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2019 WINNERS

BEST TOBACCO PHOTO OF THE YEAR

"GOLDEN LEAVES"
LAILA AUSTRIA
BUSINESS MIRROR

BEST AGRICULTURE PHOTO OF THE YEAR

"SALT HARVEST"
WILLIE LOMIBAO
THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER
2019 Bright Leaf Award for Agriculture Story of the Year... , 
“FARM TOURISM GROWS IN LEYTE VILLAGE”.
JOEY GABIETA
THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER
This is a story about the transformation of Villaconzoilo, a poor remote farming village and a one-time haven of the New People’s army, into a progressive and peaceful Barangay. Now it is also a fast emerging tourist attraction in Leyte thanks to a farm facility managed by the Villaconzoilo Community Association, a conglomerate of local residents led by Alex Aborita.
FULL STORY
2019 Agriculture Story
Farm tourism grows in Leyte village

JARO, Leyte — For decades, people dreaded going to Villaconzoilo. Not only was the farming village poor and remote, it was also a sanctuary of communist rebels.

“There was no access road. Poverty was widespread and we were once tagged as a haven of the New People’s Army,” said Alex Aborita, who was the barangay chair from 2007 to 2018.

Community efforts have transformed Villaconzoilo, an interior village of 365 people, into one of the tourist destinations in Jaro, a third-class municipality with annual income of not more than P45 million.

Eighteen farmers led by Aborita organized themselves and cultivated a 1,000-square-meter lot into a lush field of vegetables, which they sold to public markets and restaurants in the town center. Ten years later, the farm expanded to 23 hectares and produced the first tourism farm school in Eastern Visayas.

With its success, Villaconzoilo is now the most developed village in Leyte, with malnutrition nonexistent.

“Almost all families now own a motorcycle and have household appliances. Parents can send their children to school. They have their own savings. These are the things unimaginable before,” said Aborita, 43, whose wife, Myrna, is the incumbent village chief.

Farmers’ association

Realizing that one way of getting government attention to the plight of the village was to organize, Aborita convinced 17 of his neighbors to form the Villaconzoilo Community Association and tap the government’s livelihood programs.

With a capital of only P1,800, the group tilled the small plot owned by Aborita, growing lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. They sold their produce on market day in Palo and the nearby town of Carigara.

Some establishments later asked them to supply their vegetables. Sales eventually grew.

“From just 1,000 sq m, we slowly expanded by buying farm lots adjacent to our original farm area until we reached our present area of about 23 ha,” Aborita said.

They also started producing other fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants, watermelon, rambutan, jackfruit, cacao and even strawberries. They penetrated shopping malls in Tacloban City.

“Our guests are enjoying their visit here because they themselves harvest the fruits and vegetables that they want to eat”

Training programs

To make farming more sustainable, the group attended training sessions from the Agricultural Training Institute, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, and the provincial agriculture office. Their studies convinced them to create a farm school, a relatively new concept being pushed by the Department of Tourism.

On June 15, 2017, the group opened Villaconzoilo Farm School, offering agriculture-related programs and courses on agricultural production, organic farming and horticulture.

More than 1,000 people have so far undergone on-the-job training in the school, which is accredited by both the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. Most of them are students of Visayas State University, considered one of the country’s leading agricultural schools, which is based in Baybay City, Leyte.

The school embarked on another endeavor, farm-to-table restaurant, where customers pick from among the vegetables planted in the farm for cooking. The food is delivered on their table in less than an hour.

“What’s good about our products is they are all naturally grown. We don’t use any fertilizers or chemicals. They can eat them fresh,” Aborita said.

“Our guests are enjoying their visit here because they themselves harvest the fruits and vegetables that they want to eat. They can also catch tilapia from our own pond,” Aborita said.

Farm tour

On ordinary days, more than 100 people visit Villaconzoilo Farm. An entrance fee of P100 is collected for adults and P50 for children and students.

A guide leads visitors around the farm and teaches them how to plant vegetables properly.

Last December, the group opened a swimming pool using spring water from the nearby Mt. Amandiwing, the highest peak in Eastern Visayas.

Aborita estimated that the association’s assets were now worth millions of pesos—an exceptional leap from its initial capital of P1,800 a decade ago.

Members are likewise reaping the benefits of success. Almost all families are no longer availing themselves of state subsidies through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the government’s antipoverty initiative.

“It’s really a big help to us, for my family. We could now buy things that we only wished for in the past,” said Diosdado Lego, 54, who has seven children. He now earns at least P25,000 a month.

The association has employed 28 workers—half of them as regulars—who are also children of members.

Aborita said he did not expect that what started as a simple desire to put food on their table would become this big.

Now, he wanted Villaconzoilo to become the center of agritourism in Eastern Visayas so the next generation would no longer seek opportunities outside the village.

“That is my dream,” he said.
BEST TOBACCO STORY OF THE YEAR
“TAX THRUST THREATENS TOBACCO TILLERS’ TAKE”.
JASPER EMMANUEL ARCALAS and ELIJAH FELICE ROSALES
BUSINESS MIRROR
The winning article discusses the finance officials’ push for increasing the tobacco tax law and how it will affect the behavior of manufacturers and their buying power, which will have a direct adverse effect on the farmers’ livelihoods and threaten their survival.
FULL STORY
2019 Tobacco Story
Tax thrust threatens tobacco tillers’ take

August 15, 2019


CANDON CITY, Ilocos Sur and Manila—The window of a northbound red bus along MacArthur Highway frames a blurry but picturesque swath of greenery still glistening from the early morning downpour.

Again July has arrived, time like a blur as four months prior the landscape was also painted brown mirroring this northern Philippine countryside’s pride produce: tobacco.

This day the landscape was also dotted by bobbing figures: farmers on rice paddies. They fight the sun with wide-brim buntal hats and the yellow and red long sleeves of camisa de chino. The towering Mount Tirad, the province’s third-highest mountain, lends a faint shadow.

The farmers have to wait until October before they can begin growing tobacco again. The waiting extends for 150 days when harvesting begins in March until April.
For now, they trust the rice seeds of the grass species Oryza sativa that they’re planting would tide them over. Some would say it’s a misplaced trust as the buying price of palay declined to a 2-year low of P17.85 per kilogram in end-June with the spike in rice imports following the liberalization of the rice trade.

Some concede that if only better opportunities exist out there, they would abandon these lands for good.

Their hopes to live a bare minimum life, therefore, rest upon tobacco. After all, this town is the country’s tobacco capital. But some would consider this as false hope as the number of tobacco farmers and the land area for tobacco growing have been contracting over the years.

In limbo

DUSK settled on July 25 and Reynaldo Acosta was slumped on a worn gray sofa. His eyes are glued to the live television broadcast of President Rodrigo Duterte leading an entourage on the newly inaugurated bypass road in Candon, 10 kilometers southeast of Acosta’s home in Santa Lucia.

The evening news came showing the President signing into law the imposition of higher taxes on tobacco products.

The 55-year-old Acosta never smoked his whole life but the news affected him more than it did a chain-smoker. Another round of sin-tax hikes, another year of lower income, he mumbled as newscasters switched to talking about an actress’s gym workout program.
Acosta has spent over half his life as a farmer supplying tobacco for the country’s biggest tobacco growing and processing company. With the impending implementation of heavier taxes on tobacco items, he is left with two options: to stay or leave town. The latter means abandoning tobacco planting.

Across Acosta’s is Andrea Reyes’s house where the 70-year-old also mulls the future.

It’s minutes before midnight but Reyes has just woken up having slept off exhaustion from working the whole day on her farm.

Her house in Banayoyo, a municipality 10 kilometers northeast of Candon, was visited by gloom after learning the news about a tobacco tax hike.

Like Acosta, Reyes ran the numbers in her head and sighed: her take-home income from tobacco farming next year will be reduced with higher taxes on smoking products in place.

Reyes has been growing tobacco since the company buying their harvest arrived in 1964.

“Up to now, I’m still here,” Andrea said, adding she’s proud of sticking with the tobacco-growing sector through eight presidents. “I tried shifting to other crops, but none can equal the income I’m getting from tobacco farming. It used to be the best source of income here in Ilocos Sur; but things have changed over the past years.”

New law

DUTERTE signed Republic Act (RA) 11346 on July 25, which would further increase the tax slapped on tobacco products starting January 1, 2020.

RA 11346, or the Tobacco Tax Law of 2019, increases the excise tax from the current P35 per pack to P45, or less than a dollar, per pack in 2020. This is followed by a series of P5 hikes until the rate reaches P60 ($1.15) in 2023. By 2024 and every year thereafter, the increase hits 5 percent.

RA 11346 did not only raise excise taxes but also put a cap on the share of tobacco-producing provinces from government revenues.

Provinces producing Virginia tobacco would still receive 15 percent of the tobacco excise tax the government collected. However, the share shouldn’t exceed P15 billion.

Provinces producing burley and native tobacco would now receive 5 percent instead of 15 percent of government revenues. Their share would be capped at P4 billion.

The Tobacco Tax Law also expanded the programs that local government units (LGUs) of tobacco-producing provinces could fund using their share of the revenues.

Under the law, the share in government revenues would be directly remitted to the tobacco-producing provinces.

Total recall

THE head of the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Associations and Cooperatives (NFTFAC) said the increases in excise taxes would end in lower buying prices.

Bernard R. Vicente, NFTFAC’s president, explained that the reduction in consumption of cigarette would discourage manufacturers from producing more. This, he said, would reduce the volume of tobacco manufacturers buy from farmers.



“Dahil po doon hindi na po kami puwede magtanim ng magtanim at ang bilang po ng hektaryang tatamnaman namin ay mababawasan at ganoon din ang kita po namin every season [We can no longer plant tobacco at the pace we had prior to the signing of the law. Likewise, we have to cut the size of land we allot for farming. At the end of the day, it would negatively impact our income],” Vicente told the BusinessMirror.

Indeed, it is a case of supply and demand economics. When demand for cigarettes declines on higher taxes, manufacturers are compelled to adjust their production downward. As such, they buy less from farmers like Acosta and Reyes for their tobacco leaf requirement.

“We are hit hardest when the government increases taxes on tobacco. We cannot demand for higher buying prices of tobacco leaf because traders and firms will just say demand has gone down,” Reyes said in an interview with the BusinessMirror.
Earners’ woes

DEMAND is just one of manufacturers’ worries; supply is, too. And supply comes from the number of producers, which has been going down.



The number of farmers engaged in tobacco planting fell 5.28 percent to 32,652 in 2018, from 34,465 in 2017, records from the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) show.

At the start of the decade, there were some 49,897 tobacco planters in the Philippines. However, as tax hikes were rolled out on tobacco products, the headcount of farmers dropped 4.6 percent steadily every year from 2010 until 2018.

Acosta himself witnessed some of his friends leave the sector for good. He still wrestles with such a decision.

Because for one, he is managing three hectares of land where he cultivates tobacco during the dry season, and, second, how could he turn his back on a valuable memory?

“I was able to send my kids to school using income [from tobacco growing and] my siblings finished their studies with the money they earned from planting tobacco,” Acosta told the BusinessMirror. “We know the value of tobacco. We are used to growing it and I see myself and my family depending on it no matter what.”

For Reyes, she still has lots of mouth to feed and dreams to fulfill. She said she was able to support the education of her three children—one of whom graduated with a double degree—through income from tobacco farming.

The septuagenarian has no plans of calling it quits as she still wants to support her grandchildren.
Growers’ ills

Marcelino N. Biala, executive of the company that buys from farmers like Acosta and Reyes, believes the Tobacco Tax Law has thrown a monkey wrench in the gears of the tobacco industry.

Biala knows what he’s talking about: he’s been in the industry for 37 years—22 years for the private sector, 15 years for the government.

“As someone who has been in the heart of the industry for so long, I know the taxes will affect the behavior of our clients. Their purchases will certainly be lesser next year, when the tax hikes are applied,” Biala said. “Of course, the higher the consumer prices, the lower the demand. At the tail of the supply chain, the farmers are sure to suffer.”


Biala is the director for growing operations of a Richmond, Virginia-headquartered multinational firm.

As an executive of a contractor, Biala said it is but expected for tobacco manufacturers to buy less processed leaf from them next year with higher taxes in place.

“It is difficult to explain to farmers why we are buying their produce at lower prices and lesser volume,” he said.

Rising costs

FOR 67-year-old tobacco farmer Ernesto Lacaden Calindas, prices of their tobacco are just one of his worries.

Calindas, who has been planting tobacco for 20 years, has seen production costs ever rising, with the scarcity of farm workers as one of the reasons.

He said he’s now paying P350 (nearly $7) per hectare per head since laborers have been scarce. It used to be less than P300 (about $5.73 at current exchange rates). Laborers, he explained, have opted to shift to other sectors such as construction, which offers way higher wages. To note, the legislated minimum daily wage in Ilocos Sur for plantation workers is pegged at P295 (about $5.64) and P282 ($5.39) for non-plantation workers.

Another cost is the shortage in fuelwood, which farmers use in curing or cooking tobacco, Calindas said. He spends around P60,000 ($1,146.25) for his total fuelwood requirement at an estimated current cost of P1,000 ($19.10) per cubic meter.

Calindas estimates the production cost of tobacco right now is at least P130,000 ($2,483.55) per hectare. A farmer should produce at least 1,800 kilograms of tobacco to break even, he added.

Industry decline

DECLINING: this is how government data paints the country’s tobacco industry in terms of output, farmers and area in the past decade.

The industry attributed the decline in these three areas to farmers who are aging and who are migrating to higher-income-generating jobs, such as construction work. The industry also blames higher excise taxes.

“We used to produce 160 billion sticks of cigarettes but it went down to 74 billion sticks in 2017,” NTA chief Roberto L. Seares told the BusinessMirror.

The country’s tobacco output declined at a compound annual growth rate of 5.76 percent from 2010 to 2018.

Tobacco production in 2018 fell to a decade-low of 43.241 million kilograms, which is 10.25 percent lower than the 48.179 million kilograms recorded in 2017.

Tobacco output peaked in 2011 at 79.329 million kilograms, just a year before the Sin Tax Law of 2012 was enacted.

Meanwhile, the area planted with tobacco has declined by an average of 4.19 percent from 2010 to 2018. Total tobacco area last year was estimated at 22,794.95 hectares, which is nearly 32 percent smaller than the 33,502.75 hectares recorded in 2010.

Top buyers

SEARES, however, said the NTA couldn’t “do anything about it [tobacco tax law].

“We just have to support it and help the government,” he said recalling the months-long deliberation on the Tobacco Tax Law.

Still, Seares said the Philippine tobacco industry is still waiting for the fat lady to sing.

He even believes local tobacco output won’t fall any further below 43 million kilograms.

“I don’t think it will go below the 43 million kilograms [we produced last year]. We have high demand for global market and they are demanding about 32 million kilograms,” Seares said.

“[Foreign buyers] love our products due to the taste and aroma. For example, our burley cigarette is very competitive against that of American cigarettes,” he added.

The country’s combined unmanufactured and manufactured tobacco exports in 2018 rose by 36.29 percent to a record high of 79.875 million kilograms from 58.606 million kilograms, NTA data showed.

According to the NTA, the increase was driven by the doubled volume of shipments in manufactured tobacco in 2018, which reached 41.963 million kilograms from 18.476 million kilograms in 2017.

The NTA data also showed that the value of the country’s total tobacco exports grew by 60.04 percent to $511.065 million from $319.337 million in 2017.

Seares said the country’s top buyers are Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, the United States and Belgium, among others.

You can’t stop

Aside from the bright export demand, Seares believes higher taxes would fail to dampen local demand for cigarettes but only prompt smokers to shift to cheaper brands.

“Once you start smoking, you cannot stop it,” Seares, a medical doctor by profession, said.

