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When local swine and poultry raisers groups learned recently that the Board of Investments (BOI) had granted tax and fiscal incentives to a Thai agribusiness company, they immediately voiced their grievances and mounted a campaign to pressure the board to rescind its decision.
"What's behind the fuss over CP foods?"
Fermin C. Diaz
Lamb Magazine

When local swine and poultry raisers groups learned recently that the Board of Investments (BOI) had granted tax and fiscal incentives to a Thai agribusiness company, they immediately voiced their grievances and mounted a campaign to pressure the board to rescind its decision.

Their opposition to the BOI action was intense and unprecedented. After convincing legislators to conduct a congressional inquiry into the matter, they sued the investment promotion board before the Supreme Court. In a case filed last March 7, they have asked the high tribunal to nullify and temporary restrain BOI’s granting of tax perks to Charoen Pokphand Foods Philippines Corp. (CPF Philippines), calling the move “unlawful, whimsical and capricious.”

The petitioners include the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc., the Association of Philippine Aqua Feed Millers, the Soro-Soro Ibaba Development Cooperative, and the Abono, Agham, and AGAP party-list groups.

Since the Thai company is globally known to be an efficient feed and food producer and distributor - a stature domestic players haven’t yet achieve - they fear the presence of the foreign firm in the local market which has been granted incentives will seriously threaten the livelihood of millions of workers in the farm sector.

The hysteria over the tax perks has gone a bit farther. Even Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, whose department is mandated to uplift the productivity of farmers and fisher folk and ensure food is available and affordable to the nation’s 100 million inhabitants, was startled.

“I myself do not agree with the decision of the BOI. I am afraid it could eventually kill our domestic livestock industry,” Alcala declared during a recent TV interview.

Amid all the fiery rhetoric unleashed by local farmers groups and their political backers, this writer interviewed key informants from government, academe, feed, livestock and meat industries, and dug up relevant data in an attempt to shed light on the issues raised and to present underlying factors behind the controversy.

Noise over CP but no howl over New Hope

To begin with, it was not only CP Foods that was given BOI tax and fiscal privileges. Months before the uproar, another huge offshore company, the New Hope Group,

obtained similar perks when it registered its three feed milling projects north of Manila worth close to P400 million, official records show.

The New Hope Group is China’s biggest agribusiness operator. With annual feed production capacity of 26.6 million metric tons (MT), or more than four times the Philippines’ estimated total feed output of 6.25 million MT, the Chinese conglomerate is regarded as the world’s leading animal feed manufacturer today.

For administrative efficiency, it formed three locally-registered business units to run the mills. They are identified as New Hope Central Luzon Agriculture Inc., New Hope Tarlac Agriculture Inc., and New Hope Bulacan Agriculture Inc. which handle plants in San Simon (Pampanga), Gerona (Tarlac), and Pulilan (Bulacan), respectively.

Altogether, the mills can produce 227,448 MT of animal feeds yearly. New Hope also has the option to go into large-scale poultry and hog production in the Philippines like what it is already doing in China, data obtained by LaMB Magazine show.

Given that local agribusiness groups are raising a big howl over CPF Philippines’ tax perks, one wonders why are they not also grumbling over the fiscal incentives given to New Hope.

Uneasy ties between gov’t and hog industry

What is becoming apparent is that the raging BOI tax perks controversy epitomizes decades of difficult, and sometimes volatile, relationship between certain swine representatives with vested interests and a bureaucracy widely perceived as not doing enough to address mounting concerns of the industry in the face of stiffer challenges brought by globalization and free trade.

“Some players feel they are being pushed to the wall not only because CP has already landed in their own turf but more importantly, because they believe government will not be of great help to them,” a Manila-based feed raw material supplier said.

“So, instead of taking a healthy attitude by figuring out what business and trade opportunities and new technologies would the new player offer and what can be learned from it, local groups want to shoo CP away using available state apparatus,” the businessman, who volunteered to speak candidly on condition of anonymity, explained.

“It is no wonder they are even invoking protectionism under the guise of achieving ‘fair competition’ to sway government’s sentiments towards their side,” he added.

This is not the first time livestock groups have demonstrated a combative stance towards authorities when they see that things get awry. In early 2012, they have threatened the government with carrying out a ‘pork holiday’ when ex-farm hog prices

dropped for weeks due to alleged government inaction in curbing smuggling and for allowing unhampered entry of imported meats.

They also demanded that heads of the Bureau of Animal Industry and the National Meat Inspection Commission should roll, blaming them for their economic woes. Malacanang gave in to their wishes. In the days that followed, the Palace announced it was replacing Bureau of Animal (BAI) director Efren Nuestro and National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) executive director Jane Bacayo.

The groups also pushed for the Bureau of Customs to adjust the reference prices of imported pork and poultry products, claiming previous quotes no longer reflect market realities. They prevailed on this one, too. As a result, the landed cost of the two commodities went up, effectively making domestic pork and chicken prices more competitive than imports.

Handling favor seekers

As the groups, notably swine raisers, gained political influence over the years, their leaders have increasingly become more insistent in seeking concessions from DA to advance their interests. One towering industry representative was appointed member of the board of Quedancor during the term of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap. He enjoyed the perks that went with his post until the state firm was rocked by a multi-billion peso swine financing scandal.

Another hog leader was able to obtain financial assistance from the DA-administered Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) for a meat processing project of his Batangas-based cooperative. Gaining stature for successfully negotiating the soft-term loan and for projecting himself as a tireless anti-smuggling crusader, he earned a seat in Congress as AGAP Party-List representative.

In what many say as bordering on arrogance, some industry players have also been reported to be seeking or following up certain favors from livestock agency officials even way beyond office hours. DA sources said they nag bureaucrats late in the night, treating them like ‘24/7’ household servants.

“Some people in the swine sector are demanding. At times, they can be rude and irksome you really need a lot of patience dealing with them,” said Davinio Catbagan, DA Assistant Secretary for Livestock.

“Marihap kausapin ang iba sa hog industry,” remarked Bacayo in a separate interview months before leaving his NMIS post. “Sakit sa ulo. (It’s difficult dealing with some guys from the hog industry. They give you headache.)”

Still, as industry representatives continue to create a stir over the BOI tax perks even after bringing their case before the Supreme Court, it remains to be seen whether DA will extend an all-out support to their cause.

“As for Alcala, his reaction to the farmers’ gripes over CP was more that of a typical politician trying to appease noisy constituents,” a private veterinarian operating in Quezon City commented. “What the Secretary should have done was to act like a true, well-informed government executive able to present meaningful solutions and strategies the livestock industry needs to cope with recurring and emerging challenges,” he suggested.

For sure, the incumbent DA chief maintains a coterie of livestock bureaucrats, consultants and advisers assisting him in setting policy directions and implementing development programs for the grains-feeds-livestock-meat supply chain.

Sadly, past and present administrations have simplistically equated good governance of agriculture with being able to succeed in bringing rice production to self-sufficiency and export levels, prejudicing other equally important commodities like livestock and poultry along the way.

Such official obsession with rice and negligible attention to livestock can be gleaned by the huge budgetary allocation always given by the government to the crop while giving less for chicken and hog. This had been the case even as the combined production value of the two subsectors had already surpassed that of palay for over 10 years now.

For 2012 alone, state funds allotted to rice excluding billions for irrigation which is largely for rice, reached a whopping P6.18 billion. Livestock, on the other hand, received P2.42 billion for the same period, Department of Budget and Management records show.

In spite of the lower budget, hog and chicken alone generated a combined production value worth P396.2 billion last year while palay output’s value was much lower by over P100 billion, at P292 billion, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.

Unlike palay wherein state and local authorities intervene heavily in the way it is irrigated, produced, harvested, and marketed, hog and broilers are largely financed and managed by a category of players from the private sectorfrom small backyard raisers to mid-size producers to large commercial operators and integrators.

Since some DA bureaucrats have developed a faulty notion that the livestock industrybeing private-driven, can thrive well even with minimal government support and

supervisionthey have come to treat the sector with indifference and with lesser importance, observers said.

