.

Perhaps the parties concerned can read up on Winston Churchill: “A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, said: “Being president is like running a cemetery; you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody listening.”

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Last Saturday, I learned from a very close family friend that his father-in-law had set up a poultry and piggery farm in Nueva Ecija. Knowing that the person involved only does large scale projects in order to be viable, I expressed how impressed I was that the “in-law” was still expanding the business, even in his 70s.

My friend quickly corrected my misimpression and explained that his “father-in-law” was essentially told to “get out of town” or, more accurately, to leave Lipa City several years back, because the city was going to phase out all poultry and piggery farms. I remember that time but did not know that my friend’s in-law’s poultry/piggery was one of the farms that lost so much money as a result of the forced relocation.

That’s millions and millions of pesos gone to waste because the LGU back then wanted urbanization instead of food production. Ironically, the current mayor of Lipa City – Mayor Eric B. Africa – is known as a piggery owner with a highly secured facility designed for biosecurity. The reason I mention this is because many LGUs that are led by officials on a three-year term often come out with plans and local legislations that outlive their stay in office but cause long-term financial damage to businesses and investors, especially those in farming or agriculture.

Anti-agriculture but pro-real estate development LGU officials decide who stays within the city limits, where the roads and utilities are prioritized, etc. But there are cities like Davao, Lipa, etc. that are so big and wide in territory that such prohibitions are not just anti-agri but disadvantageous to the community. In fact, the piggery owner who moved to Nueva Ecija can still face forced relocation when agricultural lands are rezoned into residential or commercial land.

The only way to stop this forced relocation or anti-farming mindset is for Congress and the Senate to pass an honest-to-goodness land use act or a law prohibiting reclassification of titled agricultural land and declaring void any unilateral acts of LGUs at reclassifying land without due process or consultation.

Right now, there are communities in the United States that have realized that the farther the food sources are to their towns and cities the higher the cost. In the Philippines, we are not only paying more for food that travels hundreds of kilometers, but there is also an added cost of handling, middlemen and corruption as well as weather-related price fluctuations.

The anti-poultry politicians have often used archaic arguments that poultry and piggery farms create foul smell or unpleasant odors that in turn attract flies. I have shared my experience on the subject during our Fiestahan seminars for BMeg Feeds and I have shown that after ASF wiped out 60 percent of the industry, the new models and systems for poultry and piggery farms are so biosecurity sensitive that waste disposal and pest control are included in the design. The problem really is ignorance and short-sightedness or vested interest of some LGU officials who drive real estate prices up and farms out of town.

Last year, I learned that a dairy farm next to our place had closed down or was sold. When I asked around, rumor had it that the plan was to develop a cemetery. I wonder how the neighbors will feel about that if it really happens. I know that the ground water in the area is already contaminated with e-coli at 200 percent the tolerable level. What happens when a cemetery is put up?

This is what modern living in the Philippines has come to. We reject and expel farms and food production facilities farther and farther away from the population centers. LGUs prefer cemented roads and cemeteries over farms, then we all complain and ask why food is so expensive. Time for people to make food production, inflation and farming an election issue at the local government level. Any mayor and council that’s anti-farming or can’t come up with anti-food inflation solutions should not be elected to office.

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E-mail: [email protected]

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