Interestingly, a study by Myrna S. Austria of De La Salle University and Jesson A. Pagaduan of the Asian Development Bank revealed the rise in cigarette prices has resulted in a decrease of smoking intensity, or the amount sticks consumed by a smoker, more than in a decrease in the number of users (smoking prevalence).

“The results show that the increase in excise tax has been effective in reducing cigarette consumption in the country and in making cigarette demand more responsive to price increases,” the authors said.

“Specifically, the tax reform has reduced the number of cigarettes purchased by smokers more than the number of cigarette users,” Austria and Pagaduan added.

The study noted its findings are consistent with previous studies that a “rise in income increases the demand for cigarettes.”

“College graduates are more likely to consume fewer cigarettes; poor households are relatively more responsive to increases in cigarette prices than rich households,” added the study titled “Are Filipino Smokers More Sensitive to Cigarette Prices Due to the Sin Tax Reform Law?: A Difference-in-Difference Analysis.”

Floor prices

Seares is urging tobacco farmers to push for higher floor prices during the tripartite meeting in September. Doing so, he explained, would help them cope with the rising production costs.

He pointed out that the floor prices make the tobacco industry unique and more profitable than other commodities.

“Tobacco is the only commodity with floor prices,” Seares said. “Other commodities have no ensured market resulting in unstable prices.”

The NTA conducts a tripartite conference every two years when new tobacco prices are decided upon. The conference serves as a venue for tobacco farmers and tobacco companies (cigarette manufacturers, tobacco dealers and exporters) to evaluate and negotiate the floor prices of unprocessed tobacco leaves.

Vicente believes that farmers would ask for an increase in floor prices, which is more than what they proposed two years ago.

During the last tripartite negotiations in 2017, farmers insisted on a P16.77 hike across all grades to cope with rising production costs.

Vicente added the rising needs of farmers are behind this push for higher floor prices.

Issues in grades

Calindas also pointed to tobacco buyers as also the reasons farmers are seeing their income decrease.

He said some tobacco buyers are downgrading the quality assessment on their produce. Because of this, Calindas said they are forced to sell their tobacco to “cowboys,” their pejorative term for illegal middle-men, during trading seasons.

He recalled his experience during the last trading season in March when a buyer offered P64 to his best-grade tobacco.

“When a ‘cowboy’ asked me, I told him P77 but we agreed on P75,” Calindas said. He sold his product at that price only to learn later the “cowboy” sold his goods to the buyer he originally approached.

Seares said they have conducted training with traders to harmonize standards and leaf grading. Plus, he added, NTA officials accompany farmers to the trading market when dealing with legitimate traders.

He also encouraged tobacco farmers to complain directly to him if they experience irregularities in leaf grading from legitimate traders.

Vicente said that since the floor prices were increased, unscrupulous buyers tend to downgrade the quality of tobacco sold to them by farmers to avoid paying higher prices.

It’s a perennial problem in the industry, according to Vicente, who added this has forced farmers like Capilas to sell their produce to “cowboys.”

“Sa ibang bansa po ang grader ay galing sa gobyerno upang hindi maging biased. Dapat gobyerno po talaga upang wastong mapatupad ang floor prices [In other countries, the grader is a government representative to avoid biases. It should really be government so that the floor prices could be properly applied],” he said.

Vicente said they have been proposing that instead of private entities only NTA officials or employees grade tobacco produce during trading season to avoid certain biases.

Revenue deprivation

Tobacco industry stakeholders, particularly end-users, have been urging the government to curb the proliferation of illicit cigarette trade in the country.

Stakeholders have also cautioned the government that higher excise taxes on tobacco products would encourage more illicit cigarette trade in the country.

In late June, the tobacco private-sector representatives requested a meeting with the NTA board to discuss illicit cigarette trade.

During the meeting, the private sector disclosed that the amount of seized illicit cigarettes in 2018 doubled to 157 million sticks worth P628 million from 89 million, valued at P356 million, in 2017, according to NTA.

Illicit cigarette brands are sold for as low as P20 per pack to P40 per pack in the domestic market, greatly cheaper than the P51 per pack to P78 per pack of legal brands, the NTA added.

Illicit cigarette trade not only damages business operations of legitimate manufacturers but also deprives the government of revenues, NTA said.

Sound the alarm

VICENTE sounded the alarm that the expansion of programs that could be funded by LGUs through tobacco excise taxes could lessen pro-farmer projects even while the industry is still thriving.

He said they have called the attention of LGUs funding projects like construction of water fountains and covered courts, saying these do not benefit tobacco farmers.

“Ang alam nila tanga kami para magreklamo. Pero sa pangalan namin pinapadaan iyong bilyon-bilyong pondo na hindi naman kami ang nabubusog [They regard us as idiots for complaining but they use billions of funds using the name of the organization],” he said.

Rights Services Inc. (Rights) said it is high time that LGUs included tobacco farmers in their budget process.

Rights noted that doing so would ensure that the “sin” taxes allocated to every tobacco-producing LGU would be used for the benefit of the farmers.

“Allowing tobacco farmers to directly participate in the local budget process is expected to further improve their income and eventually help them shift to healthier and more productive crops,” Rights Program Manager Cynthia Esquillo said in a statement.

The last leaf

CALINDAS considers himself lucky compared to other tobacco farmers.

As a Candon City resident, he receives P15,000 (about $286.98) in cash for every hectare that he plants with tobacco. The assistance comes from the excise-tax share that Candon receives annually from Virginia tobacco production. Candon City also provides tobacco farmers with free farm inputs such as seedlings, fertilizers and insecticides, among others.

He explained that some farmers in other tobacco-producing provinces do not receive any assistance from their LGUs.

“Kung gusto pa nila kaming mag-survive, dapat dagdagan pa nila ’yung assistance sa amin; lalo na ’yung cash assistance—siguro P50,000 para sa kahoy, saka konting gas. Pero hindi pa rin iyon sasapat [If government really wants us to survive, they should increase the assistance to about P50,000 for our fuelwood and gas; albeit these wouldn’t be enough],” Calindas said.

Calindas only learned during the interview, a day after the signing of the law, that excise taxes would increase anew next year.

He went temporarily pale, like having seen a ghost, and glanced at the rice farm behind his house.

“Pinirmahan na talaga? Kung ganyan lang din naman, baka tumigil na ako sa pagto-tobacco [The President signed the law? If that’s the case, I may have to stop planting tobacco],” he said.
BEST AGRICULTURE TELEVISION PROGRAM OR SEGMENT
“DROUGHT IN NUMBERS; FARMERS FARMING NO MORE.
AMIELLE ORDONEZ and TINA PANGANIBAN-PEREZ
GMA NEWS SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS TEAM, GMA NETWORK
An investigative report produced by the GMA News Special Assignments team, “Drought in Number; Farmers Farming No More” takes an in depth look at the challenges facing farmers.
The dream of rice self-sufficiency remains elusive for the Philippines, more so now as the government has stepped up importation to avert the escalating consumer prices amid mounting public outrage.
FULL STORY
2019 Best TV DROUGHT IN NUMBERS
STORY: DROUGHT IN NUMBERS: FARMERS FARMING NO MORE

PRODUCED BY: GMA NEWS SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS TEAM

REPORTER: TINA PANGANIBAN-PEREZ​
BEST AGRICULTURE RADIO PROGRAM OR SEGMENT
THE FULL EPISODE “SA KABUKIRAN”
SHEILA TUBALINAL
DZMM 630KHZ
This episode features a diverse series of short interviews with citizens from Nueva Ecija, whether they be farmers, farm hands, fishermen, or small scale business owners whose businesses rely on the farming industry. With humor, candor, and a strong appreciation for the humanity of each interviewee, the report discussed on unique practices and specialized knowledge of Nueva Ecija’s everyday heroes.
FULL STORY
2019 Best Radio
SA KABUKIRAN 080319 FULL PROGRAM

ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT


ROD IZON: IN THE MIDST OF THIS DOWNPOUR, WE CONTINUE WITH PUBLIC SERVICES FOR OUR HEROIC FARMERS, FARM-HANDS, AND SMALL-SCALE BUSINESSES IN THE TOWNS AND ALSO FOR OUR COUNTRYMEN ALL OVER THE WORLD ESPECIALLY THE ONES IN METRO MANILA. I AM RADYO PATROL 12 ROD IZON AT YOUR SERVICE FOR THE SATURDAY EPISODE OF SA KABUKIRAN THIS 3RD OF AUGUST 2019. OF COURSE, WE HAVE THE PANGKAT KABUKIRAN WITH US TO SHARE THEIR EXPERTISE IN FARMING AND AGRICULTURAL LIVELIHOODS. WE HAVE THE FARMER FROM NUEVA ECIJA, THE ENGINEER FARMER GERRY BALMEO. GOOD MORNING KA GERRY!


GERRY BALMEO: GOOD MORNING ROD, GOOD MORNING TO ALL OUR AVID VIEWERS FROM NUEVA ECIJA AND EVEN ISABELA AND PAMPANGA. WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL TO OUR WIDE RANGE OF VIEWERS AND LISTENERS.

ROD: AND FROM OUR FARMER ENGINEER, WE ALSO HAVE OUR FARMER INVENTOR, TATA LINO, WHO IS SITTING IN FOR KA ESME AND KA BERNIE. GOOD MORNING TATA LINO.



LINO BOA: GOOD MORNING KA ROD. GOOD MORNING TO ALL OUR VIEWERS AND LISTENERS AS WELL.


ROD: WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FORWARD TO LATER?


LINO: WE HAVE A SPECIAL TREAT FOR PIG-RAISERS. A FASTER WAY OF FEEDING PREGNANT SOWS. DEFINITELY SOMETHING PIG-RAISERS TO LOOK FORWARD TO.


ROD: YOUR MESSAGE WILL BE EFFECTIVE FOR PIG-RAISERS. NOW, IF WE HAVE FARMERS, WE ALSO HAVE ADVOCATES WHO PUSH FOR THE WELFARE OF OUR FARMERS. WE HAVE IN THE STUDIO A DAUGHTER OF LAGUNA, CHERYLYN “CHE-CHE” MASICAT OF PILA, LAGUNA. GOOD MORNING CHE-CHE!


CHE-CHE MASICAT: GOOD MORNING, SIR ROD AND GOOD MORNING TO ALL OUR LISTENERS AND VIEWERS ESPECIALLY OUR FARMERS. GOOD MORNING ALSO TO OUR EXPERTS IN DIFFERENT FIELDS OF AGRICULTURE.


ROD: IN A LITTLE WILL WHILE WE WILL HEAR FROM OUR GUEST FROM TEODOR, ORIENTAL MINDORO. HE IS A FARMER, JOHNNY SUERTE, AND HE WILL SHARE HIS STORY FOR “LANDAS NG TAGUMPAY”.


(GINTONG BUTIL STINGER)


ROD: FOR OUR WEEKLY GINTONG BUTIL,"SOMETIMES GOD WILL DESTROY OUR PLANS. WHEN HE SEES THAT OUR PLANS ARE GOING TO DESTRY US." [[FILIPINO TRANSLATION: MINSAN BINIBIGO NG MAYKAPAL ANG ATING MGA DALANGIN. MINSAN WINAWASAK PA NIYA ANG ATING MGA PLANO AT MGA PANGARAP. ANG DAHILAN, MARAHIL BATID NIYA NA ANG ATING BALAK AY HINDI MAKAKABUTI SA ATIN AT WAWASAK DIN SA ATING SARILI. TANDAAN MO RIN, DI NIYA DINIDINIG ANG IYONG DALANGIN DAHIL AYAW KA NIYANG SAKTAN. MAAARING MAY MAS MAGANDA SIYANG NILAAN NA PLANO PARA SA IYO. MAAARI RIN NAMANG, BATID NIYA NA HINDI KA PA HANDA KUNG ANO MAN ANG IYONG HILING AT DASAL MULA SA KANIYA.]]


(GINTING BUTIL STINGER)


(RONDA PROBINSYA STINGER)


ROD: FOR OUR RONDA PROBINSIYA, THE FISH KILL IN A RIVER IN ITOGON IS BLAMED ON ILLEGAL MINING IN THE AREA. LIVELIHOODS ARE AFFECTED. ACCORDING TO THE BARANGAY TINONGDAN’S CHAIRMAN, MINERS DRAIN CHEMICALS LIKE CYANIDE FROM GOLD PROCESSING INTO THE RIVER.

SINCE JANUARY, 5 CASES OF FISH KILL HAVE BEEN RECORDED IN THE AREA.

THIS DESPITE THE TOTAL BAN ON ALL TYPES OF MINING IN ITOGON LAST YEAR.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTO CRABS, BFAR HAS ISSUED A WARNING ON EATING THE KUMUNG-KUMUNG CRABS ESPECIALLY IN MISAMIS OCCIDENTAL. THE BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES ISSUED A WARNING AGAINST EATING THE KUMUNG-KUMUNG CRABS ESPECIALLY DURING LOW TIDE. ACCORDING TO PROVINCIAL HEALTH RECORDS, 4 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN FOOD POISONED SINCE 2018, 2 OF WHOM DIED WHILE THE OTHER TWO WERE HOSPITALIZED LAST JULY 19. ACCORDING TO THEIR DOCTOR, THEIR SYMPTOMS WERE SIMILAR TO HYPERTENSION AND NUMBING IN PARTS OF THE BODY. ACCORDING TO THE PROVINCIAL EPIDEMOLOGY UNIT, THE POISON WENT STRAIGHT FOR THE NERVOUS SYSTEM WHICH CAUSED THE NUMBING.

GOOD NEWS FOR THOSE FARMERS AFFECTED BY RICE TARRIFICATION! THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE IS WILLING AND READY TO STOP THE IMPORTATION OF RICE DURING HARVEST SEASON AS PER THE PRESIDENT’S ORDER. THIS IS AFTER LOCAL FARMERS COMPLAINED ABOUT FARM GATE PRICES OF LOCAL GRAINS DROPPING. THE AGENCY CONFIRMED THAT THEY WILL FOLLOW THE PRESIDENT’S ORDER DESPITE IT BEING AGAINST THE RICE TARRIFICATION LAW’S PROVISION OF NO LIMITS ON RICE IMPORTATION.


(RONDA PROBINSYA STINGER)


(LANDAS NG TAGUMPAY INVITATION CANNED SPIEL)


(LANDAS NG TAGUMPAY STINGER)


ROD: THIS MORNING WE HONOR A FARMER FROM SAN TEODOR, ORIENTAL MINDORO WHO NOT ONLY PAID US A VISIT BUT WILL ALSO SHARE HIS LEARNINGS AND EXPERIENCES THAT BROUGHT HIM LUCK. ACCORDING TO HIM, IN PERSEVERANCE THERE IS SUCCESS. NO DREAM IS OUT OF REACH WHEN THE HEART AND MIND ARE STRONG. POVERTY IS NOT A HINDRANCE TO A FARMER FATHER WHO ENSURED HIS SON BECAME A BETTER FARMER. WE HAVE HERE IN THE STUDIO THE LUCK-BRINGER, THE FARMER JOHNNY SUERTE! GOOD MORNING, KA JOHNNY!


JOHNNY SUERTE: GOOD MORNING, KA ROD. GOOD MORNING TO ALL LISTENING TO US TODAY.


ROD: YOU ARE FROM SAN TEODOR, ORIENTAL MINDORO?


JOHHNY: YES, SIR!


ROD: GREET YOUR FELLOW FARMERS IN THE REGION.


JOHNNY: GOOD MORNING TO MY FELLOW FARMERS FROM SAN TEODORO

AND OTHER PARTS OF ORIENTAL MINDORO.


ROD: WE ALSO HAVE KA GERRY BALMEO, TATA LINO, AND CHECHE MASICAT. I HEAR THAT YOU PRACTICE NATURAL AND ORGANIC FARMING?


JOHNNY: YES, SIR.