Deliberately or not, they have allowed industry players to operate on their own lookout and at their own risk, but offering little to help them cope with various challenges that come their way, observers added.

“Behind local feed and food producers’ anxiety over the BOI tax perks given to CP is actually an unspoken yearning for them to get the right form of government assistance that will help them adapt to changing realities, improve on their efficiency and increase their productivity,” an agri-equipment and agrihousing supplier from Mandaluyong explained.

“Sadly, what they see so far is a bureaucracy so detached from reality and which lacks the passion and innovation needed to move the livestock sector to greater heights.”

To illustrate, industry players have pointed out instances whereby they claim past and current officials have incurred serious lapses, notably in dealing with animal health issues, pork export drive, and efforts to build “AAA” slaughterhouses.

Little help to combat PRRS

While DA officials often boast the country is free from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and avian influenza (AI), several hog farms continue to languish from emerging and recurring diseases like Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). Yet government has not done enough to address the problem.

As the PRRS virus sometimes spread alongside with other diseases like hog cholera and Porcine Circo Virus Type2 or PCV2, farms hit by PRRS suffer up to 90 percent mortality and piglets face greater chances of death than adults.

The economically debilitating disease had been blamed to cause heavy mortalities and a sharp hog production decline in large parts of the country from 2006 to late 2008. At the time, swine practitioners had reported losses reaching from P5 billion to P7 billion, with deaths affecting both backyard and large commercial farms.

BAI lab tests conducted during a 16-month period ending October 2008 showed that PRRS had been present and seriously threatening hog farms in Cordillera, Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Metro Manila, Bicol, Central Visayas and Zamboanga del Sur in Mindanao.

Despite the magnitude and intensity of the problem, BAI bought only about P16 million worth of injectable vaccines to combat the virus, citing budgetary constraints. It was an

amount not even enough to meet the required doses of one major pig growing province like Bulacan, swine practitioners recalled.

Still, the government carried out vaccination in only two areas close to Manila – Bulacan and Pampanga. This compelled thousands of hog farmers in other affected provinces beyond the reach of BAI to buy their own vaccines and fend for themselves to cope with the disease challenge.

“It’s nice to hear of government doing something on PRRS and other diseases,” a swine practitioner working for a mid-sized farm in Pampanga, commented. “But if you go down the field, the help is really just lip service because only a very few small raisers in a limited area get the token benefit while medium-sized and large commercial farms are excluded,” he added.

Short-changed in Pandi

Another issue that battered the swine industry in recent years and raised questions about government’s competence in handling large-scale crisis was the depopulation of roughly 6,500 hogs at a commercial farm in Barangay Sto. Nino, Pandi, Bulacan in March 2009.

The slaughtering, burning and burying of the animals came in the aftermath of a sudden announcement made by authorities four months earlier that a non-fatal ebola reston virus (ERV) was discovered in certain pig farms in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan.

Under the watchful eyes of representatives from FAO, WHO, OIE, animal welfare groups and closely monitored by media, government teams from DA and local health and agriculture units in Bulacan were mobilized to conduct a week-long animal destruction process. They used policemen’s service pistols to kill the pigs after five captive bolts used in stunning them malfunctioned.

Prior to the mass slaughter, agriculture officials assured the owners of Win Farm, whose herd was believed to be harboring much of the virus, to be compensated for the loss of their animals. But instead of paying them at fair market value and considering the mental anguish, emotional stress and stigma they had gone through for being accused by the local community as “culprit” and “disease carrier,” DA bargained for a 25% to 50% price discount per head.

Under such scheme, the government was supposed to pay the farm owners between ₱6.28 million to P15.625 million as indemnity. But the amount has not yet been fully settled and the poor hog raisers received far less than agreed upon, a source said.

“Three years after the depopulation, the owners have not yet collected nearly half a million (pesos) representing unpaid balance of the indemnity owed by government,” the source added.

Sought for comment, Catbagan, who was the BAI director during the 2009 ebola crisis, politely declined to answer queries regarding the matter.

Today, a new set of operators is running the once ill-fated pig farm. One of the original owners left for abroad, the source added.

Default from pork export bid to Singapore

The announcement about the ebola in Luzon dealt a heavy blow to hog raisers in South Cotabato as well. Sometime in December 2008, just when they were supposed to send their inaugural pork export shipment to Singapore, DA officials stalled their move, effectively aborting the meat deal ever since.

The cargo, consisting of 50,000 kg of various frozen pork choice cuts worth over P17.5 million, was already loaded inside two 40-ft container vans in the second week of December 2008. It was placed aboard a vessel that was set to leave the Gen. Santos port after it was issued pre-shipment clearance from Singaporean authorities.

It would have been the start of a lucrative meat trade deal with Singapore and the reward of two years of hard work among meat regulators, a local operator of an ‘AAA”

abattoir and a consortium of Mindanao-based hog producers eager to expand their market by going overseas, industry players said.

“But the local veterinary quarantine officer, acting on orders from BAI officials in Manila, refused to sign and release the export permit documents, thus putting our shipment on hold for several days,” South Cotabato Swine Producers Association (Socospa) chair Emilio Escobillo, told this writer in a recent phone interview.

As the vessel’s departure was delayed, owners of the cargo, mostly members of Socospa, had to pay over P20 million in demurrage and cold storage fees, resulting in losses, Escobillo claimed.

The hog growers were prompted to sell their meat at supermarkets in Davao and Koronadal and elsewhere at rates much lower than what they would have earned from the Singapore deal, he added.

In the aftermath of the ebola fiasco, Singapore had since imposed stricter export requirements before it allows local pork to enter its market. One of the requirements BAI offered to comply with but failed to do, was for it to show lab test results indicating that pork from Mindanao did not carry the ebola virus. To comply with this, the bureau vowed to order 5,000 ebola test kits from the United States and the same to be used in getting blood samples from pigs in Mindanao to check if they were positive of ERV.

As it turned out, the test kits supposed to come from the US did not arrive, thus BAI could not conduct the ebola test and therefore cannot show proof that pigs from Mindanao were ebola-free.

Meat and livestock officials claimed that complying with the other export requirements had become equally exhausting and burdensome. This prompted them to lose heart and to drop the pork export bid to Singapore altogether, leaving local hog producers hanging.

Escobillo said his group have met with agriculture officials several times in the past prodding them to pursue the export bid more vigorously by simply issuing a certificate indicating their pork products were free from ebola virus (which actually have remained so). He said such document would be enough for Singapore, claiming that the suggested measure came no less from Singaporean veterinary authorities.

Sadly, their pleas landed on deaf ears. Thus the country’s first viable attempt to export pork has failed, not because of the industry’s inaction but by government default.

“We have done our best to explore new markets for our pork and Singapore would have been, and still is, a bright and promising prospect. But DA was not helpful enough to realize our dream,” Escobillo, obviously frustrated, told LaMB Magazine.

Budget for “AAA” abattoirs diverted

But perhaps one of DA’s most disturbing signs of insincerity towards hog and meat industry players was the agency’s failure to put up, as promised, two Triple A abattoirs north and south of Manila last year. This in spite of repeated pronouncements made by Alcala himself that his department had the money to build the facilities.

Budgeted at P180 million (an amount no one from the department could explain how it was arrived at), the two meat establishments would have played a vital role in boosting chances of local hog raisers to export pork to its Asian neighbors ahead of the ASEAN economic integration in 2015. Putting up these facilities is also considered top priority given that the Philippines critically lacks “AAA” accredited slaughterhouses required for the export trade.

Properly managed, they could even churn out manufacturing grade pork cuts for local meat processors, thus reducing the country’s heavy reliance on imported pig meat products and providing solution to hog farmers’ perennial complaints regarding meat smuggling, industry sources said.

As the money to build the two facilities were placed under the care of NMIS, livestock officials were mobilized to look for suitable local government units (LGUs) and private agribusiness entities with whom DA can collaborate in building and operating the structures.