ROD: YOU’VE MENTIONED PLANTING FRUIT TREES. MY QUESTION IS DO YOU COME FROM A FAMILY OF FARMERS?


JOHNNY: MY FATHER CAME FROM A LINE OF FARMERS.


ROD: HE IS A FARMER?


JOHNNY: YES, AND MY MOTHER AS WELL.


ROD: SO THEY HELP EACH OTHER. HOW MANY ARE YOU IN THE FAMILY?


JOHNNY: I HAVE 8 SIBLINGS.


ROD: A TOTAL OF 9! AND WHERE DO YOU FIT IN THAT ORDER?


JOHNNY: I’M THE SECOND ELDEST.


ROD: YOUR FATHER MUST HAVE HAD HIS HANDS FULL MAKING SURE THE FAMILY LINEAGE CONTINUES. ASIDE FROM FARMING, WHAT ELSE DID YOU GROW UP TO IN THE FARM?


JOHNNY: WE PLANT EVERYTHING IN THE FARM LIKE BANANAS AND KAMOTENG KAHOY


ROD: EVERYTHING CAN BE USED AND COOKED.


JOHNNY: ALL THE FRUITS CAN BE COOKED AND EATEN.


ROD: WITH ALL THE MOUTHS TO FEED, YOU REALLY NEED LOTS OF VEGETABLES …


JOHNNY: AND WE DIDN’T HAVE TO GO TO THE MARKET.


ROD: AND DESPITE POVERTY, YOUR PARENTS WERE ABLE TO PUT YOU THROUGH SCHOOL?


JOHHNY: ACTUALLY, MY PARENTS COULDN’T AFFORD MUCH WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN. FRUITS DIDN’T SELL MUCH IN THE 70s SO I CAME TO MANILA AND WORKED DIFFERENT JOBS.


ROD: SO, YOU LEFT THE FARM AND WORKED …


JOHNNY: AFTER GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE, I WENT BACK TO AGRICULTURE


ROD: SO, YOU WENT BACK TO FARMING AND GOT LUCKY. HOW BIG IS YOUR FARM NOW?


JOHHNY: MINE IS 30 HECTARES GIVE OR TAKE, AND MY FAMILY AND SIBLINGS MANAGE THE OTHERS.


ROD: WHAT ARE THE NATURAL AND ORGANIC FARMING TECHNIQUES YOU DEVELOPED?


JOHNNY: I’M FOCUSING ON MY LANZONES HARVEST. AT THE BEGINNING, I PLANTED CITRUS, THE DALANGHITA ALSO CALLED CINTURIS. THERE WASN’T MUCH PROFIT DUE TO OVERSUPPLY AND THE PRICE WAS TOO LOW.


ROD: THESE ARE THE ONES WE’RE FLASHING ON TV NOW. HE EVEN BROUGHT THEM HERE FROM HIS FARM.



JOHNNY: I’M REALLY FOCUSING ON THE LANZONES, ESPECIALLY THE DUKO AND LUNGKONG. THROUGH ATTENDING MEETINTE REGULARLY AND STUDYING ON MY OWN, I WAS ABLE TO HARVEST HALF A TON OF LANZONES FROM ONE TREE.


ROD: JUST ONE TREE…


JOHNNY: YES, FROM ONE LANZONES TREE.


ROD: ONE TON?


JOHNNY: HALF.


ROD: TRULY BLESSED! WHAT’S YOUR SECRET? SHARE WITH US HOW YOU PLANTED THE LANZONES TREE?


JOHNNY: TRUTHFULLY, IT’S A LONG STORY…


ROD: IT DIDN’T START FROM A SEED?


JOHNNY: NO, IT WAS GRAFTED. WAITING TOOK UP MUCH OF THE PROCESS TIME. IT WILL TAKE 15-20 YEARS BEFORE YOU GET RESULTS THAT’S WHY I WANT TO SHARE MY EXPERIENCES WITH OTHERS SO THEY’LL UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS FROM THE START AND DO IT RIGHT. IT’S BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE THE HOLE IS DUG DEEP ENOUGH AND THEN PUT THE FERTILIZER IN RIGHT AFTER PLANTING. TAKE CARE OF IT UNTIL IT REACHES TWO FEET THEN YOU WORK ON BRANCHING OUT BIT BY BIT.


ROD: WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU USE FOR BRANCHING? DO YOU NIP OFF THE BUDS?


JOHNNY: THE SITE WHERE YOU PLANT WILL DICTATE HOW THE BRANCHING GOES. IF YOU PLANT IT UNDER TREE SHADES, I CALL IT A LITTLE HARD-HEADED. EVEN WITH THE PRUNING, IT’LL CAUSE PROBLEMS AND WOULDN’T BRANCH. SO WHAT I DO IS I MAKE SURE SUNLIGHT PENETRATES THROUGH THE SHADE AND BY 10AM OR 12NN, THE TOPS WILL HAVE SOFTENED AND WILL USUALLY START BRANCHING.


ROD: WHAT ELSE IS IN THE PROCESS?


JOHNNY: YOU TAKE OUT THE INTERLAPPING AND OVERLAPPING BRANCHES BECAUSE THEY START RUBBING AGAINST EACH OTHER WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. MAKE SURE IT OPENS TO A CAVITY.


ROD: THE GRAPES NEED TO BE PRUNED BEFORE FLOWERING. IS IT THE SAME WITH LANZONES?


JOHNNY: YOU ONLY PRUNE THE LANZONES TO HAVE IT START BRANCHING BUT AFTER IT GROWS SUBSTANTIALLY, THERE’S NO NEED FOR PRUNING. JUST TAKE OUT THE SMALL INNER BRANCHES.


ROD: HOW WAS YOUR HARVEST WITH THE OLD SYSTEM?


JOHNNY: AT THE BEGINNING WITH THE NATIVE LANZONES, WE’RE LUCKY TO GET 100-200 KILOS.


ROD: AND TODAY YOU GET ONE TON FROM ONE TREE. HOW MANY LANZONES TREES DO YOU HAVE NOW?



JOHNNY: NOT ALL OF THE TREES DO BUT SOME BEAR MORE THAN HALF A TON.


ROD: WITH THE VOLUME OF HARVEST, IS THE SIZE OF THE FRUITS AFFECTED?


JOHNNY: NORMALLY, YOUNG TREES BEAR BIGGER FRUITS BUT BY THEN SECOND, THIRD HARVEST AND THE FRUITS HAVE DOUBLED, THEY USUALLY FALL OFF WITH THE FLOWERS. THEY GET SMALLER. THIS IS THE NATURAL BEHAVIOR OF PLANTS.


CHECHE: ASIDE FROM LANZONES AND CITRUS, WHAT ELSE IS IN YOUR FARM?


JOHNNY: ACTUALLY, IT’S SIMILAR TO A FRUIT SALAD, FRUIT BOWL


ROD: COMPLETE FRUIT SALAD?


JOHNY: ALMOST EVERYTHING. I DID MULTIPLE CROPPING. UNDER THE DESONESAN, I HAVE PINEAPPLES. THE BANANAS ARE INTERCROPPED, EVEN THE GUYABANO, GABI, EVERYTHING...


ROD: MIXING UP DOESN’T CAUSE ANY PROBLEMS?


JOHNNY: NO. MY OUTLOOK IS THAT IF A PLANTED SOMETHING, CASSAVA OR GABI, IN BETWEEN, THE SOIL GETS CULTIVATED AFTER HARVEST. THE ROOTS PENETRATE … WE SAVE SOME MONEY FROM HAVING TO CLEAN AND CROP. IT’S BECAUSE WE USE THE BIGGER GABI AND CASSAVA …


ROD: WHAT KIND OF GABI IS IT? IN BATAAN, MOST OF THE GABI WE PLANT ARE CALLE GABING SUNGSONG. WHAT ABOUT YOURS?


JOHNNY: IT’S CALLED TAKWAY. THERE’S VIOLET AND WHITE. THE NATIVR ONES. I CAN PLANT JUST ONE WITH THE WHITES BUT MOST LIKELY I PLANT IT IN THE WETTER AREAS.


ROD: YOU BROUGHT A LOT OF DURIAN. WE COULDN’T BRING THEM IN THE STUDIO BECAUSE OF THE SMELL.


JOHNNY: THERE’S SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT IT THAT I’D LIKE TO SHARE TO THE LISTENERS.THE BRANCHES BREAK DUE TO THE VOLUME AND WEIGHT OF FRUITS. I SOMETIMES JOKE THAT MY LANZONES KNOWS I NEED THE MONEY.


ROD: THEY’RE ALL BEAUTIFUL.


GERRY BALMEO: HIS TECHNIQUE WITH BREAKING THE BRANCHES AFTER WARMING THEM UNDER THE SUN HELPS THE BRANCHES GROW.


ROD: OTHERS MIGHT THINK BREAKING OFF THESE BRANCHES WILL KILL THE TREE BUT THAT’S NOT THE CASE HERE, IT EVEN HELPS THE TREE GROW MORE BRANCHES.


JOHNNY: THE LOGIC IS THIS – ONCE THE TREE GROWS, NOT JUST THE LANZONES. FIRST, ONCE IT GROWS TALL, THE FRUITS LESSEN. SECOND, IF IT’S EXPOSED WIND, TYPHOONS, THE ROOTS OF THE LANZONES TREE, ACCORDING TO MY STUDIES, ARE LIKE CHICKEN FEET. THE BRANCHES DRY OUT. MY STUDIES FOCUS ON THE NATURAL CHARACTERISTICS OR BEHAVIOR OF PLANTS.


ROD: APART FROM THAT, CHE …


CHE-CHE: THE FERTILIZER MUST BE GOOD TOO AND SINCE YOUR FARM IS NATURAL AND ORGANIC, DO YOU MAKE YOUR OWN FERTILIZER?


JOHNNY: ACTUALLY, I ONLY PUT FERTILIZER ON THE NEWLY PLANTED ONES.


ROD: YOU HAVE A LOT. YOU EVEN HAVE MANGOSTEEN, AVOCADO, DURIAN, LANSONES, DUKO, THE NATIVE... HE HAS LUGKONG, MANGOSTEEN, RAMBUTAN, MARANG, SANTOL, AVOCADO, GUYABANO, LANGKA ETC. THE FRUIT SALAD IS ALMOST COMPLETE. SO HOW DID YOU SHARE THIS SUCCESS WITH NEARBY TOWNS?


JOHNNY: I SHARE MY SYSTEM SO NO ONE MAKES THE SAME MISTAKES I DID.


ROD: YOU NOW HAVE A LOT OF HARVESTS, TON BY TONS. NOW THE PROBLEM IS WHO WOULD BUY THEM OFF YOU … SO IF YOU HAVE A CONTACT NUMBER FOR OUR LISTENERS AND VIEWERS WHO WANT LANZONES, DUKO, DURIAN, AND OTHERS LIKE MANGOSTEEN, RAMBUTAN, MARANG, ETC. WE’RE LOOKING FOR LUCKY BUYERS TO BUY FROM JOHNNY’S LUCKY HARVESTS. SO WHAT’S YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER, NOT JUST FOR PROSPECTIVE BUYERS BUT ALSO THOSE WHO WANT TO LEARN FROM YOU.


JOHNNY: MY LANDLINE IS 941-6572.


ROD: AND YOUR CELLULAR NUMBER?


JOHNNY: 0999-346-0557


ROD: THERE YOU HAVE IT. IN CASE YOU MISSED THE NUMBERS, YOU MAY ALSO ASK OUR COMPANIONS HERE, SHIELA TUBALINAN OR ELLAIZA MAE BULATAO AND EJ LAZARO FOR HIS CONTACT NUMBERS. WHAT CAN YOU SAY TO INSPIRE OUR FARMERS AND EVERYONE ELSE.


JOHNNY: THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS ARE PERSEVERANCE, PATIENCE, AND DETERMINATION.


ROD: EXACTLY.


JOHNNY: MORE PATIENCE IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE REALITY DOESN’T ALWAYS MEET EXPECTATIONS ESPECIALLY WITH UNCONTROLLABLE EVENTS LIKE TYPHOONS.


ROD: YES


JOHNNY: MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE STAND UP WHEN WE FALL. MORE IMPORTANT IS DETERMINATION.


ROD: AND THAT IS THE STORY OF SUCCESS OF MR. JOHNNY SUERTE, THE FARMER FROM SAN TEODOR, ORIENTAL MINDORO. AS HE SAID, IF YOU STUMBLE, YOU GET UP. EVERY DISAPPOINTMENT IS A STEP CLOSER TO YOUR GOAL, AND IT MAY TAKE A WHILE BUT YOU WILL GET THERE SOON ENOUGH.


(LANDAS NG TAGUMPAY STINGER)


ROD: FROM OUR GUEST JOHNNY SUERTE WHO FOUND LUCK IN FRUIT-BEARING TREES, WE HEAD OVER TO NUEVA ECIJA WHEN RICE PLANTING TURNED TO VEGETABLE GROWING. LET’S FIND OUT FROM A REPORT BY KA-GERRY BALMEO!


(ANO NGA BA 'YAN SEGMENT STINGER)

GERRY BALMEO: WE ARE IN A QUAINT PLACE IN SAN ISIDRO. WE’RE HERE TO TALK TO SOMEONE PLANTING PATOLA, WHICH ARE ABOUT TO GO OUT FOR THE SEASON BUT NOW THEY’RE PLANTING SILI. HOW MUCH DID YOU MAKE SELLING PATOLA THAT YOU NOW SWITCHED TO SILI?


IMBONG VILLAS: PATOLA HARVEST SEASON IS ALMOST OVER SO WE JUMPED ON THE OPPORTUNITY WITH SILI SO HARVEST CONTINUES.


GERRY: AND WHAT OTHER VEGETABLES DO YOU GROW HERE?


IMBONG: WE HAVE OUR PATOLA HERE. AFTER THIS SEASON, WE MIGHT GROW AMPALAYA NEXT.


GERRY: AND OTHER GOURDS…


IMBONG: BUT AMPALAYA COMES FIRST


GERRY: WHERE ELSE DO YOU PLANT AMPALAYA.


IMBONG: OVER THERE


GERRY: LET’S GO THERE.


GERRY: THERE AMPALAYA AREA. YOU CAN SEE HOW BIG IT IS. HOW MANY DAYS BETWEEN PLANTING THEM AND HARVEST?


IMBONG: WE HARVEST AFTER 45 DAYS SO THESE ONES ARE UP TO AROUNS 55 DAYS NOW AND THREE HARVESTS. WE HARVEST EVERY 5 DAYS NOW.


GERRY: HOW’S THE MARKET FOR THESE? HOW DO YOU PRICE THEM?


IMBONG: IT’S DOING OKAY. WE SELL THESE FOE 40 PESOS PER KILO.


GERRY: GOOD. THEY PICK THEM UP HERE? YOU DON’T DELIVER?


IMBONG: WE DON’T DELIVER THESE ANYMORE.


GERRY: GOOD. GOOD. LET’S THANK THEM.


IMBONG: THANK YOU.


GERRY: I’M VERY FOND OF LOOKING THESE AMPALAYA AREA. AND I JUST OBSERVED THAT THESE ARE NEW ONES BECAUSE IF EVER YOUR PROFIT WILL LIKELY VERY HIGH BY NOW? LET’S HOPE FOR THE WEATHER WOULD BE GOOD TO US.


GERRY: AND WE’RE CONTINUING HERE IN ONE OF THEIR AREA WHERE THEY PLANT UPO. THEY ARE BROTHERS, PLANTING HERE TOGETHER. RIGHT NOW WE HAVE MR. VILLAS.