Sources said the group of Edwin Chen, president of Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. and managing director of Bounty Fresh Foods Inc., offered to partner with government in operating one of the facilities under terms yet to be agreed upon by all parties.

Another private sector participant who reportedly expressed interest in running one of the units was the San Pablo, Laguna-based 3J Foods Corporation owned by the Agoncillo family.

But for undisclosed reasons, Alcala and livestock officials put the project on hold for weeks until the DA chief was reminded by his subordinates that the unspent “Triple A” funds with NMIS had to be released before end 2012 otherwise it would be reverted to the National Treasury.

In the last quarter of 2012, the secretary decided to divert a large chunk of the funds for a different purpose. He opted to grant a total of P130 million to 13 LGUs for their use to put up “AA” slaughterhouses in their respective areas, to the dismay of swine industry players.

“We were willing to build and operate the ‘Triple A’ abattoir Alcala was talking about. Our group was even invited to help draft a road map for the swine sector. Now, we see that DA is not really sincere in its commitment to help the hog industry in its export drive,” Chen, visibly disappointed, told this writer on learning that the project was scrapped.

DA officials said while it was “unfortunate” the project implementation of the two slaughterhouses “had to be deferred,” they indicated a promise, which some consider a vague one, by saying they have “included the budget for the project in the department’s 2014 budgetary proposal.”

In an emailed letter sent to LaMB Magazine, Alcala’s chief aide, Emerson Palad, also said the project originally was supposed to be undertaken in two phases. But he claimed the first onewhere the Livestock Development Council (LBC) was supposed to identify the recipients and location for the projectdid not turn out well due to various reasons.

“At the onset, the availability of a sizeable property proximal to Metro Manila became a problem to proponents due to increasing value of land,” Palad said. “Secondly, the interest of the key players to participate was not evident in their actions,” he added.

With the original “Triple A” money realigned to build “AA” abattoirs, the LGUs that benefitted from the fund diversion include Tuao in Cagayan, Agoncillo in Batangas, Bansud in Oriental Mindoro, Odiongan in Romblon, Sta Cruz in Marinduque, Pres. Roxas City in Capiz, San Joaquin in Iloilo, and Mati and Tagum in Davao. Also included are the municipalities of Lucban, Real, Tagkawayan and Tiaongall in Quezon.

Critics say the criteria by which Alcala used in deciding to grant P10 million to each of the 13 beneficiary LGUs raises questions considering that it runs inconsistent with existing rules. They cite, in particular, a memorandum circular pertaining to guidelines on LGUs’ meat establishment improvement program jointly crafted and approved by the DA, Department of Interior and Local Governments and the Department of Budget and Management which Alcala apparently ignored.

For one, they point out that the money to construct the “AA” abattoirs had been released by DA without requiring the beneficiaries to provide their own counterpart fund, thus disregarding the joint DA-DILG-DBM circular which clearly stipulates that LGUs should provide counterpart funds for such projects.

They also claim politics, more than anything else, motivated Alcala to choose which among LGUs shall be granted the doleout. Of the 13 slaughterhouses to be constructed by the grant, they noted that four will be erected in QuezonAlcala’s home

province and where his family has lots of political stake to protect. Quezon is where his son Irwin who is up against incumbent governor David Suarez in the May 2013 elections. Alcala’s camp denies such allegation.

“The choice on which LGUs should be granted assistance for the construction of their slaughterhouses was mainly on the requests received from various local chief executives or by way of Sangguniang Bayan resolutions,” Palad, with the rank of undersecretary, said in his email. “This show of interest is vital in the selection process as it is the LGU which will eventually operate and maintain the facility. If they ask for it, the DA takes it as a positive proof that the LGU is willing to take on the responsibility for its upkeep,” he added.

In light of past and current developments, much has yet to be done in fostering and advancing public-private sector cooperation in the animal industry. A greater level of openness and transparency is also needed from both government and industry in formulating and implementing key projects and programs to move the sector forward.

What is evident is there is a disconnect between the bureaucracy and key industry players in the way they view and handle issues of profound significance and impact to the feed- to-food supply chain. The big fuss over CP Foods merely reflects this disconnect.

Unless the two sides collaborate and genuinely cooperate with each other and come to terms in a real, meaningful way, the domestic poultry and hog industries will continue to lag behind and remain uncompetitive. This translates to lower productivity, inefficiency and higher cost of meat products, making them less affordable to consumers, thus becoming a food security concern for the entire country.

Meanwhile, with ASEAN economic integration just looming around the corner and where trade barriers are now significantly dismantled, all foreign agribusiness players have to do is come over to the Philippines and put up shop and grab opportunities as they arise.

They would smartly understand that there really is more fun in the Philippines.
VIGAN CITY- Is the multimillion peso tobacco industry headed for collapse? The question popped out here recently amid anxieties prevailing in the Ilocos tobacco heartland on the future of the crop after the government began implementing Republic Act 10351 which is known as the New Sin Tax Reform Law.
Is the tobacco industry headed for collapse?
Teodoro Molina
The Philippine Star

VIGAN CITY- Is the multimillion peso tobacco industry headed for collapse? The question popped out here recently amid anxieties prevailing in the Ilocos tobacco heartland on the future of the crop after the government began implementing Republic Act 10351 which is known as the New Sin Tax Reform Law.

The industry has been a regular source of revenues for the government with the excise tax payments collected annually from cigarette manufacturers running into billions of pesos.

With the passage of RA 10351 that increased the tax rates for tobacco and alcohol products, the government expects to raise P248 billion in the next five years starting this year. For 2013, revenue collection is targeted to reach P33.96 billion out of which 69 percent or P23.4 billion will come from tobacco.

While revenue authorities may be feeling victorious over the law’s passage because of the windfall it will bring into the state coffer, tobacco farmers are seeing the opposite.

They believe the increase in the cigarette tax which triggered a similar increase in cigarettes prices would sharply dampen patronage of the tobacco product.

“This law will lead to the extinction of the tobacco industry,” Bernard Vicente, vice president of the Philippine Tobacco Growers Federation, told newsmen.

“Sales of cigarettes will drop drastically and will in turn bring down demand for tobacco by the cigarette manufacturers. They might even close shop” he asserted.

It is too early to judge if their fear is justifiable. Last year, the farmers stormed the Senate during its deliberations of the sin tax reform bill. Busloads of leaf farmers from the northern provinces took turns in staging a vigil at the Senate grounds protesting against the bill. They called their protest action “Tobacco Revolt” which kicked off in Ilocos capitals during the holy week with the farmers voicing out their stand and displaying anti-sin tax placards taking advantage of the Good Friday crowd who were visiting their dead in the cemeteries.

At the Senate, the movement’s leaders sought out the senators some of whom were available to receive them. They had a strong ally in then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who hails from Cagayan Valley, a tobacco producing region. In the end, however, the administration-sponsored bill was passed.

The farmers are troubled. They hear reports about a large cigarette manufacturing firm allegedly poised to transfer its operations to a “friendlier” country. Although raw and unverified, the report fanned their anxiety even more.

“Kasano daytoyen, awanen a agmula ti tabako, (How is this, tobacco-growing is gone),” Danilo Custodio exclaimed after the report reached him.

“There is nothing they should be afraid of,” former councilor Ceasar Llanes of Candon City, the country’s top virginia tobacco producing locality, told The Star. “They should fear no more for their crop should the government turn its eye on the alternative uses of tobacco,” he stressed. Llanes who, at one time, was engaged in tobacco trading has expressed his interest in tobacco’s other products.

Former Administrator Carlitos Encarnacion of the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) under whose watch (2001-2010) a tobacco dust processing plant was established in La Union had batted for the development and commercialization of other products from the crop, mainly tobacco dust and virgin pulp. He convinced the

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on the potentials of both products so that it gave the green light for NTA to proceed.

This paved the way for the establishment of the dust plant in Sto. Tomas, La Union which operated for awhile until Encarnacion’s tenure ended. A tobacco pulp processing plant up for construction in Labut village in Santa, Ilocos Sur was also aborted as Encarcion exited from the tobacco agency before construction activity could start.