MANNY VILLAS: HI! MY NAME IS MANNY VILLAS, I PLANT VEGETABLES HERE. RIGHT NOW, WE JUST LET THESE UPO TO CRAWL INSTEAD OF THE OTHER METHOD BECAUSE IT IS MORE COSTLY THAN LET THE PLANT CRAWL. IN THE SPAN OF 55 AND 60 DAYS WE CAN HARVEST ITS FRUIT. FASTER WHAT RICE COULD ACHIEVE WHICH WILL TOOK 120 DAYS BEFORE YOU CAN EVEN HARVEST. WITH THESE, WE CAN HARVEST AFTER 55 DAYS ONLY. WE COULD HARVEST EVERY OTHER DAY, THE INCOME HERE IS MUCH FASTER.


GERRY: YOU’RE FAMILY ARE SOLVED HERE. YOU COULD GET…


MANNY: FOR OUR DAILY EXPENSES, WITH PLANTING RICE, IT’S NOT ENOUGH. WE WILL WAIT FOR A LONG TIME BUT WILL GOT NOTHING IN RETURN. IT’S EXPENSIVE TO PLANT RICE BUT THE SELLING PRICE IS VERY LOW. THAT’S WHY WE TURN IN PLANTING VEGETABLES. WITH VEGETABLES, INVESTMENT IS NOT THAT HIGH BUT WE COULD SOURCE OUR DAILY LIVING HERE.


GERRY: YOUR INTENTION AS A FARMER IS GOOD EVEN YOU TURN TO PLANTING VEGETABLES. WE CAN’T ARGUE ON THAT ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THE EXPENSE OF OUR FAMILIES. OKAY SIR, WHAT DO WE ELSE HAVE HERE?


MANNY: WE ALSO HAVE AMPLAYA HERE. FOR NOW WE HARVESTED FOR LIKE THREE TIMES NOW.


GERRY: YOU HARVESTED FOR THREE CONSECUTIVE TIMES. HOW ABOUT THE PROFIT? IS IT ANY GOOD? (IT’S GOOD) AND I ALSO KNOW, THESE STALKS COULD ALSO SOLD TOO, LIKE WHAT WE SHOOT THERE EARLIER. ASIDE FROM THAT, DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANTED VEGETABLES HERE?


MANNY: WE ALSO HAVE CHILI TO BE PLANTED HERE, UNDERNEATH THE AMPLAYA.


GERRY: THERE, THEY HAVE CHILI PLANTED HERE RIGHT AWAY.


MANNY: IN OTHER WORDS, WHEN THE AMPALAYA IS NEAR ITS LIFE CYCLE, WE WILL PLANT THESE CHILI IMMEDIATELY SO WE COULD HAVE A CONTINUOUS HARVEST.


GERRY: ALRIGHT. SAY THANKS TO OUR LISTENERS.


VILLAS FARMERS: THANK YOU.


(ANO NGA BA 'YAN SEGMENT STINGER)


ROD: NOW, IN OUR USAPANG AGRI SEGMENT LET’S HEAR THE BOUNTIFUL LIFE IN FISHING FROM THIS REPORT OF CHE-CHE MASICAT.


(USAPANG AGRI SEGMENT STINGER)


ROD: PROSPEROUS LIFE IN FISH FARMING, HERE’S CHE-CHE MASICAT’S REPORT.


(PLAY CANNED REPORT)


CHE-CHE MASICAT: FOR MORE THAN 41 YEARS, MANG VIC SANTOS MAKE HIS LIVING IN FISHING BANGUS, SHRIMP, AND CRABS. WHAT IS THE SECRET BEHIND THIS, MAN VIC AND ALMOST EVERYDAY YOU COULD SUPPLY THIS KIND OF GOODS?


VIC SANTOS: THE SECRET IN FISHERY IS JUST TO BE INDUSTRIOUS AND IN THESE 72 HECTARES OF WATER AREA, WHERE I ROAM AROUND, WE DO A LOT OF THINGS AND WE DO IT ALMOST REPETITIVELY.


CHE-CHE: HOW MUCH OF THESE CRABS AND PRAWNS CAN YOU HARVEST, INCLUDING THE SHRIMPS AND THE BANGUS?


VIC: IT DEPENDS ON THE WATER, MA’AM. SOMETIMES THE WATER QUALITY IS VERY GOOD, SOMETIMES IT’S NOT.


CHE-CHE: SO HOW DID YOU TAKE CARE YOUR FISHES HERE? CAN WE PLACE, FOR EXAMPLE, THE BANGUS, THEN THE CRABS INSIDE ONE FISHPEN?


VIC: THEY ARE ALL IN THERE, THE CRABS, SHRIMPS, THE BANGUS, TILAPIA BUT THE PREPARATION FOR EACH IS DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER. THE BOLUS PROCESS WAS DONE SEPERATELY, THE NEED DIFFERENT RECEPTACLE FROM THERE.


CHE-CHE: WHAT WILL GO FIRST?


VIC: WE CAN DO IT SIMULTANEOUSLY BUT WE MUST PUT IT TO DIFFERENT CONTAINERS FIRST THEN WE WILL MIXED THEM LATTER IN THE PROCESS.


CHE-CHE: HOW ABOUT THE BANGUS, HOW MANY MONTHS DOES IT TAKE BEFORE YOU COULD HARVEST IT?


VIC: AFTER THREE MONTHS, WE COULD HARVEST FROM THAT TIME. SOMETIMES, IT TOOK US FOUR TO FIVE MONTHS BUT WHEN WE REACHED THAT PERIOD, A SINGLE FISH COULD REACH AS MUCH AS HALF A KILO EACH.


CHE-CHE: HOW ABOUT THE SHRIMPS?


VIC: THE SHRIMPS COULD GET SO HUGE IF YOU WILL LET FOUR MONTHS TO PAST.


CHE-CHE: THE CRABS, HOW WAS IT?


VIC: IT DEPENDS. SOMETIMES IT WILL TOOK US TWO MONTHS AND A HALF. DEPENDS OF THE TYPE BUT IF WE HAVE THES TYPE WE CALLED LANGAW-LANGAW, IT COULD TAKE US FIVE MONTHS.


CHE-CHE: WHAT DO YOU FEED TO YOUR ANIMALS HERE, SIR?


VIC: RIGHT NOW, WE FED MY FISH WITH LEFTOVERS FROM SOME BAKESHOPS, THAT’S WHAT I FEED THEM.


CHE-CHE: HOW ABOUT THE OVERALL HEALTH OF YOUR FISHES HERE? DO THEY EVEN CATCH DISEASES?


VIC: WE HAVE A LOT OF PROBLEMS HERE. ONE TIME; A FISH KILL WILL HAPPEN HERE. BUT I THINK, IT’S THE NEW NORM NOW HERE MAYBE BECAUSE OF THE CHANGING CLIMATE BUT ANYWAY WE’RE OKAY HERE, STILL SURVIVING, STILL EARNING SOME PROFIT. WHAT WE REALLY CONCERN ABOUT SOMETIMES IS BY THE TIME WHEN THE CALAMITY REALLY STRIKES HERE.


CHE-CHE: BUT IN OVER 41 YEARS IN THIS BUSINESS, WHAT ARE THE THINGS YOU EARN FROM FISHING?


VIC: IN THIS BUSINESS OF FISHING, ALL OF MY PROPERTIES WAS SOURCED BECAUSE OF THIS. ONE OF DECENT JOBS YOU CAN HAVE AND AT THE SAME TIME ENTERTAINING.


CHE-CHE: AS YOUR PARTING WORDS, SIR VIC, WHAT ARE THE THINGS YOU COULD ADVICE TO OUR FELLOW COUNTRYMEN WHO WANTS TO START BUSINESS LIKE THIS IN FISHING.


VIC: IN THIS BUSINESS, IT IS GOOD TO HAVE A REALLY GOOD PARTNER. AND IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE, I COULD OFFER MY PLACE, LESSONS I LEARNED IN 40 YEARS, I COULD SHARE IT TO ALL OF YOU. NO EXTRA FEE. I COULD TEACH YOU THE ACTUAL THING, NOT JUST THE ONE YOU COULD SEE ON THOSE BLACKBOARDS.


CHE-CHE: FREE?


VIC: YES, FREE. RIGHT FROM START, PREPARATION, FEEDING AND GROWING THE FISHES, HOW TO SELL, AND HARVEST, YOU COULD ALL LEARN THAT IF YOU JUST PERSEVERE.


CHE-CHE: ARE YOU ALWAYS OPEN HERE EVEN ON A WEEKEND?


VIC: WE DON’T HAVE ANY DAY-OFFS HERE. MOST OF THE TIME WE ARE HERE. CHRISTMAS, NEW YEAR, YOU NAME IT, AS LONG AS WE HAVE SOMETHING TO CATCH HERE, WE WILL ALWAYS HERE.


CHE-CHE: AND LIKE WHAT MANG VIC SANTOS SAID, IF YOU HAVE THE PERSEVERANCE IN FISHING, YOUR BANGUS, SHRIMPS, PRAWNS, AND CRABS ARE SURELY WILL BE ABUNDANT.


(USAPANG AGRI SEGMENT STINGER)


ROD: WE’VE GOT A LOT OF REACTION HERE WITH MR. JOHNNY SUERTE’S STORY A WHILE AGO. DR. RUDY PUNZALAN SAID THAT MR. JOHNNY SUERTE IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF A GOOD FARMER. MESSAGE FROM DR. RUDY PUNZALAN OF LAUR, NUEVA ECIJA. ALSO, WE HAVE CHAIRMAN DIEZ ATIENZA HERE WHO’S EXTENDING HIS CONGRATULATUONS TO YOU, MR. JOHNNY SUERTE, IT ALSO INCLUDING MR. WILLY APOSTOL AND TIBONG FORBES WISHING THAT THEY COULD ALSO LEARN ALL THE THINGS YOU HAVE DONE.


(HUNTAHAN ON-AIR PROGRAM STINGER)


ROD: TODAY, WHAT IS THIS KNOWLEDGE THAT TATA LINO WOULD SHARE WITH US? GOOD MORNING, TATA LINO! WHAT IS THAT FUNNEL YOU BROUGHT TODAY?


LINO BOA: THAT’S RIGHT. THIS IS A FUNNEL. A FUNNEL THAT WE’RE USING IN FEEDING GESTATING AND PREGNANT PIGS. BECAUSE IF WE WOULD TRY TO FEED ALL OF THESE PIGS, IT WOULD CONSUME A LOT OF OUR TIME BEFORE WE COULD EVEN REACH OUR 25TH. WE JUST WANT TO REDUCE THE STRESS OF OUR OPIGS DURING FEEDING.


ROD: IS THAT YOUR IDEA? YYOU’RE REALLY GREAT, TATA LINO!


LINO: I MAD THIS ONE IN A CERTAIN LEVEL BECAUSE A HOG RAISER HAS HAVING PROBLEM ON HOW HE COULD FEED HIS PIGS BECAUSE WITH THE MANUAL PROCESS, SOME OF HIS PREGNANT PIGS GOT INTO TROUBLE OF HAVING A MISCARRIAGE. THAT’S WHY I MADE THIS FUNNEL WHICH COULD HOLD FEEDS UP TO A COUPLE OF KILOS. THE CIRCUMFERENCE OF THIS IS MEASURED AT 6 INCHES WHILE THE HEIGHT IS AROUND 10 INCHES. THEN THERE IS A VALVE HERE WHEN YOU TWIST, IT WILL OPEN AND THE FEEDS WILL GO RIGHT DOWN TO THE FOOD RECEPTACLE OF YOUR PIGS. USING THIS, YOU COULD FEED YOUR PIGS IN JUST THREE MINUTES, JUST MAKE SURE FOOD WAS ALREADY POURED THERE FIRST. AFTER YOU FED OR CLEAN IT, YOU CAN PUT SOME FEEDS AGAIN.


GERRY: IN OTHER WORDS, YOU DID THIS TO LESSEN THE STRESS OF THE PIGS? FOR THEM TO GET NO MISCARRIAGES. BECAUSE WHEN ITS FEEDING TIME, YOUR PIGS WILL ALL CRY FOR ITS FOOD, THAT’S WHAT THEY ALWAYS DID.


ROD: DOES THE OWNER WILL NOT LOSE ANY PROFIT FROM THAT PROCESS OF FEEDING?


LINO: YOU WILL JUST FEED THEM THREE TIMES A DAY. EVERY 7, 11, THEN AT 4. AFTER THAT YOU WILL REFILL IT. WITH JUST ONE TWIST YOU COULD FEED UP TO 25 IN A ROW.


ROD: THERE! BY THE WAY, GLORIA CATALASAN IS WATCHING US RIGHT NOW. SHE SAID THAT SHE’S LEARNING A LOT FROM US ESPECIALLY TO THE STORY OF MR. JOHNNY SUERTE. SIR, YOU HAVE A LOT OF FANS HERE. WE ALSO HAVE ROMNICK MACALLA, WATCHING FROM BALUD MASBATE. THERE YOU GO. FOR EXAMPLE, KA GERRY ASKED YOU TO MAKE ONE OF THOSE?


LINO: WHY NOT?


ROD: IS IT FREE FOR KA GERRY?


LINO: IT NIS NOW EASY TO FEED THEM.


ROD: THERE, SO, NOW HE WILL RAISE A LOT OF PIGS NOW.


CHE-CHE: TATA LINO, HOW MUCH ONE OF THOSE COULD COST OUR FARMERS?


LINO: THIS ONE MECHANISM COULD COST 500.


ROD: JUST 500?


LINO: YES, FOR ONE.


ROD: FEEDING YOUR PIGS WILL BE NO PROBLEM ANYMORE. YOU DON’T NEED TO FIND FOR ANY TOOLS IN FEEDING THESE PIGS.


LINO: IN FEEDING THESE PIGS, WE USE DIFFENT MEASURES, IT DEPENDS IF IT’S GESTATING OR NURSING, IF IT IS FAT OR THIN, WE ALREADY STANDBY SOMETHING FOR EACH CASES.


ROD: AT LEAST WITH THIS YOU CAN MEASURE HOW MUCH OF A FEED OF YOUR ANIMALS COULD EAT.


ROD: WOW! THE TIME PASSED SO QUICKLY ESPECIALLY IF IT’S TATA LINO SPEAKING HERE. NEXT TIME, MORE INVENTIONS AWAITS YOU HERE ESPECIALLY FROM OUR COMPANION HERE, TATA LINO. DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING THERE, KA GERRY? YOUR FANS?


GERRY: I JUST WANT TO GREET SOME PEOPLE. CAN YOU IMAGINE IT, SOME PEOPLE FROM THE MILITARY WHO ARE JUST HAPPENED LOVE TO PLANT IS LISTENING TO US RIGHT NOW? LIKE BAT-COM VALDEZ, COL. VALDEZ…NEXT TIME I WILL BRING MY LIST HERE. WE HAVE A LOT OF LISTENERS AND VIEWERS HERE IN OUR PROGRAM. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!


ROD: HEY TO OUR REGULAR PATRON THERE, ENGR. ISIDRO FAJARILLAGA OF NUEVA ECIJA. DON RAMON HERNANDEZ AND ATTY. CAPUCHINO, AMANTE CAPUCHINO.


LINO: IT’S ALMOST KA ESMY REYES’ BIRTHDAY. KA BERNIE, WHEN WILL YOU COME BACK HERE?


GERRY: IT’S MY WIFE BIRTHDAY TODAY! I ALMOST FORGOT.


ROD: ALSO, GOOD MORNING TO MR. WINSTON TORRES OF SAN VICENTE, STO. TOMAS, BATANGAS, ONE OF OUR AVID LISTENERS OF SA KABUKIRAN FROM PASTOR TERESO PACHICA.


GERRY: KA ROD, IT’S MY WIFE’S BIRTHDAY TODAY.


ROD: HOW MANY WIVES DO YOU REALLY HAVE? WHO AMONG THEM? THE ONE YOU HAVE HERE? NOT THE ONE YOU HERE THE OTHER DAY?