There are other discovered tobacco products but dust and pulp present brighter potentials, an NTA study done during Encarnacion’s time showed. Tobacco dust, produced from tobacco leaves, was touted as an environment-friendly organic mollusscicide that eliminates snails and other pests in fishponds. If utilized, researchers said it would not yield toxic residues unlike cyanide-based chemical pesticides erstwhile used by aquaculture operators which had rendered their fish harvest unsafe. As tested, the dust material also enhances the growth of ‘lablab’, a fish nutrient, in the fish farms, the NTA research study showed.

Dust production was found to yield good income both for the tobacco farmer and the fishpond owner, it was learned. The farmer’s production costs are minimal as he no longer depends on high-priced fertilizer, insecticides and other inputs in raising the crop. He is no longer required to raise high quality leaves that cigarette making requires. The fish pond owner, apart from overcoming environmental and health concerns for his harvest, stands to save P28,000 a hectare per cycle everytime he uses tobacco dust.

Based on the NTA study, the potential market for tobacco dust is huge. It was estimated that fishpond areas nationwide would need 423 million kilos of tobacco dust for a year’s (two cycles) operation. 250 million kilos of this volume would be dispensed in Regions 3 and 6. Because of the huge market they were looking at, the agency’s specialists boasted that the northern regions’ tobacco

the demand. They suggested tobacco-growing in other areas saying that dust processing would only depend on ordinary tobacco which they said can be planted anywhere unlike the high grade types that are only suited in the northern region.

Tobacco virgin pulp which is derived from the plant’s stalks holds great promise for paperbag and commercial paper production. Thrown away or left behind in the farm to rot after harvest, the stalks have earned importance after they were found as a viable and sustainable source of virgin pulp. Their importance was reinforced after shopping malls, stores, and various other establishments started replacing their plastic bags with paperbags and other biodegradable materials. Encarnacion said that the future looks pretty good for tobacco pulp as local government units began enacting ordinances mandating a ban against the use of plastic wrappers in the malls and all places of commerce.

Janoz: Good morning, good morning, Mindanao! Maayong Aga to our Illonggo listeners, and to you, good morning Mae!

Mae: Good morning also to you, Kuya Janoz, and good morning to all our listeners.
"Kakao Eskuwela: cacao check 5&6"
Kenneth Bajo
Sky cable/DE channel 32


Janoz: Good morning, good morning, Mindanao! Maayong Aga to our Illonggo listeners, and to you, good morning Mae!

Mae: Good morning also to you, Kuya Janoz, and good morning to all our listeners.

Janoz: Good morning to all our enrollees as well. Those who are located in Davao del Sur, Davao city and even in Davao Oriental, we also have enrollees there. We are also greeting our colleagues who are leaving this morning for Indonesia, to learn about the latest technologies of cacao growing in Indonesia.

Mae: Wow, that’s really a good experience, Kuya Janoz.

Janoz: How about you, Mae? Do you have anyone else to greet?

Mae: Thanks for that, Kuya Janoz. I would like to greet our students in Kakao Eskwela. They really look forward and listen to our show, every morning, every 4:30AM to 5:00AM.


Kuya Janoz 1

Good greetings to our avid listeners. We’re here once again for another session of School-on-Air.

Mae, we’ll continue with our discussion about establishing our Kakao farm/plantation. During the previous session, we’ve discussed Key Checks 3 and 4, using the Kakaw Check system that was made by ACDI/VOCA for the CoCoPal Farming Systems Project.

Mae 2

This is a guideline and also one of the first steps needed to ensure the success of the cacao product in the Philippines. This system has 10 Key Checks – from establishing the kakao farm/plantation, to ways in harvesting, and finally to the storage of seeds for selling.

Kuya Janoz 3

Yes… and our recommendation is to follow the guidelines or system

in the 10 Key Checks for kakao farming. Each key check provides ways on how to execute it and it also has recommendations on achieving these Key Checks.

Mae 4

Let’s review this briefly, Kuya Janoz?

Cacao Key Check 1 is: The budwood garden is established and the nursery is properly put up. We were able to understand that we cannot just buy or get Kakao seeds. These seeds should be approved by the NSIC.

Kuya Janoz 5

And in Key Check 2, we’ve discussed the rehabilitation or restoration of withered and old kakao trees, including those that have small produce or those affected by pests.

Mae 6

For Key Check 3, Kuya Janoz, we gave our listeners information about what kind of clones are of good quality so that they could have an abundant harvest and a good produce.

Kuya Janoz 7

That’s right Mae. Lastly, for Key Check 4, we educated our farmers on proper land preparation so that they can plant and grow healthy kakao trees.

So, for those who weren’t able to follow the discussion, please text the keywords CACAO KC 1 up to CACAO KC 4 so that you can review our previous lessons. Send this to our hotline number and save these hotline numbers: 0917 609 3536 (Globe), 0908 390 3536 (Smart) and 0943 526 1536 (Sun).

Mae 8

For other inquiries – please text these to our hotline numbers – we will do our best to answer as soon as we receive your questions. Again, please note and save these hotline numbers: 0917 609 3536 (Globe), 0908 390 3536 (Smart), and 0943 526 1536 (Sun)

Kuya Janoz 9

Now, our lesson is already on CACAO KEY CHECK 5 and 6. Let’s start on Key Check 5, which will discuss about how you can do proper mulching and watering.

Mae 10

Does mulching and watering contribute much for the soil? What results can we get if we will do this the proper way, Kuya Janoz?

Kuya Janoz 11

Thank you for that question, Mae. Our kakao plant can certainly grow well if mulch and water the proper way. First,

This can maintain the right moisture of the soil
It will help in cooling the plant
And it will help contribute in making the soil healthier for planting

If you notice, these three are the most basic requirements that plants need.

Mae 12

So, kakao also needs these. Let’s repeat it, kuya? Mulching and watering in the proper way can give the following benefits:

Maintain the right moisture of the soil
Help in cooling the plant
Contribute in making the soil more healthy for planting

Kuya Janoz, what is proper mulching? And what is mulching?

Kuya Janoz 13

Ok Mae, also for our friends and listeners, mulching is the process of putting a soil covering so you can ensure to maintain the right moisture for the soil. These should be noted:

For the newly planted clones, dried grass, grain leaves, and coconut husks are the things needed for mulching.
Second, we must be reminded that when we mulch in a red soil or ferrasols, pests will affect it likely.

Mae 14

Is that so? Then, what should be done about this Kuya janoz to ensure that the plants will not be damaged?

Kuya Janoz 15

The good thing is we don’t have to worry if this happens because there is a solution. Here they are:

Regular pruning and getting rid of the dead branches will help stop pests.
For additional pest control, it’s also good to plant cassava trees and regularly check it and remove any pests found.
Third, it’s also good to spray good quality chemicals or insecticide.

Mae 16

Good to know that there are many solutions that our farmers can do to stop these pests. Thank you for the tips, Kuya Janoz.

Let’s move on about watering. What are your tips regarding this, kuya Janoz?

Kuya Janoz 17

That is definitely the next thing we will discuss about, Mae. These are the things that should be noted when watering:

Apply a half liter of water for each plant.
This should be done everyday, or twice each day during dry seasons.

These seeds that are only less than 12 months old are usually prone to being affected by lack of water, so this should be given priority.

Mae 18

Yes, and let’s not forget, and we should write this in our checkbook, listeners:

Watering half a liter everyday. And watering twice each day during dry seasons.

Kuya Janoz 19

So that’s all for our Key Check 5, Mae.

Mae 20

Key Check 5 was a short discussion. Let’s repeat it Kuya Janoz.

Ensure that our kakao does not dry by mulching or covering the surface with dried grass, grain leaves, or coconut husk, or anything organic.
Second, watering should be done everyday, applying a half liter of water, and twice each day during dry seasons.

Because this will:

Maintain the proper moisture of the soil
Help cool the plant
Help to contribute for a healthy soil

And so that pests will not be able to affect the plants:

Regular pruning and branching out dead branches can help stop pests.
For additional pest control, it can also be good to plant cassava trees then regularly check it and remove pests
Third, it’s also good to spray good quality chemicals or insecticides.

Kuya Janoz 21

For a review, you can text via our hotline numbers for Key Check 5. Just type CACAO KC5 to our hotline numbers.


Mae 22

And now, for our Key Check 6, let’s discuss about Pruning and Shade Management. Why is this important, Kuya Janoz?

Kuya Janoz 23

Pruning is the removing of the damaged leaves and branches so that the whole tree will not be affected. It is also important to shade our kakao plants.

The bases for pruning:


Those are the bases for the plant before starting the pruning process. Pruning will help in balancing the nutrients for the pods. So, this should be even out, Mae.

Mae 24

So, that’s it? It is important to base pruning by the shape, size and length of the plant.

How about during the actual pruning process, Kuya Janoz, what are the things we should note?

Kuya janoz 25

These are the other important tips in pruning:

Start pruning in a tree that’s at least three months old
Pruning should be done regularly, especially when there’s a water shoot. This should be removed.
Support the planted clones with sticks.

Mae 26

It’s not that difficult I guess, Kuya Janoz? Let’s note:

The tree/plant should be three months old already
Regular pruning especially if there’s a water shoot. This should be removed.
Support the planted clones with sticks

Kuya janoz 27

Not only that, Mae. There are other things that should be noted. We have four ways of pruning.

Mae 28

Is that so? What are these ways, Kuya Janoz?

Kuya Janoz

These are the ways of pruning:

Height Control
Sanitation or Internal Pruning

Mae 29

Thank you Kuya Janoz. Let’s repeat these four ways of pruning:

Height Control
Sanitation or Internal Pruning

Can you give us additional information on this? How do you determine the kind of pruning that is needed?

Kuya Janoz 30

Let’s continue with that, Mae.

Example, for pod-bearing cacao trees. Height Control pruning should be done during the month of April until May before it starts to bud, and after the crops has been grown. This is done to regularly maintain the canopy’s height to 2.5-3 meters.
The internal canopy pruning must be done at a right time of Height Control, as this will increase the air flow and light penetration inside the pod and the buds in the branches made.
It’ll be good to do the Skirting from November to January after the main harvest, to ensure that the Cacao Trees adjoin and do not separate from each other, especially when talking about lighting.

And as soon as water shoots are noticed, remove this right away.

Mae 31

Thank you for that tips for Height Control and Skirting, Kuya Janoz. How about Sanitation or Internal Pruning and Tipping, what are the things that should be noted?

Kuya Janoz 32

These are the other helpful information:

For cacao trees that are not yet mature, the seed, removal of water shoots should be done every month. The removing of water shoots is the Sanitation.
Then, staking and tying—wherein this will contribute to the proper growth of the main branch. This is done when the branch is already growing up to 70cm or more.
Tipping will then follow within three to six months.
Those planted in the yard, wherein branches are usually cut out again, so that it’ll be a 3 or 4 side branch. This is to develop a 360-degree formation.
Lastly, Shaping and formation pruning, to give the complete cycle every 3 months.

Mae 33

That’s quite a lot right there. Let’s repeat it to learn it well:

For pod-bearing cacao trees, the Height Control pruning must be done on the month of April until May before it buds, and after the crops has been grown. This is done to regularly maintain the canopy’s height to 2.5-3 meters.
The internal canopy pruning must be done at a right time of Height Control, as this will increase the air flow and light penetration inside the pod and the buds in the branches made.
It’ll be good to do the Skirting from November to January after the main harvest, to ensure that the Cacao Trees adjoin and do not separate from each other, especially when talking about lightning.
For cacao trees that are not yet mature, the seed, removal of water shoots should be done every month. The removing of water shoots is the Sanitation.
Then, staking and tying—wherein this will contribute to the proper growth of the main branch. This is done when the branch is already growing up to 70cm or more.
Tipping will then follow within three to six months.
Those planted in the yard, wherein branches are usually cut out again, so that it’ll be a 3 or 4 side branch. This is to develop a 360-degree formation.
Lastly, Shaping and formation pruning, to give the complete cycle every 3 months.

Kuya Janoz 34

That is right, Mae. You can also text Key Check 6, just type the keywork CACAOKC6 and send it to our hotline numbers to review our guidelines.

Mae 35

Now, what’s next, Kuya Janoz? Can that give us time for a break already?

Kuya Janoz 36

Hahaha, not yet Mae, but we’re close to that.

The canopy should be able to make a good growth of its branches, pruning is regularly done, and deformed branches and pests should be gone. But there’s still one thing that must be noted about pruning..this will be the last.

Mae 37

What is that Kuya Janoz?

Kuya Janoz 38

For our farmers, take note to not do over-pruning.

Mae 39

Over pruning? What is that?

Kuya Janoz 40

Those low and dropping branches, these are the only ones that must be pruned and skirted to open the tree for ventilation. This is the basic and effective way of pod development.

Although pruning can be done during the whole year, but only on those low and dropping branches, not to forget also the symmetry or balancing of the plant tree.

Mae 41

Oh, ok. Let me repeat that.

Only the low and dropping branches must be pruned and skirted to open the tree for ventilation.

What are the other things that we should note, Kuya Janoz?

Kuya Janoz 42

We should not forget the plant trees, especially the small ones, they should have a proper shade.

For the shade, we recommend those net materials only, as it will not be good if the plants are too shaded because sunlight can also contribute to the kakao to yield produce.

Mae 43

Ok. So that’s it for the Key Check 6 Kuya Janoz?

Kuya Janoz 44

Yes, Mae. We’ve discussed Key Check 5 which is Mulching and Watering, then Key Check 6 which is Pruning and Shade Management.

Mae 45

Ok. For more information, just text us on our hotline numbers. Please save these numbers on your cellphones.


Mae 46

It’s time for our CoCoPal Question of the day.

Kuya Janoz 47

Yes, Mae! We will be giving again a cap to the first one who can answer our question correctly.

Only those who are registered to our CoCoPal Text Information can answer… so those who are not enrolled yet, enrol now! The beneficiaries and families of the CoCoPal Project can not take part of this promo.

Mae 48

This is a race to be the first texter, so prepare your cellphones and text your answer to our hotline numbers.

Kuya Janos 49

The CoCoPal Question of the Day –

What is the process called wherein you remove the damaged or useless branches and leaves of the kakao?

Mae 50

Friends, text now!


Mae 51

To our students, thank you, thank you for waking up early. Let’s also listen to our Kakaw Eskwela. And of course, Kuya Janoz Laquihon will be with us, from the ACDI/VOCA, to help us learn the proper things in growing, sustaining, and harvesting of Cacao.

Good morning to all of you!

Kuya Janoz 52

In behalf of ACDI/VOCA and USDA, with Mae, This is Janoz Laquihon saying, to God be the glory.

- END -
Tobacco has a great role in the cultures and traditions of Mt. Province. If tobacco smoking is considered a vice to some, this is “not true” to the old folks of Mt. Province where in until now they continuously practice what their ancestors have taught them.
"The Importance of tobacco in the Culture of Mt. Province and the Indigenous way of planting tobacco"
Rose Malekchan
DZWT 540 Radyo totoo

Tobacco has a great role in the cultures and traditions of Mt. Province. If tobacco smoking is considered a vice to some, this is “not true” to the old folks of Mt. Province where in until now they continuously practice what their ancestors have taught them.

According to Lakay Tammed Pakyo, 83 years old, one of the elders in Barangay Tucocan, Bontoc Mt. Province, the Tobacco is a sacred partner of an indigenous wine called Fayash (wine produced from sugar cane) which is being used during weddings, wakes, rituals in the “Ato” or Dap-ay located in the barangay.

Voice clip “during the wake of a dead person in the community, there should be a tobacco which will be distributed to the people specially to the old folks. Tobacco is so much important because it was given by our God as a partner of the Fayash during special occasions like wedding.”

Now that the price of commercial tobacco is so expensive, Lakay Tammed said that planting your own tobacco is still the best.