GERRY: (LAUGHS)


CHE-CHE: SOMEONE FROM NUEVA ECIJA ALSO TEXTED US. JOJO VILLAREAL IS ALSO INVITING US BECAUSE HE JUST HARVESTED A LOT OF AMPLAYA.


ROD: THAT’S VERY RIGHT TIMING! RIGHT FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO REALLY LOVES VEGETABLES.


ROD: OUR TIME FLIES SO FAST ESPECIALLY IF YOU DOING IT IN THE NAME OF PUBLIC SERVICE.


(GINTONG BUTIL STINGER)


ROD: FOR OUR GINTONG BUTIL,” MOTHERS DON'T FEAR DEATH, THEY'RE AFRAID OF LIVING BEHIND THERE CHILDREN KNOWING THAT NOBODY WILL LOVE AND CARE FOR THEM LIKE SHE DID." [[FILIPINO TRANSLATION: ANG ISANG DAKILANG INA AY HINDI TAKOT SA KANIYANG KAMATAYAN. ANG KINATATAKOT NG ISANG DAKILANG INA AY ANG MAIWAN, MAULILA NIYA ANG KANIYANG MGA ANAK DAHIL ANG KANIYANG PAKIRAMDAM WALANG SINO MANG MAKAKAPAGBIGAY NG HIGIT NA PAGMAMAHAL NA KANIYANG IPINADARAMA AT GINAGAWA BAWAT SANDALI PARA KANIYANG MGA SUPLING MALIBAN SA KANIYANG SARILING PAGKALINGA.]]


(GINTONG BUTIL STINGER)


ROD: IN THE NAME OF OUR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, SHIELA TUBALINAL, ELLAIZA MAE BULATAO AND EJ LAZARO. TO ECCA BILLATE, OUR RESEARCHER. ARNOLD MALICDEM, ROSS GADDI, JERSON CRUZ, JULIAN CRUZ. JON IBAÑEZ, OUR DESK EDITOR. WENG CASAMA AND RED MAGLALANG OF DZMM TELERADYO. IN OUR RADIO ENGINEERING, ENGINEER RAMON ALANO AND HAROLD PIOZO. IN THE NAME OF CHE-CHE MASICAT, TO OUR ENGINEER-FARMER GERRY BALMEO, TATA LINO, AND TO OUR GUEST WHO BROUGHT US INSPIRATION THIS MORNING, THE LUCK THAT CAME WITH MR. JOHNNY SUERTE, A FARMER FROM SAN TEODOR, ORIENTAL MINDORO. AT YOUR SERVICE, ROD IZON, RADYO PATROL NUMBER 12, IT’S MY PLEASURE TO SERVE YOU.


(UP BED)

(END OF PROGRAM)
BEST AGRICULTURE NEWS STORY, NATIONAL
“IN NUEVA ECIJA, FARMERS KEEP THEIR CHILL EVEN AS EL NINO SCORCHES”
KARL ANGELICA R. OCAMPO
THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER
Despite the dry spell of El Nino phenomenon, Nueva Ecija remains in business because of its powerful solar powered irrigation system. There were neither dry taps nor parched lands to speak of. Instead rice paddies thrive with the help of efficient irrigation systems . The biggest in the country, this technology separates the province from most agricultural areas. This article highlights the importance of government support in sustaining agriculture in the other areas that still rely on rainwater.
FULL STORY
2019 NEWS STORY, NATIONAL
In Nueva Ecija, farmers keep their chill even as El Niño scorches


Rice farming in Nueva Ecija remains in business despite a report from the state weather bureau that the province and 48 others are suffering from a dry spell as the El Niño phenomenon continues to bite.


Going around the province, one might think the place was spared from the havoc of climate change. While the weather was dry and humid, there were neither dry taps nor parched lands. Newly harvested palay were displayed along side roads, ready to be put in sacks and stored.


What separates the province from most agricultural areas in the Philippines, aside from its rich lands, is no secret—the availability of efficient irrigation systems and technology.


“It’s not because there is no El Niño here, it is that we have the best irrigation system in the country,” said Roger Barroga, Future Rice Program head of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). “We are used to the arrival of dry season, even when it is hot as this, we’ve always been prepared.”


The province owns the first and biggest solar-powered irrigation system in the country. It also benefits from other irrigation projects, including the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System.


The city of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija, where PhilRice’s main office is located, is not called “the science city” for no reason. Here, farmers are introduced to affordable innovations. It’s common to see farmers manning tractors and combine harvesters instead of carabaos. Others tend and monitor their farms through apps. They use high-yield hybrid seeds that can withstand drought or flooding.


Nueva Ecija remains the largest producer of the staple in the country without having to cough up unnecessary expenses. But the province is an exception rather than the rule.


Only 30 percent of the country’s farm lands benefit from communal irrigation while the rest still rely on rainwater, according to the National Irrigation Administration. A majority of rice-producing provinces are still dependent on traditional farming, which is more laborious, expensive, and above all, less productive.


Traversing outside the province, the importance of government support in sustaining agriculture is magnified. A three-hour drive from Muñoz to Pangasinan—where irrigation systems and government support in agriculture are subpar—reveals an entirely different scenario where lands have become arid and crops cry for water.


In Bulacan, Dagupan and certain parts of Cotabato, farmers cannot just shift to planting drought-resistant crops to survive the dry spell even if they want to, as this would require a constant water resource.


Farmer leader Jhun Pascua of the National Movement for Food Sovereignty said some farmers in Mindanao were already forced to sell their livestock animals with no grass for them to feed on.


William Dar, a former DA chief and former director of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, said the wrath of El Niño and other natural disasters could be avoided if there were enough infrastructure in place, and if machinery were utilized to fit specific needs.


According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, what’s bogging down the adoption of modern technology may be partly due to the government’s lack of spending for infrastructure and science and technology geared toward agriculture. Economic managers have admitted the sector remained the “weakest link” in the country’s growth story.


It would be difficult to replicate Nueva Ecija, but former International Rice Research Institute director and current Monetary Board member Bruce Tolentino said it was only a matter of priorities.


“The government is not providing adequate support for the agriculture sector as a whole—not only for rice, but especially for other crops. And whatever support has been provided has been going to expenditures that do not result in the most important aspect of agriculture—the improvement of sector productivity and the lowering of production costs,” he said.


If the economic managers prove to be right, the Rice Import Liberalization Law may just be the sector’s saving grace.


In an interview, Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said “the assistance that would be given to farmers [under the law] was designed to lower the cost of producing rice,” noting that “one of the biggest cost differences is the labor cost because of the lack of mechanization.”


The measure would provide a P10-billion annual subsidy for the distribution of seeds and machinery and the provision of credit for the country’s local rice producers.


It may take two to three years before Filipino rice farmers reap the benefits of the rice fund, economic managers said. For now, producers of the staple in rural and far-flung areas do not have any choice but to wait for the next rainfall.
BEST AGRICULTURE NEWS STORY
REGIONAL“VEGGIE FARMERS LEARN WAYS TO MITIGATE FROST”
OFELIA EMPIAN
THE BAGUIO MIDLAND COURIER
It is a news report on the resilience of farmers in the coldest parts of Benguet. The early morning frost has led farmers in this vegetable producing province to adapt to this natural occurrence through the years. Now, with the help of technology and reliable weather reports, the farmers will have a better chance of keeping their crops safe.
FULL STORY
2019 News Story Regional Veggie Farmers Learn Ways To Mitigate Frost
Veggie farmers learn ways to mitigate frost

Headlines, 2-3-2019



BENGUET – For decades, andap or the local term for early morning frost has been occurring in the coldest parts of the province.

This has led farmers in this vegetable-producing province to adapt to this natural occurrence through the years.

Benguet Provincial Agriculturist Lolita Bentres said as of the moment, the office has not received any report of damage due to frost from the municipalities, particularly Atok, Kibungan, Mankayan, and Kabayan.

“It’s not an alarming problem. We have set out our respective municipal agriculturists to monitor the occurrence of frost,” Bentres said.

She said frost does not only occur in Sitio Englandad, Barangay Paoay, Atok but also in Madaymen, Kibungan, in Sitio Cada, Barangay Balili, Mankayan, and in the areas near Mt. Pulag in Kabayan.

These are usually the areas where there is less circulation of air, which causes the occurrence of frost, she said.

Frost is defined as thin layer of ice on a solid surface, which forms from water vapor in an above freezing atmosphere coming in contact with a solid surface whose temperature is below freezing point.

Frost occurs early in the morning, usually from 4 to 6 a.m.

Paoay Punong Barangay Leo Cawaing said farmers in their area would minimize their production during the usual occurrences of frost, which is observed during December and early part January to prevent damages.

But there are farmers who still plant temperate vegetables hoping their crops would survive the frost. Carrot has been found to be a frost-resistant crop.

To combat frost, farmers would use their sprinklers to spray off the frost from their crops before the sun hits the farms.

Paoay kagawad Crizaldo Bacbac said farmers also choose the kind of crops to plant as frost affects mostly potato leaves as they easily wither and get burned. Aside from potatoes, Chinese cabbage (wongbok), and cabbage are not resistant to frost.

Although farmers have adapted to the frost incidences, the changing weather patterns brought by climate change is still heavily felt, as they do not know when the frost will hit.

Farmer Joseph Edwas of Mankayan said it has been their practice to plant ahead before the occurrence of frost so that when it comes, the crops are already mature and ready for harvest.

“However, nowadays one cannot predict when it will hit. You see it is now February and it is still occurring,” he said, adding that the frost occurrence would happen in different portions of Cada making it hard to predict the specific areas it would occur in.

This is why weather forecasts and research are very much needed to help farmers be ready, according to Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center Manager Violeta Salda.

Salda, who also leads the Benguet State University Food Science Research and Innovation Center, said the locality still has a long way to go when it comes to properly using science technology and research in farming.

She cited weather forecasting could help farmers to prepare the kind of vegetables to plant or when is the best time to plant them.

“With the scientific researches we have, it could be used to pre-empt the kind of interventions we could give to our farmers,” she said.

Bacbac said the Department of Science and Technology-Pagasa recently installed a temperature gauge in Atok.

While Baguio’s temperature dipped to 9 degrees Celsius last week, Atok’s temperature could only be estimated to be around 5 °C due to the lack of equipment to measure the exact temperature in a particular area.

Despite these, local officials assured the public of enough supply of vegetables.

“Consumers need not worry because there is enough supply of vegetables and even cut flowers in time for Valentines,” Bentres said.
BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY
NATIONAL“WOMEN OF BACOOR’S EMBATTLED MUSSEL INDUSTRY STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL”
JONATHAN MAYUGA
BUSINESS MIRROR
The story follows the journey of the women in a marginalized agriculture sector in Bacoor, a town experiencing rapid urbanization, as they experience the many challenges that threaten their way of life. On top of the environmental pollution and climate change, a massive land-reclamation project to pave way for. Urban expansion amidst an on-going effort to rehabilitate the Manila Bay now threatens to kill an industry that has empowered the women of Bacoor. 
FULL STORY
2019 Feature National Women Of Bacoor’s Embattled Mussel Industry Struggle For Survival
Women of Bacoor’s embattled mussel industry struggle for survival

(This story was produced with the support of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.)


A WAFT of air from the east along Kawit, Cavite, brings memories of mornings by the sea. Silhouette figures become clearer and the sight brings the solid image the nose sensed: mussels, piled dozens on stainless steel buckets and rattan trays on a table made of wood.

Behind one of these is Charmel Dela Cruz (not her real name), a 4-foot-8 24-year-old mussel trader. Her medium-built frame is hidden by a faded pink floral dress under a blue apron. Like fellow sellers, Dela Cruz is already at her stall along Antero Soriano Highway, at the north end of the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Cavitex), before the crack of dawn; wiping the tabletop, sweeping, while waiting for the mussels to arrive.

While she’s considered a neophyte trader, Dela Cruz already knows the ins and outs of the business, its opportunities and challenges: from growing these cheap, protein-rich seafood to harvesting, buying and selling them fresh, or processing and retailing.

“Selling mussel has been my family’s source of income and livelihood ever since I can remember,” Dela Cruz said in Filipino.

Her parents originally came from Albay, a province in the Bicol region, a hundred kilometers south of here. She was eight when they migrated to Cavite to cash in on the booming mussel industry at the time.

“My uncle was first to come here; then everybody followed,” she said.

Just a way of life

IN Bacoor, a town south of the country’s capital city Manila, growing and harvesting mussels have become a way of life. This is true for Dela Cruz’s family.

Starting a small family of her own, this high-school graduate and mother of a 3-year-old girl is currently the lone breadwinner in the family. Her income relies on the sale of mussels.

Dela Cruz’s husband of three years used to work as a maintenance man at a small company. He’s currently unemployed but training to qualify for employment as a security guard.

Dela Cruz herself worked in the past as a factory worker for several electronic manufacturers in Laguna and Batangas.

“But I decided to stick to selling mussel. This is better. Here, I can earn P1,000 a day compared to the minimum wage I get working at [an] electronics [factory] where I have to spend on transportation and food,” she said, adding the she also sees her weekly pay cut when she reports late.

The daily minimum wage rate in the Calabarzon region is P303 to P400. Highly urbanized cities implement a higher minimum wage as approved by the National Wages and Productivity Commission.

On the highway

SIXTY-Three-Year-Old Rosie Lager said she and her husband Rogelio were able to raise all five children, including two college graduates, from selling mussel along the road.

All her children now have their own family. Lager is now sending one of her grandchildren to college.

“Since getting married in 1972, this has been our source of income and livelihood,” she said. “I am from Tacloban, Leyte, but when I met my husband, I decided to move and stay with him here in Cavite. We started selling mussel when my husband worked as a diver, harvesting for a mussel farm in Bacoor. During that time, he receives only P5 a day. Before, he doesn’t even know how to swim but he had to learn to earn a living,” she said.

Despite being “retired” because of aneurysm, the 74-year-old Rogelio continues to help his wife tend to their store. He considered raising their children well as a source of happiness.

“And my wife is always here with me.”

Most of their customers are motorists, while others are residents in nearby villages.

Dela Cruz and Lager were among the many women traders selling oysters and mussels, with their wooden stalls along major thoroughfares in coastal towns in Cavite.

Not hard to find

MUSSELS farming and trade has its ups and downs for Anne Maceda, 32, a mussel trader at the Paranaque Fisherman’s Wharf for five years now.

“Here money is not hard to find as long as you are willing to work,” Maceda said, pointing to a group of young children who works for a living while “playing” by cleaning mussels.

According to Maceda, the children get to earn P20 for washing out grime from each mussel.

“It’s voluntary, really. And they enjoy it,” she said. “But we pay them because they are a big help.” Maceda said the children also earn allowance for school.

Julie Cuela, 62, who has been selling mussels at a public market in Sucat, Parañaque, for 10 years now, said she finds selling mussels a lucrative trade. She buys wholesale from Maceda with a P10-discount for every gallon. A gallon of mussel contains about 2.5 kilos. Normally, it would only cost around P100 at the so-called bulungan. It could sell to as much as P250.

Whether they are wives, mothers, or daughters—many women have been empowered by Bacoor’s embattled mussel industry.

Aquatic resources

BACOOR City is the birthplace of mussel farming in the Philippines.

Before the 1950s, mussel is not even considered food, but a pest in oyster farms.

The discovery that mussel is edible gave birth to the idea it can also be cultured like an oyster.

It was in 1955 when what is now known as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’s (BFAR) Oyster Farming Station in Binakayan, Cavite, set up a demonstration mussel farm to promote mussel farming.

Many fishermen in Bacoor decided to grab the opportunity. By the 1960s, mussel farms quickly spread in many areas in the country.

While mussel farming in other parts of the country is thriving, the same cannot be said in Bacoor and other towns in Cavite, such as Kawit and Cavite City. Bacoor is experiencing a rapid shift from an agriculture-based economy to a residential and commercial urban center.