Voice clip “If you have your own tobacco, you can give or share to your friends and relatives and will create more closer relationship. But sad to say that today’s generation prefers to smoke cigarette (he means the processed tobacco) and the indigenous way of smoking tobacco (the use of pipe or rolled out pieces of newspapers is now vanishing. It is now only used during special occasions and rituals in the community.”

Meanwhile, Lakay Tammed is planting tobacco for several decades and according to him, like the pagey (rice, which is the main product of Mt. Province), tobacco is like a baby which should be given much care and attention. There should be a proper cleaning or removal of weeds and at least visit the plantation 3 to 4 times in a week. He also added that don’t expect for a good harvest if you did not properly cared of the plant. He is harvesting tobacco leaves 3 times in a year.

Lakay Tammed also shared his own indigenous way of planting tobacco. First, he let some of his plants to produced seeds. Before it totally dries (before the seedpods open), he will cut the half of the plant without touching or getting the seeds. In this process, you should be very much careful. Second, he will hang the plant with the seeds (patiwarik) above the seed bed about 2-3 feet above the soil. When the wind blows, the seeds will naturally fall in the ground and when the rain comes, the seeds will grow on its own. After a few weeks, when it grows into seedlings like a petchay (as he describe), he will transplant them to a new plot.

Voice clip “after I transplanted the seedlings, I will take good care of the plant, remove the weeds and check if there are worms under the leaves, or else these worms will eat the whole plant.”

When the plants produced enough leaves (about a 1 or 1.5 meter in height) , he will cut the shoots to prevent them from producing flowers. He also removes the new leaves (small branches) between the leaves and the stalks leaving only the original leaves. This way according to him, his plant will maintain its nice aroma and good taste (mas matapang ang lasa) that is according to his own standards.

Lakay Tammed added for how many decades of planting tobacco, he found out that the taste of tobacco differs depending on the type of soil and the temperature of the area. In Barangay Tucocan, there are area which has a warm (near the Chico River) and cold temperature (upper part towards Barangay Maligcong, Bontoc).

The worst experience of Lakay Tammed was in the first quarter of this year 2013. He is so worried because only few seedlings grew from his seed bed and he suspects that the cause is due to the weather. He observes that the climate really changed.

Voice clip “I plant every year but the problem I encountered this year was, there were few seedlings on my seed bed, maybe because there’s no enough rain during the month of January until March. In the past years, at least it rains 3 to 4 times in a month in our area. So I suspect that the cause is the climate.”

But still he did not lost hope and continued planting because as stressed out that aside from economic purposes, planting he is planting his own tobacco because he knows that it is safe or free from pesticide residue and has a distinct taste and aroma than the commercial one.

Voice clip “It is no good to buy commercially sold tobacco today because the taste and aroma is not like before. The original and best tobacco from the Province of Abra which we used to buy during our younger years is very much different today. It’s not good in quality when we speak of taste and aroma, but in its physical appearance maybe yes because there are no holes (caused by worms/ pests). Maybe my produced has holes but I’m very much confident that it is safe because I did not used any synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”

As we end our conversation/ interview, Lakay Tammed lights his organic tobacco using 2-in-1 lighter with flashlight which he ask from yours truly.
DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is introducing a mechanized aquaculture system that would increase production of shrimps by as much five times using a especially-designed aerator. 
"BFAR promotes use of aerators to increase shrimp production"

Eva Visperas
The Philippine Star

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is introducing a mechanized aquaculture system that would increase production of shrimps by as much five times using a especially-designed aerator.

Dr. Westly Rosario of BFAR said he has started adopting the system in a fishpond at the sprawling BFAR center in Barangay Bonuan Binloc here as he wants shrimp growers in Pangasinan to adopt it for “smart farming and for the Philippines to be globally competitive” for the shrimp industry.

“We want to promote this mechanized farming system for better fish production per unit area,” Rosario said.

“With the aerator, mechanically, we inject oxygen,” he said.

In other countries, he said, the system has already been adopted. In the Philippines, Rosario said, the system could be ideal for vannamei shrimps.

He said the country needs an excellent machine that is cost efficient.

The machine, donated to the center by a friend, creates micro bubbles for faster transfer of oxygen from the air to the water vital for the shrimps’ survival.

Rosario said Pangasinan which is gifted by nature with aquaculture potentials with hundred of fishponds, particularly in its coastal areas, produces until now shrimps good for household consumption only.

Other countries had been using this aerator machine for high values fish species, he said.

The right response

He said this is the right response to proper and profitable shrimp growing especially that there is a problem on climate change.

Some fish farmers have the wrong notion they have to use the machine 24 hours, he said.

He said from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., dissolved oxygen of fishponds is at its highest level and slowly declines later and its lowest is 4:00 a.m. to 9 or 10 a.m. and it increases again. With this mechanically-injected oxygen, there would be 24-hour assurance of enough oxygen supply for the shrimps, he said.

There is a system being adopted now so that there would only be certain times when oxygen level is low that the power generated aerator has to work, Rosario said.

Rosario said he was introduced with this kind of aerator by an American company whose representative visited Pangasinan who wants to have a tie-up with a local fish grower for importation of shrimp products to Vietnam.

“I am not promoting the machine or its brand..We want this system to be adopted as a normal activity of a fish farmer. They are afraid to use this due to perceived high cost of electricity. But this is compensated by the volume of their production once the use the system that would offset their electricity expenses,” Rosario said.

“Before we had luxury of area (of fishponds) but some were sometimes empty. But there is now a reversed situation because there is flooding so it’s better to have small area with bigger production,” he added.

Taking advantage of the challenges

Rosario said there is a current disease problem that affects shrimps in some countries, particularly Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, China by the Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS).

Though Philippines is not affected “yet we are shrimp importer”, he said.

Thus, the Department of Agriculture-BFAR banned importation which poses problem on restaurants, he said.

Philippines also banned importation of crabs and lobsters and other crustaceans which are also possible disease carriers.

The Philippines has no EMS so we can really promote culture of shrimps because first we are importer and second we can be exporter, Rosario said. He said there is no recorded-disease yet (on EMS).

Rosario also cited bio security of culture facilities. Aerator is one of them to balance water quality for maximum growth, he said.

“Normally without aeration, you’re lucky if you produce one ton per hectare using the present system like “blind” system of culture (referring to the traditional way of growing),” Rosario said.

He said in other countries, they use only small areas to produce in great quantity, say for 2,500 square meters fishpond, they can produce 10 tons like in Vietnam and Thailand.

But they were hit by EMS so the Philippines should take advantage of the situation, he said.

But first is where to get replenishment for the import from the said countries, Rosario said.

He said infrastructure-wise, Pangasinan is ready because of the existing molecular pathology laboratory at the BFAR Center here which detects at very early stage when a shrimp is already a virus-carrier.

He said there also about nine private hatcheries availing themselves of the services of the laboratory to ensure they grow disease-free shrimp fry.

BFAR can refer interested shrimp growers to these reputable hatcheries certified free of any known diseases.

“So our only problem now is how to teach these farmers of culturing shrimps that would not be stricken with diseases and how to maximize use of their fishponds related to production,” Rosario said.
KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/22 June)— Farmers in Region 12 were encouraged to plant more organic rice for markets abroad as the area shipped anew another volume to a foreign country, the third time in less than two months.
"Farmers in Region 12 urged to plant organic rice for foreign markets"
Minda News
Romer "Bong" Sarmiento

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/22 June)— Farmers in Region 12 were encouraged to plant more organic rice for markets abroad as the area shipped anew another volume to a foreign country, the third time in less than two months.

The Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative (DBMPC), with the help of the Department of Agriculture, recently exported again 3.3 metric tons of organic colored rice to Hong Kong.

The shipment on June 16 comprises 1.3 MT of black rice, 1.16 MT of red rice and .89 MT of brown rice, said Romano Laurilla, DBMPC general manager.

“Global demand for organic rice is growing as more people are becoming health conscious,” he said.

It was the second time that the cooperative shipped organic rice to Hong Kong. The first was sent to the United Arab Emirates.