Bacoor’s growing population is also putting pressure on the coastal environment. It is currently the second most populated city in Cavite, with 600,609 people based on a 2015 census.

Pollution, climate change and unbridled development are slowly killing the source of income and livelihood of thousands of small fishermen in Bacoor, a town which belongs to the Manila Bay region.

Threats of progress

ACCORDING to Myrna Candinato, mussel farming is the way of life of many coastal families in Bacoor.

“Before, we used to pick halaan (clam) and would not have to go far to catch fish,” she said. “Not anymore.”

Candinato is president of the Alyansa ng mga Magdaragat sa Bacoor of Barangay Maliksi III. She has been a mussel farm operator for almost three decades and has witnessed this agricultural subsector’s growth. Now, she fears that an ambitious reclamation project in Bacoor will spell its doom.

Candinato’s family maintains nearly 3 hectares of mussel farm in Bacoor. She is also into buying and selling mussels and owns two small motorized fishing boats that she rents out to small fishermen.

With her small business, she has close to a hundred small vendors under her wing; all are selling mussel on a consignment basis.

“Some of them are older than me. Senior citizens,” she said, who all strongly felt the various threats to Bacoor’s small mussel industry. “If the industry dies, they are sure to suffer,” she said.

Hosts, hectarage

Oysters and mussels are two of Bacoor’s main products today still despite dwindling production.

Bacoor takes pride in owning vast tracts of mussel and oyster farms that directly and indirectly benefit tens of thousands of families.

According to the Bacoor City Agriculture Office, individual oyster and mussel farmers can operate a 1-hectare farm. Each farm employs between five and seven individuals, Chua said.

The city also hosts oyster and mussel farmer-investors from other towns in Cavite, Laguna and Batangas.

Bacoor has a total of 957.25 hectares of coastal water and a total coastline of 5.78 kilometers. Of these, about 300 hectares are designated aquaculture area.

Currently, the city produces 6,000 gallons of mussels a day.

The figure is based on recorded daily production as obtained from two private and one public market, where harvests are regularly brought in by the city’s oyster and mussel farmers.

This does not include the huge volume of oysters and mussels that directly goes out to entrepreneurs who maintain oyster and mussel stalls in and outside the city, including Fisherman’s Wharf and fish ports in Parañaque City, Rosario, Cavite and the Navotas Fish Port.

A serious threat

MUSSEL traders in Bacoor had experienced huge setbacks caused by water pollution, as it affects the growth of this naturally occurring seafood.

As the price of mussel depends on its size, mussel growers or farmers observe that their products are no longer as “healthy” as they were when they started out in Bacoor.

But a more serious threat to Bacoor’s mussel industry, as in other areas, is the occurrence of red tide.

The BFAR occasionally issues Shellfish Bulletins advising the public whenever there’s red tide.

“When there’s red tide, we go home,” Dela Cruz said.

She also believes it has something to do with the rapid change of weather systems, which affects the growth of mussel—or worse—cause mussel to die.

“Whenever it suddenly rains, and the sun shines, the mussels we get are small because they are affected,” Dela Cruz added. “[I think this] has something to do with climate change.”

Maceda said that whenever there’s red tide, even areas that are unaffected by it suffer huge losses as the public would think that the oysters and mussels they are selling are affected, too.

“Whenever there are photographers and cameraman going here, we feel bothered thinking it maybe because there’s red tide,” she said.

Not sole problem

Believing that water pollution triggers the occurrence of red tide, Lager said such is precisely the reason they support the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

However, she said rehabilitation should not lead to the relocation of oyster and mussel farms, as thousands of people whose income and livelihood are dependent on this cultured seafood will be adversely affected.

The occurrence of red tide is a major setback in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, particularly for oyster and mussel farmers.

From January to May alone, the BFAR has issued eight Shellfish Bulletins, which indicated that, based on laboratory tests it conducted, shellfish collected in a certain area are positive for paralytic shellfish poisons that are beyond the regulatory limit.

As such, it warns the public that shellfish gathered in an area affected by red tide are not safe for human consumption, thereby forcing mussel traders to stop doing business for days, or sometimes, weeks.

For Candinato, the intensifying typhoons brought about by climate change spell doom for mussel farm operators each time it strikes Cavite. For mussel growers, it means loss with zero chance of recovery—except for a few bamboo poles they must salvage in the open seas after the storm.

“Whenever there’s a typhoon, all our bamboo poles are wiped out. We lose everything,” she said. But strong typhoon is not the only problem mussel farm operators encounter.

Manila Bay cleanup

On January 27, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources launched a P47-billion, seven-year Manila Bay rehabilitation program. The massive rehabilitation activities aim to address the water pollution that has been bugging coastal waters in Manila Bay.

The high level of fecal coliform bacteria in Manila Bay poses a serious health risk not only to those who continue to swim and bathe in its waters, but also to consumers of fish and other seafood like oysters and mussels that are grown there.

Pollution caused by direct discharge of untreated wastewater and poor solid waste management are major contributors to the degradation of Manila Bay.

The waters of Bacoor, Cavite, are no exception, as water pollution knows no boundary.

Gil S. Jacinto, a professor at the Marine Science Institute-University of the Philippines Diliman, told the BusinessMirror the fact that the BFAR allows the growing of oysters and mussels means Bacoor’s waters is still suitable for aquaculture.

Jacinto added that the safety of the seafood produced for human consumption is, however, another issue.

A serious dilemma

Jacinto said that being filter-feeders, oysters and mussels have environmental benefits as they can actually help reduce water pollution.

“But, there’s a chance that too much pollution will eventually cause oysters and mussels to die. If that happens, it only means that the water is no longer fit for aquaculture,” he said on the sidelines of the Science Policy and Information Forum on the Sustainability of Manila Bay last May.

In Bacoor, the situation was aggravated by the Cavite Coastal Road Extension project, which directly affected the Bacoor shoreline.

Its construction in 2011 has since deprived the town’s shell and shellfish gatherers of their primary source of income and livelihood.

“Before, there was the halaan all over the shores of Bacoor. Women and children pick them up. But because of the Manila-Cavite Expressway project, it’s all gone,” National Federation of Small Fishermen’s Organization in the Philippines (Pamalakaya) Chairman Fernando Hicap said.

Hicap said while already experiencing economic hardships with the Cavitex project, fishermen and players in Bacoor’s mussel farming sector are facing yet another major threat that can eventually wipe out oystes and mussel farms and displace hundreds, if not thousands, of coastal families.

Yonder and here

THE city of Bacoor has a land-reclamation application filed at the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), which has been empowered by President Duterte to decide on the fate of these land-reclamation projects after he signed Executive Order 74 on February 4.

EO 74 repealed EO 798 s. 2009 and EO 145 s. of 2013, and subsequently transferring the PRA to the Office of the President. The order also delegated to the PRA Governing Board the power of the President to approve reclamation projects.

The application for the P42-billion Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project will involve dump-and-fill activities that will expand the city’s land territory over a 320-hectare coastal area as part of the plan to erect a commercial and business district in Manila Bay.

The project is expected to lure investors, create jobs and livelihood opportunities and, hence, generating more revenues for the city.

The project, however, will directly affect over a hundred fishermen and mussel farm operators, including informal-settler families who would have to be relocated should the project push through.

A document acquired from the DENR said the proposed project will include five reclaimed areas, four inland reclamation islands behind Cavitex with an aggregate area of 90 hectares and one outer island north of Cavitex with an area of 230 hectares.

Last year the DENR conducted the “public scoping” to get inputs from would-be affected communities.

Uprooted, unemployed

Allan Guevarra Chua, Bacoor City Agriculture officer-in-charge, told the BusinessMirror “the land-reclamation project, if it pushes through, will cover a total of 320 hectares of coastal and marine areas, of which 100 to 150 hectares of oyster and mussel farms will have to go.”

With 150 hectares of oyster and mussel farms to be affected by the land-reclamation project, around 1,000 individuals stand to lose employment.

Nevertheless, Chua is optimistic that Bacoor City will retain its identity as one of the major producers of oysters and mussels in Luzon.

He said the City Fisheries Aquatic Resource Management Council of Bacoor (CFARMC) and Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla intend to transfer would-be affected farms through re-zoning in other locations so as not to affect the city’s oyster and mussel production capacity.

Chua added he will also propose that the CFARMC come up with a resolution designating what remains of Bacoor’s coastal waters for aquaculture production.

As for the coastal families, he said they will have to be relocated as part of the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay where informal-settler families would be moved away from so-called danger zones.

Getting relocated

THE relocation of informal settler families, Chua said, is inevitable because it is part of the rehabilitation of Manila Bay as ordered by the Manila Bay Task Force.

“Those who will be affected will be transferred to a relocation site—a Fisherman’s Village to be constructed within Bacoor,” he added.

Informal settler families from the city’s coastal areas—such as those victimized by fire and those affected by flooding—have agreed to transfer to a government relocation site, he said.

According to Chua, residents are supportive of the land-reclamation project and the actress-turned politician’s development agenda for Bacoor.

“Some residents have even agreed and started to transfer to a relocation site of the NHA [National Housing Authority] in Naic, Cavite,” he said.

There are more than 20 other proposed land-reclamation projects application filed before the PRA that are in various stages of development.

While the PRA is the sole authority with the power to approve or reject land-reclamation projects, the DENR is not keen on releasing the Environmental Clearance Certificate or Area Clearance for Manila Bay land-reclamation projects.

A steady increase

The Bacoor’s oyster and mussel farming sector mirrors a situation across the country: the Philippines is already a major exporter of fish and other seafood.

Oyster and mussel production in the Philippines, however, remains small despite its vast potential, yet a steady increase is observed in areas where mussel farms are on the rise.

According to the BFAR, the volume of mussel production in 2018 was estimated at 26.30 thousand metric tons, 36.93 percent higher from 2017 level of 19.21 thousand metric tons.

The growth has been observed for the past three years.

The top mussel-producing regions were Western Visayas, Region 4A and Eastern Visayas with a combined share of 93 percent.

While Bacoor is now a bustling city, it remains a major producer of oysters and mussels.

Given the much-needed shot in the arm, a boost from the BFAR and Bacoor LGU, the oyster and mussel industry can help sustain the city’s growth and development. Doing so also means continuously employing thousands of marginalized women who have been empowered by its small mussel farming sector that Bacoor is known for. (end)
BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY
REGIONAL“COCONUT: MAJOR EXPORT OF FILIPINO FARMERS”
HENRYLITO TACIO
EDGE DAVAO
This is a four-part series that discussed the multi-faceted  coconut, known to be the tree of life. Considered God’s gift to the Filipinos. The article details the problems farmers face due to the low pricing of copra. It also talks about the different exported  products made out of the plant and how it provides livelihood to 1/3 of the total population.
FULL STORY
2019 Feature Regional Coconut: Major Export Crop Of Filipino Farmers
Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

(First of Four Parts)

Reynaldo Hiligan, in his social media account, begged President Rodrigo R. Duterte about the situation of the price of copra. “Our beloved president. We hope you give coconut farmers some justice regarding the price of copra. It’s only P2.30 for the whole price of a coconut.”

A teacher from Davao shared the post and commented: “The price of copra is very cheap but the coconut oil is expensive. What is the Department of Agriculture doing? When will it be able to help the thousands of coconut farmers in the Philippines?”

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), the government’s agency tasked for the coconut industry, wrote in its website: “The fluctuation of domestic copra market is cyclical and this is beyond the control of the PCA or any government agency. This is because the domestic copra price is dependent to the coconut oil price in the global market.

“The global coconut oil price, on the other hand, is determined or affected by the supply and demand situation of other vegetable oils (that is, oil palm, soybean, rapeseed, sunflower, olive oil, etc.) in the international market,” PCA continued. “Though the Philippines is the biggest exporter of coconut oil in the world, coconut oil is just one of the many vegetable oils produced globally. As such, its price is greatly affected by the movement of prices of other vegetable oils particularly the palm oil which is the biggest among the internationally-traded vegetable oils (35%) and soybean oil, the second biggest vegetable oil (29%).”

Since December 2017, the price of palm oil in the world market has been going down. This explains the very low price of copra as companies in the international market using vegetable oils buy more palm oil as the supply is high and the price is low. “But if the supply of palm oil goes down,” PCA said, “prices of vegetable oils (including coconut) will again go up.”

Though copra price fluctuation is beyond the control of the government, it is very much aware of its impact to the coconut farmers. This is the reason why the Department of Agriculture has been trying to find some possible solution to the problem. One of these is finding other products from coconut that can exported to other countries.

Coconut water – also known as buko juice or coco water – as one of the products that has high potential abroad. It must be recalled that during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, he hailed coco water as one of the country’s most promising new export opportunities.

“Drinking what they call coco water, and what we call buko juice, is a growing trend in the US,” Aquino told the press when he returned from a working visit to the United States. “Because of its nutrients, because it is natural and environment friendly, it is becoming the new natural sports drink in America and is now a hundred-million-dollar industry.”

Coco water is the clear liquid found in young green coconuts. American nutritionist Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, calls it a “perfectly good option” for people who want to stay hydrated.

“Coconut water is considered a sports drink because it contains many nutrients lost in physical exertion and sweating,” Susan Ferrandino points out in an article published in Livestrong.com. “It is marketed as an isotonic beverage, which means that concentration levels of nutrients are the same as in human blood. As a result, coconut water is absorbed readily into the body and can prevent dehydration after a workout.”

That’s going ahead of the story, however. Let’s take a closer look at it. “One cup of coconut water contains 46 calories,” writes Rebecca Slayton for Livestrong.com. “Carbohydrates make up the majority of the calorie content, with 8.9 grams per one-cup serving, of which 6.26 grams are from sugar.”

Coconut water is a good source of the electrolyte potassium, and provides 600 milligrams per one-cup serving. This is the reason why it’s good for those engaged in sports to drink coconut water. “Normal potassium levels are necessary for regular cell function,” Slayton writes. “When potassium levels drop too low, it affects your nervous system and can lead to an irregular heartbeat, which can be fatal.”

But it’s not only because of potassium why it’s a good sports drink. “Coconut water also contains 252 milligrams per serving of sodium, which is another electrolyte lost during exercise through sweat,” Slayton claims. “Sodium plays a role in your critical body functions by regulating the movement of water in and out of your cells.”

Coconut water is indeed a perfect sports drink. “The potassium and sodium content found in coconut water make it a smart choice when you become dehydrated, whether from physical activity or sickness when you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting.”

But that’s not all. “Coconut water offers a good source of vitamins making it a nutritious drink option,” Slayton writes. “One serving of coconut water provides 5.8 milligrams of vitamin C, along with folate, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and vitamin B6. Coconut water also provides other key minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.”

Despite the marketing hype, coconut water does have a few medical uses. For those with hypertension, it can be drunk to lower blood pressure. A study reported by The West Indian Medical Journal said coconut water was able to lower the systolic pressure by 71% and diastolic pressure by 29%.

While coconut water may support healthy blood pressure levels, it should not be used as replacement for blood pressure medications or potassium prescribed by your physicians, Ferrandino reminds.

People who want to lose weight may drink coconut water instead of soft drinks and other sweet beverages. Jessica Hendricks, in another Livestrong.com feature, writes: “Drinking coconut water in place of a high-calorie drink can help you lose weight over time because you’ll be consuming fewer calories in total.”

It is suggested that you drink coconut water straight from newly harvest coconuts. Some commercially produced coconut water drinks may include added sugar, which can further raise the sugar level. The American Heart Association said that a diet high in sugar can increase your chance of weight gain and obesity.

Another good thing about coconut water is its ability to combat cholesterol. There was an animal study on the benefits of coconut water and cholesterol levels which was published in Journal of Medicinal Food in 2006.