Organic farming does not utilize chemical pesticides and fertilizers during cultivation; hence aside from being healthy, it also lessens farm production costs.

Laurilla urged farmers to shift to organic rice farming because this variety would also give them higher income.

He noted that the cooperative buys organic rice varieties at P20 per kilo, P3 higher than the buying price of non-organic rice varieties in the commercial market.

The regional Agriculture department and the cooperative have been working for the expansion of organic rice planting areas in the provinces of North Cotabato and South Cotabato.

Amalia Datukan, DA-12 director, said the agency is keen on helping rice farmers penetrate foreign markets.

The first shipment by DBMPC to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates involving 15 metric tons took place last May 6 and the second batch of three MT was shipped out on May 15.

DA Assistant Secretary Dante Delima led the sendoff of the Hong Kong shipment—involving organic black, red and brown rice— at the Tefasco Wharf in Panacan, Davao City.

Delima, concurrently the National Rice Program director, earlier said the exportation of premium organic rice “is a milestone achievement for the country since after 40 long years, the country is now again competing with other exporting countries.”

“Since the country cannot compete with exportation of rice by volume, we can compete by exporting premium rice that only selected countries can produce because of certain agri-climatic condition that the crop requires,” Delima said in a statement.

Datukan said the premium rice export “will encourage Filipino farmers to embark on planting organic colored rice varieties since they have huge export potentials.”

She said that the Agriculture department is willing to support individual and private rice exporters so that they can find foreign markets.

Datukan said the agency is giving special attention to its Rice Export Program, with Region 12 identified as playing “a very significant role.”

Currently, the cooperative has at least 500 hectares of organic rice production area in the towns of Tulunan and M’lang in North Cotabato and Surallah and Sto. Niño in South Cotabato

The cooperative is based in M’lang town.
First of three parts

IN the 1980s, I spent a few years in Sagada, Mountain Province. Saturdays were colorful and were considered as a day of adventure for my young daughters. As the sun rises, they will see women walking toward the center of town balancing their baskets on their heads cushioned by bright bandanas.
"Highland 'yuyu' in cordillera nearing extinction"
Marilou Guieb
Business Mirror

(First of three parts)

IN the 1980s, I spent a few years in Sagada, Mountain Province. Saturdays were colorful and were considered as a day of adventure for my young daughters. As the sun rises, they will see women walking toward the center of town balancing their baskets on their heads cushioned by bright bandanas.

It’s a day of surprises as one can only guess what new discoveries the baskets contain: wild mushrooms, native vegetables, mountain tea, some neighborhood or exotic craft. Summer months would yield wild blueberries gathered from Lake Dannum for only P20 a basket.

But my most curious discovery was the fish they called yu-yu which I was initially averse to as they looked like slimy, small snakes. But my good friend, Muriel, stayed over once and fried them crisp for me. Since then, I was hooked. I would wait for the young boys in the neighborhood who would offer them for P20 in small baskets or cans.

The loach or yu-yu is called dojo by the Japanese who first introduced this in the Cordillera region. It is popularly known as the “weather loach” due to its ability to detect changes in barometric pressure and react by swimming frantically or standing on its end, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the Cordillera region (BFAR-CAR). So, like a weather forecast, the loach becomes more active when a storm is approaching.

In a landlocked region such as the Cordillera, the yu-yu is an important source of protein and its popularity quickly spread in the rice terraces of Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province. The yu-yu was in fact a major source of protein until the drastic drop in catch in recent years.

The lowest catch was recorded at 2,960 metric tons in 2004. In 2009 the per capita consumption of the yu-yu fish in the Cordillera reached 28 kilograms.

BFAR-CAR has embarked on more projects focused on the culture of caged or pond species such as tilapia, carp, mudfish, pangasius (also known as cream dori) to improve the sufficiency of fish protein sources in the region. It seems that the yu-yu was not preferred as the fish species feeds on available food in their environment and thrives and multiplies on their own.

The change in farming practices such as the use of pesticides, rotation of rice with non-terrestrial crops such as cabbage and beans, predators and increased food demand affect the yu-yu. In the 1990s farmers using chemicals to control giant earthworms that infested rice terraces contributed to the rapid decline of the fish species.

The Japanese in the Cordillera

Tracing the origins of the yu-yu will unravel stories related to building Baguio, World War II and the Japanese occupation.

“[The Japanese] created a school, an association, a farming cooperative, neighborhood groups and trucking enterprises. Theirs is a small band of Japanese strangers who came to this faraway place a hundred years ago to help lay out a road into the highlands,” said Paul Joseph Naval as quoted in an article which came out in the book titled Cordillera Crossover: A Japanese Legacy, written by Baguio-born Smithsonian researcher and historian Patricia Afable.

“In the three decades that followed, they built many bridges that crossed not only the Bued River’s rocky gorges, but also spanned the distant worlds of many Philippine and Japanese families, cultures and communities,” the article read.

Teruji Okubo, known to be a maestro builder from Hiroshima, built numerous establishments in Baguio and neighboring provinces. He also started a vegetable farm in Santo Tomas in the late 1920s where he built a large pond and loaded it with carp and dojo, or the Japanese loach called yu-yu.

But others believe that the Japanese may have bred them increasingly in rice terraces as food source in anticipation of the war that was to come.

An old tale also recounts how the yu-yu reached Ifugao. It was said that Wakit married a woman from Hapao, Hungduan, where they carried a bottle of the fish species on their

return home. They let the yu-yu play in the rice terraces where the fish multiplied and spread to other rice terraces of their neighbors.

As the highland is landlocked, this fish was readily accepted by the people. From 1937 to 1952, the yu-yu easily reached the rice terraces of other highland provinces. Ifugao natives caught yu-yu in the wild and started exporting this to Japan by 1970.

This oriental weather fish likes rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps and rice fields. They survive extreme cold weather by hibernating in mud 2 to 10 inches deep.

In the olden days, villagers said they would place their bamboo woven traps called bubo containing boiled sweet potatoes (camote), purple yam (ube), and cooked rice in the opening of trap used to catch the yu-yu. The trap would then be filled with the fish species.

Today, Mary Carling from Sagada who operates the community radio station, said she no longer sees yu-yu sold in the market.

To be continued

(Second of three parts)

The loach or yu-yu was officially brought by the Japanese to the Trinidad Fish Farm (now Benguet State University) in 1931. The freshwater loach, once abundant in the rice terraces of the Cordillera region, is now facing extinction. A young Japanese fish culturist, Juri Watanabe, however, has launched efforts to save the fish species.

Watanabe noted that the yu-yu burrows into rice terraces and takes a little effort to gather. Because of this, farmers have resorted to putting pesticides in paddy waters, poisoning the fish. The dead fish that float to the surface are then gathered for home consumption.

“This makes the yu-yu dangerous to eat, aside from the fact that it kills the loach population,” said Watanabe.

She is currently stationed in Mayoyao, Ifugao and is working on a project to save and propagate the near-extinct yu-yu. Watanabe brought with her a technology used by the Japanese to increase their own population of the loach.

Watanabe noted that the yu-yu is the most expensive fish in Mayoyao, selling at about P150 per kilo. Because it is increasingly becoming rare, the yu-yu already commands a high price. From about P30 in the 1980s, it now fetches a price of P500 per kilo or P250 for a small bottle.

Saving the loach

To propagate the yu-yu, Watanabe disclosed that the first step is to prepare breeding areas in the rice fields. The old water is drained to get rid of the predators of the young loach. Fertilizers—in the form of compost, manure and grass—are added to the area to produce planktons and attract small insects, which are eaten by the loach.

In about 10 days she said the planktons would have increased, turning the water green, which would indicate that it’s time to start breeding the yu-yu. Spawning hormones are injected into the stomach of female breeders, which have smaller fins. The injected breeders are then transferred to the spawning net and 24 hours after, they start to lay eggs.

The eggs would hatch for another 24 hours. Some loaches are left in an observational box where plankton-rich water gathered from the breeding area is poured.