“Scientists found that rats fed coconut water at a ratio of 4 millimeters per day per 100 grams of body weight showed lower overall ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, namely low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides,” Hendricks reported. “In turn, the rats’ healthy or ‘good’ cholesterol – high-density lipoprotein – increased on coconut water diet.”

Among Filipinos, drinking coconut water is highly recommended for those suffering from urinary tract infections. As a natural diuretic, coconut water – along with antibiotics – helps flush out bacteria from the urinary tract.

In his book, Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut, Dr. Bruce Fife claims coconut water makes kidney stones less likely to form and even helps flush existing ones out. A study conducted at the Philippine General Hospital on patients with kidney and urethral stone problems, Fife reports, showed improvement when they started a regular intake of coconut water.

Beauty conscious ladies may find a partner in coconut water. Ivana Saragjinova, in an article published in oldnaturalcures.com, shares this information: “Coconut water does not contain omega-3 fatty acids but it is rich in saturated acids that help to strengthen the skin. It is therefore, a great ally of beauty. It helps stimulate the production of collagen, which is responsible for the elasticity of the skin, and whose function weakens with age. That’s why coconut water is great in fighting wrinkles, stretch marks, stains on the skin, lip care, and extracting make-up.”

Diabetics can also benefit from drinking coconut water. The PCA shares this bit of information: “Potassium content of water is remarkably high at all nut ages. Together with sodium and phosphorus, potassium content also tends to increase with the ages of the coconut to peak at nine months. This characteristic of coconut water makes it a very good drinking water for diabetics. Diabetics waking from a coma recover quickly after drinking coconut water.”

Drink moderately, most health professionals urge. This goes true, too, when it comes to coconut water. “The high potassium level of coconut water can cause hyperkalemia, or too much potassium in the blood,” writes Kirsten Braun for the website of Women’s Health Queensland Wide, Inc. “Hyperkalemia can lead to changes in heart rhythm which can be fatal. People with heart conditions or kidney diseases need to be particularly careful about the amount of coconut water they consume. Similarly, older people should also be cautious because as we age, our kidneys become less efficient at removing potassium from the blood.” (To be continued)


Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

(Second of Four Parts)

Although not a native of the Philippines, coconut can be considered as God’s gift to Filipinos. It is called the “tree of life,” a moniker that couldn’t be truer in the country where the coconut industry provides a livelihood for one-third of the total population, according to data from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports coconut production in the Philippines grew at the rate of 5.3% per year from 1911 to 1929. It increased by 5.2% from 1952 to 1966.

Today, the Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of coconut products – after Indonesia. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported about 3.6 million hectares of coconut trees are planted all over the country, dominating the landscape in 68 out of the total 81 provinces.

Out from coconut, the following can be produced: coconut wine (locally known as “tuba”), buko juice, coconut vinegar, coconut sugar, and coconut delicacies (examples include buko pie and “bukayo”).

Even before the price of copra went down, there were coconut farmers who engaged themselves in various ways of marketing their coconuts. One of them is Benjamin R. Lao of barangay Eman in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

When he inherited the 5-hectare farm land from his parents in 1998, there were already coconut trees growing. Every three months, he harvested from as low as 400 to as high as 600 nuts. Since commercial fertilizers were very expensive, he planted different nitrogen fixing species like Flemingia macrophylla, Desmodium rensonii and Indigofera anil in various parts of the farm.

The leaves from these leguminous shrubs that fell below the ground became instant organic fertilizer for the coconut trees. Several months later, the coconut yields markedly increased to 15,000 nuts per quarter. “Some of my neighbors told me it was a miracle,” Lao says.

Although the money he made from copra was good, he wanted to earn more. After attending a seminar conducted by PCA, he thought of producing coconut sugar from the coconut sap or toddy.

Lao learned from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that coconut toddy contains 12%-18% sugar in its natural form with important vitamins and amino acids. It is also rich in nutrients and high in potassium. Phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, calcium and vitamin C.

The flowers of the coconut tree provide the sap that is made into sugar. In his research, Lao found out that a coconut tree in good stand can yield an average of two liters of sap daily. At least four coconut trees are needed to produce one kilograms of sugar per day.

“The production of coconut sugar is very simple,” he says. “It is just a natural process of heat evaporation to convert liquid sap to solid form of sugar granules. It requires no complicated and high-cost machineries or equipment nor a huge capital.”

What one thing about coconut sugar is that is all natural. That is why it is recommended to people with diabetes, a disease that afflicts more than 5 million Filipinos. “Coconut sugar has low glycemic index, a measure of blood sugar, thus good for diabetics and those having prostate problems,” Lao says. “It has also glutamic acid, the same ingredient that can be found in Viagra.”

In the beginning, he only sells the locally-produced coconut product inside his farm. Believing there was an untapped market for such product, he hired people and started producing other alternative sweeteners like coco honey and coco sap drink that are used for desserts and other delicacies.

Lao later registered these products with the Department of Trade and Industry under the moniker Donnabelle – a combination of the names of his two daughters. He started distributing his products in some outlets in nearby areas and the cities of Davao, Digos, General Santos and Butuan. Outside of Mindanao, his coconut sugar is being sold in Cebu and Metro Manila.

Due to the increasing demand for his products, he decided to incorporate Lao Integrated Farms Inc. in 2009. Since then, he has been exporting his products to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries. “My coconut sugar is guaranteed 100-percent free from chemicals,” he assures.

But it’s not only coconut sugar that is very popular abroad. Teriyaki all-dip sauce, another coconut-based product, is also a hit among foreign consumers. People who buy his products are assured that they are fit for human consumption as his farm has earned various local and international organic and safety certifications.

Today, 80% of his coconut products are exported. He credited this achievement to continued research. Despite the success and awards he received, he never stopped doing studies on how to improve the quality of his products.

In fact, he was named by DOST as a magsasaka-siyentista. “As a farmer-scientist,” he says, “I was able to focus on researching about coconut sap products. It took us eight months to study on how to make export-quality coconut syrup.” (To be continued)


Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

(Third of Four Parts)

There’s more to coconut than just copra.

“An array of products vital to man’s daily life can be derived from this amazing tree,” says Dr. Patricio Faylon, a recognized agricultural policy expert and a luminary in research and development community. “The Philippines is fortunate to have planted large areas to this crop, making the country one of the top coconut producers in the world.”

Copra or dried coconut meat is the main products of coconuts. It has high oil content, as much as 64%. Coconut oil, which is the most readily digested among all fats of general use in the entire world, furnishes about 9,500 calories of energy per kilo. Its chief competitors are soya bean oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.

“It is not enough that we plant the most number of trees or produce the highest number of nuts,” pointed out Dr. Faylon. “It is getting the highest value and benefits from this crop that matters most. The best way to do this is to transform the nuts and other coconut parts into high-value products.”

One such product is virgin coconut oil (VCO). Most scientists believe coconut oil is most potent when it’s virgin – that is, extracted through pressing without the use of heat. Thanks to the pioneering work of the late Dr. Julian Banzon and his protégé, Dr. Teresita Espino, the chemistry of virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been known and its beneficial effects on the human body have been confirmed.

“VCO is a natural oil from fresh, mature kernel of the coconut,” explains the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) in its Compendium of Commercially-Viable Coconut Technologies. “It can be obtained through mechanical or natural means. It can also be processed with or without the use of heat.”

Unlike the commercial coconut oil, VCO does not undergo chemical refining, bleaching, or deodorizing that leads to the alteration of the oil. The product is suitable for consumption without the need for further processing.

In Davao Region, one entrepreneur who uses VCO in his products is Alvin Louie Ang from Pantukan, Compostela Valley. He has developed beauty products with VCO as the main ingredient.

“I decided to broaden the use of coconuts, which are abundant in my province, by creating products which are considered a necessity,” Ang says. He thought of beauty soap. “These days, it is really hard to find an organic soap of good quality that is not very expensive. With that, I was inspired to make some VCO-based beauty soaps and perfumes.”

In the United States, VCO has increasingly becoming popular in natural food circles and with vegans. It was described in a New York Times article as having a “haunting, nutty, vanilla flavor” that also has a touch of sweetness that works well with baked goods, pastries, and sautés.

It was the late National Scientist Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit, touted to be the Father of VCO, who popularized the coconut product. His book, The Truth About Coconut Oil, became a bestseller and elevated coconut oil from folk medicine to a scientific therapy. He found that VCO is sort of a drug “that regulates the body’s functions and defense mechanism. It restores the normal balance of tissues or cells that have become dysfunctional.”

Since the publication of the book fourteen years ago, the VCO has gone a long way. Because of many anecdotal evidences, which are hard to ignore, several studies have been carried out on it.

Last year, during the First World Coconut Congress, a neonatologist pointed out that VCO can be used as adjuvant treatment for cancer. In the Philippines, nine Filipinos are diagnosed with cancer every hour, based on recent data released by the Department of Health and the Philippine Cancer Society Inc.

“Clinical trials on the use of VCO in ketogenic diet as supportive treatment for cancer has been shown to be highly promising under a clinical trial at the Paracelsus Medical University (PMU) in Salzburg, Austria,” said a press released circulated by the Growth Publishing.

The home-produced VCO is a recognized source of beneficial fatty acid metabolized in the liver as ketones in ketogenic diets. In the PMU clinical trial, the target is for ketogenic diet to achieve the so-called “Warburg effect,” where cancer cells are prevented from using glycolysis in order to produce the organic chemical ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) needed in the multiplication of cancer cells.

“Based on the results of rigorous preclinical and clinical studies performed thus far, the ketogenic diet would appear to be a promising and powerful option for adjuvant therapy for a range of cancers,” the PMU study said.

Dr. Mary Newport she cited the PMU study in her presentation during the coconut congress. “It’s now being (used) for cancer because cancer cells like sugar. Some cancer cells use 200 times more sugar than the normal cell. They ferment sugar, the mitochondria ferments sugar. They don’t metabolize it normally. But most cancer cells don’t use ketones effectively as fuel,” she said.

In her presentation, “Combining Coconut Oil and Low Carbohydrate, Higher Fat Diet for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other Diseases,” Dr. Newport said: “Ketogenic diet attempts to starve the tumor, the cancer cells. But basically, your healthy cells and your brain can use ketones. So, it can help in cancer.”

VCO is rich in lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) that is converted to monolaurin by the human body. “When MCFAs are metabolized (in the human body), ketone bodies are created in the liver,” writes Ty Bollinger, a best-selling author, medical researcher, and health freedom advocate.

But what excites researchers about VCO is its lauric acid content. “Fifty percent of coconut oil is lauric acid, a compound found in human breast milk, which makes it one of the best food sources for this nutrient available,” Bollinger notes. Lauric acid, if you care to know is beneficial in deterring parasites, bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses.

According to some studies, one tablespoon of VCO contains 14 grams of total fat, of which 12 grams are saturated. Most of the saturated fat found in most food like meat and cheese are considered long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). In comparison, the saturated fat in coconut oil mostly comprised of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

The MCTs are easier for the human body to metabolize than LCTs. “While MCTs do not shrink cancer by themselves, but they have proved promising as a treatment for cancer,” a report said.

Unknowingly, VCO is also good for those having sexual problems. The results of a clinical study done by the University of Santo Tomas on the effects of the extra VCO on cholesterol levels showed some of the participants to have “higher sex drive during the test phase.”

“It was an interesting observation that 13% of the VCO takers experienced becoming sexually active in the whole duration of their participation in the VCO study,” said Dr. Christina Binag, who headed the study.

The Philippines has introduced VCO to the world in 2000-2001 and remains to be world’s number one VCO exporter. In 2015, VCO was exported to 46 countries, the United Coconut Association of the Philippines said. The top importers were United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and Japan. Other destinations were Belgium, United Kingdom, South Korea, and Australia. Smaller volumes went to Malaysia, Brazil, Taiwan, South Africa, France, China, Singapore and Czechoslovakia. (To be concluded)


Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

(Last of Four Parts)

Eight out of 10 vinegar products sold in the local markets contain “fake ingredients” and thus could be harmful to consumers, scientists of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) reported.

Researchers from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), a DOST line agency, use isotope-based analytical techniques to distinguish vinegar and other condiments from natural or plant-based sources from those which are derived from petroleum-based sources.

“Condiments usually undergo the process of fermentation, and the raw materials must come from fruits and other natural products,” explained Raymond Sucgang, head of the PNRI Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section.

His research team was totally surprised by their findings. “One can only imagine all the impurities and residues from the petroleum by-products which can be the source of various degenerative diseases,” pointed out Sucgang.


As acetic acid comes from fossil fuels and by-product in the production of diesel and oil, it is very dirty. As such, products containing this inorganic type of acid are dangerous to human health.

“Synthetic acetic acid should not be used in food production or as condiment,” Sucgang said, adding that products containing synthetic materials have impurities “and these impurities, according to medical journals, can cause cancer and degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.”

Vinegar, defined as a liquid fit for human consumption and contains specified amount of acetic acid and water, has long been used around the world as a basic seasoning in the preparation of cooking of certain foods because its sharp taste makes it so useful and versatile.

“Vinegar adds flavor to vegetable and meat products,” M. Plessi wrote in Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition. “It is one of the ingredients of salad dressings, sauces, such as tabasco and tomato products, such as ketchups, mustard, and aspics. Mixed with oil and salt, it makes the classic vinaigrette, and it can be used as a condiment for salad and as a sauce for cold, cooked vegetables, meat and fish.”

Vinegar is one of the oldest fermentation products known to man as its history dates back to around 2000 BC, having been considered for a long time as the poor relative among fermented food products. It was used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

“(Vinegar) is produced from raw materials of different agricultural origin containing starch and sugars, that are subjected to a process of double fermentation, alcoholic, and acetous,” says the book, Fermented Foods in Health and Disease Prevention.

Among the raw materials that can be used in producing vinegar are cider, grapes or wine, molasses, sorghum syrup, honey, fruits, maple syrup, sugarcane, palm, potatoes, malt, grain, whey, and coconut wine or tuba.

But it’s not only tuba that can be made into vinegar – even the coconut water. “Coconut water and coconut sap may be processed into vinegar,” pointed out Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

In a feature published by state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA), Lilybeth Ison wrote: “For coconut water alone, the country produces 15 billion matured nuts yearly, with farmers focused only on harvesting the coconut meat and throwing away the other parts of the nuts, including water.”

Assuming that each nut contains one-fourth liter of coconut water, the volume of coconut water wasted is estimated at 3.5 billion liters, Piñol said, adding that coconut vinegar could be “an alternative income generator” for coconut producing communities.

“Vinegar-making is a traditional source of income for many coconut farmers in the country but it has reportedly been ignored and neglected by the government in the past,” Ison wrote.

Vinegar is made through the fermentation of ethanol alcohol. “Bacteria are used to ferment (or break down) the ethanol into by-products including acetic acid,” wrote Bethany Moncel in an article. “This acetic acid is what makes vinegar unique, although it contains other substances including vitamins, minerals and flavor compounds.”

Compendium of Commercially-Viable Coconut Technologies, published by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), has come up with a simple method on how to convert coconut sap into natural vinegar. Here’s how:

The tuba is collected by tapping (making a small incision) on the tender unopened inflorescence. For easy collection, the inflorescence is slowly bent downward. The collected sap is poured in a wide large container and then covered with a clean net to allow aeration and prevent contamination. The sap is allowed to ferment naturally for 60 days.

Sixty days later, the fermented sap is pasteurized by boiling for 5 to 10 minutes at 60-65 degrees Centigrade to maintain the desired quality of the matured vinegar with at least pH 4. It is allowed to cool before placing it in sterile bottles. The bottles should be covered tightly and sealed.

DOST suggested that the sap vinegar be aged for one year. “The color of the vinegar changes as it ages, from cloudy white to light yellow to a clear light brown as it further matures,” the publication stated.

The publication also reminded to observe strict compliance with the quality control standards during the whole process. “This simple organic process of fermentation and pasteurization make the technology ideal for small- and medium-scale enterprise,” it said.