The male-female ratio for breeding is four males to a female, Watanabe explained. One female can lay up to 10,000 eggs at a time.

Mayoyao has a fish hatchery but Watanabe said it needs to be repaired and reconstructed because the irrigation was destroyed many years back. Her mission is to raise yu-yu breeders and fingerlings and distribute them to farmers.

Currently, she is training four farmers to kick-start propagation efforts. Watanabe also aims to give breeding workshops to other farmers.

She said yu-yu breeders have been hard to find in Mayoyao. The 3,000 mixed male and female breeders she uses were mostly gathered from far-flung barangays.

The loach can be gathered when they grow to about 6 grams. They grow to about 20 centimeters in two or three years.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the Cordillera Administrative Region (BFAR-CAR) has also scaled up efforts to save and propagate the loach. Efforts have been focused on Ifugao, particularly the municipality of Hungduan, for research and for mass production.

In 2006 Hungduan adopted the yu-yu as one of its main products under the Department of Trade and Industry’s “One Town, One Product” (Otop) prgram. This was done as a way to preserve the rice terraces and to ensure its steady supply. In 2008 the BFAR turned over to Hungduan a municipal hatchery.

The municipality was also one of the areas identified by the Food and Agriculture Organization-Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GHIAS). Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Director Clarence Baguioat said one of the ways to save the rice terraces is to stamp its products, including the loach, with the GHIAS seal. This will certify the yu-yu as an organic product, affirm its heritage value and make it attractive to both the local and global market.

Aside from using the fish to make tempura, locals in Hungduan process the yu-yu as pastillas, yu-yu moon cookies, “choco-loachstick,” “camote-loach delights” and “crunchy jokies.”

Together with Japanese firm Argos, the BFAR trained farmers on induced breeding in 2010. This is in line with the goal of Japan to help farmers prop up production the yu-yu and enable farmers to export. Japan’s yu-yu supply has also been declining due to use of chemicals in farming.

Locals have also resorted to innovative practices to help save the loach. For one, the “Golden Apple” or “Golden Kuhol” preys on the yu-yu. Ester Humiding, a farmer Hapao, Hungduan, found that removing in rice fields will allow the propagation of the fish species in her rice ponds.

Farmers in Hungduan have found a way to make use of the snails they collect. They were able to produce pulvoron and moon cookies. They also raised ducks, which eat the snails and other predators of the loach.


While the cultivation of fish in rice fields or rice-fish culture has only been practiced in Ifugao for a few decades, this farming method has been in existence for thousands of years. In fact, the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GHIAS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has identified several rice-fish agriculture heritage sites, particularly in China.

For one, Longxian Village in China’s Zhejiang province is a GHIAS site. Its integrated rice-fish farming system helps protect the environment as it calls a reduction in the use of pesticides to control weeds and insects that serve as food for the fish. The farming system also reduces labor cost as the fish makes the soil ready for rice planting.

In the Philippines, Hungduan in Ifugao was chosen as a GHIAS site. GHIAS sites pertain to areas where tried and tested farming techniques and practices have been practiced, resulting in food security and the preservation of ecology and biodiversity. According to FAO standards, GHIAS sites have resulted in outstanding landscapes, preservation of farming biodiversity, valuable cultural heritage, and resilient ecosystems.

Experts said propagating the yu-yu will contribute to the preservation of the Banaue rice terraces. The rice terraces, which were carved by hand 2,000 years ago, have been recognized as one of the world’s treasures for its beauty and efficient irrigation system.

In Hungduan the presence of loach in the rice terraces complement organic farming, particularly the cultivation of vanishing traditional rice varieties. When Hungduan decided to increase the production of the yu-yu under the government’s “One Town, One Product” Program in 2006, there was an immediate 22-percent increase in rice yields.

This is because the loach, described as a “nervous fish,” burrows into the mud and aerates the soil. The fish also provides natural fertilizer to standing palay crops.

Aside from its benefits to rice, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said the yu-yu is also very nutritious. The loach has crude fiber, protein and calcium.

To encourage the propagation of the loach, the BFAR established hatcheries in La Trinidad, Benguet; Kiangan, Ifugao; and Tabuk, Kalinga, to meet the fingerling requirements of farmers.

The BFAR has also conducted trials at the La Trinidad fish farm and Taloy Sur, Tuba, Benguet, to help farmers better manage loach production.

Experts said encouraging the production of loach strengthens communities as farmers become mindful of the need for good agricultural practices such as avoiding chemicals to keep the rice terraces free from toxins. After all, it is the sense of community which drove the Ifugao people to build the breathtaking Banaue rice terraces.
IMAGINE being able to plant crops, rain or shine, without the threat of floodwater or drought. Imagine this possible, even in perennially flooded areas like swamps and canals.
"Urban Village takes initiative on Adaptive climate change farming"
Ian Ocampo Flora
Sun Star Pampanga

IMAGINE being able to plant crops, rain or shine, without the threat of floodwater or drought. Imagine this possible, even in perennially flooded areas like swamps and canals.

In a village in the City of San Fernando, villagers need not imagine because they live amidst this possibility using the latest farming technology, all in the heart of one of the most highly urbanized city in Central Luzon which, unfortunately, also suffers from perennial flooding.

Barangay Del Pilar has launched the first-ever floating garden in Pampanga using water hyacinths as floating rafts for garden and vegetable cultivation in an area that has been perennially flooded each year.

Village chief Pandoy Policarpio said much of the methods they are now using employs technology learned from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). Currently, there are at least 200 floating gardens at the almost 2.3-hectare property of the barangay that is constantly flooded even during summer.

The whole property is a catch basin for floodwater that drains from nearby subdivisions, along with rainwater drained from the nearby seminary and university in

the area. The property has plenty of water hyacinths (Eichornia crassipes) which provides for the free raw material in creating the floating rafts for the garden.

The floating gardens are an innovative farming solution that uses water hyacinths, which are collected to construct a raft and then covered with top soil and organic fertilizer.

Each raft is topped with three to five inches of top soil. The fertilizer for the floating garden is also made by the village folk who maintain the gardens utilizing organic kitchen waste, crushed dried leaves, saw dust and even palay dust.

The gardens are able to withstand flooding and can be planted with leafy vegetables like pechay, herbs, chilli and to some extent even palay.

“We are very thankful for the help of PhilRice and Pampanga Agricultural College. Now our residents here can avail of the produce of these gardens for free,” Policarpio said.

Sustainable community garden

The floating garden sits on a 2.3-hectare property that includes a 330-square meter herbal garden. All produce of the garden are given to the people. The property, which was donated to the barangay, is managed by volunteers who also raise chickens and ducks that are also given to residents for free.

“People can come here and take vegetables they need for their meals. We give it to them for free. Indigents can take more but we teach them to be self-sufficient and have their own gardens,” Policarpio said.

Policarpio added that they aim to improve the garden with the help of PhilRice, a government corporate entity attached to the national agriculture office, the Department of Agriculture (DA) that aims at developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos. Recently, it has developed a rice variety that will survive even it is submerged underwater.

Policarpio said their garden can be a model for other barangays who would like to come up with a healthier project that would benefit their local communities. He added that the technology is another way of adapting to the flooding effects of climate change and can greatly help in the local food security initiatives. In fact, surplus produce in their floating gardens are distributed to poor families in the barangay.

The project, Policarpio said, is a model for urban areas that can convert flooded areas, swamps and even coastal fronts into productive floating gardens for commercial and even community level production of vegetable produce.

Adaptive farming

The floating gardens are agriculture innovations copied from the ancient Mesoamerican agriculture. Sometimes referred to as "floating gardens," chinampas were artificial islands that usually measured roughly 98 ft × 8.2 ft (30 m × 2.5 m), according to PhilRice.

PhilRice and the DA are currently studying impact of floating gardens. But currently, the technology is seen as a promising way of producing agricultural crops in flooded areas, both urban and rural, and is seen as a way of making swamp lands productive.

Floating gardens are also encouraged by PhilRice as community projects wherein a community of volunteers can produce their own food supply and even sell surplus into the local market for extra income.
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