Vinegar, by the way, is one of the most useful products that can treat various health problems. “Vinegar amazing benefits includes treating allergies, balancing alkali, fighting microbial, treating hypertension, fighting cancer, fighting oral bacteria, promoting hair growth, maintaining skin elasticity, lowering high blood sugar, helps burn fat, helps reduce cholesterol level, relieves acid reflux, and improves gut health,” writes Michael Jessimy, author of “Amazing Health Benefits of Vinegar.” – ###


AGRITRENDS:

COCONUT: MAJOR EXPORT CROP OF FILIPINO FARMERS

Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio

(Last of Four Parts)


Eight out of 10 vinegar products sold in the local markets contain “fake ingredients” and thus could be harmful to consumers, scientists of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) reported.

Researchers from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), a DOST line agency, use isotope-based analytical techniques to distinguish vinegar and other condiments from natural or plant-based sources from those which are derived from petroleum-based sources.

“Condiments usually undergo the process of fermentation, and the raw materials must come from fruits and other natural products,” explained Raymond Sucgang, head of the PNRI Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section.

His research team was totally surprised by their findings. “One can only imagine all the impurities and residues from the petroleum by-products which can be the source of various degenerative diseases,” pointed out Sucgang.

As acetic acid comes from fossil fuels and by-product in the production of diesel and oil, it is very dirty. As such, products containing this inorganic type of acid are dangerous to human health.

“Synthetic acetic acid should not be used in food production or as condiment,” Sucgang said, adding that products containing synthetic materials have impurities “and these impurities, according to medical journals, can cause cancer and degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.”

Vinegar, defined as a liquid fit for human consumption and contains specified amount of acetic acid and water, has long been used around the world as a basic seasoning in the preparation of cooking of certain foods because its sharp taste makes it so useful and versatile.

“Vinegar adds flavor to vegetable and meat products,” M. Plessi wrote in Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition. “It is one of the ingredients of salad dressings, sauces, such as tabasco and tomato products, such as ketchups, mustard, and aspics. Mixed with oil and salt, it makes the classic vinaigrette, and it can be used as a condiment for salad and as a sauce for cold, cooked vegetables, meat and fish.”

Vinegar is one of the oldest fermentation products known to man as its history dates back to around 2000 BC, having been considered for a long time as the poor relative among fermented food products. It was used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

“(Vinegar) is produced from raw materials of different agricultural origin containing starch and sugars, that are subjected to a process of double fermentation, alcoholic, and acetous,” says the book, Fermented Foods in Health and Disease Prevention.

Among the raw materials that can be used in producing vinegar are cider, grapes or wine, molasses, sorghum syrup, honey, fruits, maple syrup, sugarcane, palm, potatoes, malt, grain, whey, and coconut wine or tuba.

But it’s not only tuba that can be made into vinegar – even the coconut water. “Coconut water and coconut sap may be processed into vinegar,” pointed out Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

In a feature published by state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA), Lilybeth Ison wrote: “For coconut water alone, the country produces 15 billion matured nuts yearly, with farmers focused only on harvesting the coconut meat and throwing away the other parts of the nuts, including water.”

Assuming that each nut contains one-fourth liter of coconut water, the volume of coconut water wasted is estimated at 3.5 billion liters, Piñol said, adding that coconut vinegar could be “an alternative income generator” for coconut producing communities.

“Vinegar-making is a traditional source of income for many coconut farmers in the country but it has reportedly been ignored and neglected by the government in the past,” Ison wrote.

Vinegar is made through the fermentation of ethanol alcohol. “Bacteria are used to ferment (or break down) the ethanol into by-products including acetic acid,” wrote Bethany Moncel in an article. “This acetic acid is what makes vinegar unique, although it contains other substances including vitamins, minerals and flavor compounds.”

Compendium of Commercially-Viable Coconut Technologies, published by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), has come up with a simple method on how to convert coconut sap into natural vinegar. Here’s how:

The tuba is collected by tapping (making a small incision) on the tender unopened inflorescence. For easy collection, the inflorescence is slowly bent downward. The collected sap is poured in a wide large container and then covered with a clean net to allow aeration and prevent contamination. The sap is allowed to ferment naturally for 60 days.

Sixty days later, the fermented sap is pasteurized by boiling for 5 to 10 minutes at 60-65 degrees Centigrade to maintain the desired quality of the matured vinegar with at least pH 4. It is allowed to cool before placing it in sterile bottles. The bottles should be covered tightly and sealed.

DOST suggested that the sap vinegar be aged for one year. “The color of the vinegar changes as it ages, from cloudy white to light yellow to a clear light brown as it further matures,” the publication stated.

The publication also reminded to observe strict compliance with the quality control standards during the whole process. “This simple organic process of fermentation and pasteurization make the technology ideal for small- and medium-scale enterprise,” it said.

Vinegar, by the way, is one of the most useful products that can treat various health problems. “Vinegar amazing benefits includes treating allergies, balancing alkali, fighting microbial, treating hypertension, fighting cancer, fighting oral bacteria, promoting hair growth, maintaining skin elasticity, lowering high blood sugar, helps burn fat, helps reduce cholesterol level, relieves acid reflux, and improves gut health,” writes Michael Jessimy, author of “Amazing Health Benefits of Vinegar.” – ###
BEST AGRICULTURE ONLINE STORY
“A VERY LONG SUMMER”
JESSICA BARTOLOME and DONABEL MAGSINO
GMA NEWS ONLINE.
"A Very Long Summer" is a narrative of the five-month journey of two Palay farmers in Morong, Rizal, in the face of a "mild" yet devastating El Niño. The story covers the scorching impact of El Nino on the farmers’ crops, and the cascade of other difficulties it creates for the farmers’ careers, community and lives, touching on their remarkable will to survive.
FULL STORY
2019 Online Story A Very Long Summer
A Very Long Summer

I.

IT IS A SCORCHING MARCH DAY IN MORONG, RIZAL, like each day has been since December. The fields have not tasted rain in months and the crops are dying in the heat.


To make things worse, the water pump had gone up in smoke — literally. It was burned down by an unnamed suspect overnight.


It may seem like a small concern, in the grand scheme of things. But for Bernie Manapat, the leader of the local association of farmers, things these days are rarely quite so small. The machine would have been a big help for their group, but instead they now need to purchase a new battery, change its oil, and have the starter repaired. It would cost them P10,000 more just to operate the machine.


This is money they simply do not have. As a collective, they have already spent P80,000 for water for their crops during this planting season. The river beside their farms in Caingin is drying up, and they are running out of water to keep their crops alive.


In February, state weather bureau PAGASA advised that a weak El Niño was already being felt in the Pacific, and that it is expected to go “full blown” by the end of February or March.


Rizal in particular was forecast to experience dry conditions in March, and eventually suffer from drought by the end of June.


El Niño is a phenomenon that occurs every four to six years, during which a portion of the Pacific Ocean heats up and triggers extreme and opposite temperatures in different parts of the world.


In the Philippines, the El Niño causes the surrounding waters to cool down, therefore reducing the production of rain and increasing the temperature in the country.


At the farm in Morong, the crops still seem fine, at least at first glance, as a large portion of the field remains green and lively. But digging deeper reveals the pressing problem: the soil was already hard and was even beginning to crack.


When the soil hardens, Bernie explains, it squeezes the life out of the plants. Once that happens, any attempt to water the crops would be a lost cause — they would eventually die.


“Swerte na ‘yung maka-limang kaban ka diyan,” Bernie says of the field in front of us. (“We’d be lucky if we even get five sacks from that.”)


The desperate situation is still not quite enough to depress his sense of humor. “Ang hirap magkuwentahan kasi wala namang matitira,” he quips.


(“It’s hard to divide the spoils when there’s nothing left.” )


Looking out at the field in the middle of March, Bernie could already figure it out in his head: it was going to be a very long summer.


II.


THE FACT OF THEIR LIVES IS that, sometimes, farmers would work hard for several months only to get nothing at the end of the season. Some harvests would yield little, leaving the farmers in debt. They would then have to scramble to pick up odd jobs to tide them over for the next few months.


On a hot day in early April, Bernie decides to skip the farm to work on a construction site along with four other farmers. Whenever the yield looks like it would be short, Bernie takes up construction projects, as well as painting and plumbing jobs. He even moonlights in the local cemetery, digging up graves for bones that need to be transferred.


Bernie takes a quick lunch, before going back to work on the second floor of the half-done house, under the withering summer heat.


On this construction project, Bernie was recruited by his old friend, Resty San Esteban, a fellow farmer.


During a break, the farmers get to talking about “Boy Suklay,” a 62-year-old man who died while working on a project. Resty remembers him being bothered by the heat and guzzling down water as they worked on building the two-storey house. Later, they found out that he already had an underlying illness that ultimately caused his death.


The conversation has Bernie reminiscing about his own experience three years ago, while he was herding cows.


It was 3 in the afternoon. He was sitting under the shade of a bamboo tree with his wife. He suddenly felt something in his cheek, like it was being drilled. He had water with him, so he had been hydrating. In less than 15 minutes, as he was trying to feel his face, it had already turned numb.


He urgently pointed his wife Tess toward their home, still not telling her what had happened. He remembers having to drag one of his legs. When they got home, he told Tess to take him to the hospital immediately.


It was a mild stroke.


As the planet grows considerably warmer, life for Bernie, Resty, and their friends will only get harder.


“Sa ngayon pa lang parang nararanasan ko na,” Resty says. “Dito sa Pilipinas parang nararanasan ko na ang ‘di kakayanin ng isang magsasaka at konstruksyon ang sobrang init.”


(“I am experiencing it even now. A farmer or a construction worker won’t be able to endure the stifling heat.”)


Despite being farmers for most of their lives, both Bernie and Resty are finding it harder to work through the heat by 9 or 10 a.m. They have taken to starting work in the field before dawn, because neither of them could bear the temperature anymore once the sun is up.


A report by the International Labour Organization, Working on a Warmer Planet, projects that the world will experience significant productivity loss in 2030 due to heat stress.


The working hours will be slashed by 2.2 percent worldwide, based on the possible 1.5°C global temperature rise by the end of the 21st century.


Among those who will be hit hardest are farmers and construction workers because of the nature of their work. Older workers will also have greater health risks as aging results in changes to the regulation of body temperature.


It is an inevitable scenario in a warming planet wracked by a climate crisis.


III.


AT 60 YEARS OLD, Resty has had decades of experience working under the sun, and it shows. His skin is dark and wrinkled, and he hardly flinches in the stifling heat.


Resty tills just 1.2 hectares in Morong, but he has more construction experience than the rest of the farmers on the crew.


He’s already at retirement age but he almost never rests. If he’s not in the farm, he’s busy working in small-scale construction projects in town. He builds pig pens and residential units whenever the offers come.


Resty got his start as a farmer at the tender age of 12, but he actually left the industry in search of greener pastures at one point in his life.


He tried his luck as a construction worker in the Middle East from 1976 to 1979. After a while, he realized that what he earned abroad was not worth his homesickness. He returned and became a farmer again.


He didn’t regret those three years as he managed to buy a residential lot and a tricycle for his family from what he earned. Only one thought was nagging at him.


“Ngayon nakaisip ako, maganda ang may palayan pala, dapat palayan ang binili ko,” Resty says.


(“Now I realize it would have been good to have your own ricefield. I should have bought a ricefield.”)


Leaving that stable job with steady income is literally a gamble. In returning to farm work, he has to try his luck over and over again, because every season, Resty needs to borrow money so he can start to plant, with no assurance that the investment will bear any return come harvest day.


Currently, he has an outstanding loan worth P25,000 from the local cooperative, which he had used to buy farm inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. If he fails to pay it off, the co-op will refuse to lend him anymore. The cycle repeats every season: borrowing, farming, and paying off debts.


Other farmers simply drop out of the cycle. Indeed, the National Economic and Development Authority blames the rising cost of inputs amid low profit, limited access to credit, poor infrastructure, and vulnerability to environmental risks for the decline in the agricultural labor force.


Farming is a risky proposition especially with the onset of El Niño, but Resty is unfazed.


“Kapag kami’y matatakot dahil hindi na kami nakabayad, at hindi ulit kami magtatanim, lalong wala, kaya kami’y makikipagsapalaran,” Resty says firmly.


(“If the fear of being unable to pay our debt scares us off and we are unable to plant, all the more we’ll have nothing. That’s why will continue to take the risk.”)


IV.


MOST FARMERS IN MORONG, including Bernie and Resty, engage in the “pakisama system” where they work as tenants of the landowners’ fields.


The agreements vary. Some landowners provide farm inputs and get half of the total yield. Other landowners do not shell out any capital at all and just ask for a smaller share of fresh palay at the end of the cropping season.


The farmers also need hired hands to help out during the harvest, in exchange for the share of the yield. This share, called hunos, varies depending on the total harvest of the field.


Land ownership is a major factor in determining the take-home harvest of small-time farmers. If they worked on their own lands, they would no longer need to share the yield with the landowners. It would make quite a difference, especially during a time when El Niño’s effects threaten the harvest.


Stakeholders in the agriculture industry in the Philippines have long acknowledged the pressing need for land distribution to farmers. It is an issue that dates back to the Spanish occupation.


In 1988, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was passed under President Corazon Aquino. The program was extended for five years in 2009 through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's term.


CARPER expired in 2014 but the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said the program will still continue as the law provided for the distribution of land to farmers beyond its expiration. The Duterte administration has vowed to fast-track the distribution of lands in the remaining three years of his term.


The DAR says more than 4.8 million hectares of land has been distributed to 2.7 million farmers in the country since the agrarian reform program began. Still, according to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, a peasants' organization, seven out of 10 farmers in the Philippines work on lands they do not own.


Farmers’ groups claim that the reforms laws continued to nurse pro-landlord provisions that enable the privileged to reacquire and reconsolidate their landholdings.


In other cases, however, the farmers who own the land simply stop being farmers altogether. The lands that Bernie and Resty work on today are owned by families who used to be farmers native to Morong.


The younger generations of those families have since pursued other professions, leaving farming for good and leasing out the lands for passive income.


It’s a fate that Bernie himself dreams of achieving for his family.


He has been a farmer since he was 14 years old, when he started to accompany his father to the fields. Bernie is now 46, with a wife and two children.


His firstborn Ella is 20 years old and aspires to be a schoolteacher. Despite the struggles that come with his livelihood, Bernie has somehow managed to put her through school.


Their lives remain far from easy, but Ella still remembers how they used to be even worse off.


The family used to live without electricity in their old home in Barangay Pinugay in Baras, Rizal. Bernie used to own land there, and Ella even used to help out in the field.


It’s a hardship that her brother, 17-year-old Jem, didn’t experience anymore, says Ella, who used to help out at her cousin’s store to earn enough money for allowance and school projects.


“Nu’ng time na ‘yun katulong din ako ni Mama at Papa sa pag-gagamas sa palayan. Nagpapastol din ako ng baka,” she says.


(“At that time, I was also helping my parents attend to errands at the farm. I even herded cows.”)


Having seen firsthand how grueling farming can be, the two have decided not to pursue farming — with their father’s wholehearted support.


Asked whether she sees herself working in the farm someday, Ella says no, even as she acknowledges that it was her father’s farming that allowed her to finish college.


“Kaya ako pinagtapos ni Papa ng pag-aaral para hindi na kami magaya sa kanila. Nagpapasalamat at proud ako sa trabaho ng Papa ko,” she said.


(“My father put me through school so that I won’t have to live a life similar to theirs. I am thankful and proud of my father’s job as a farmer.”)


V.


EARLY MORNING ON BLACK SATURDAY in late April, more than a dozen hired farmers whacked at the rice crops with practiced movements. They are on the last day of harvest at one of Bernie’s farms.


Farmers in Morong have finally decided to harvest their crops after five months of waiting. They weren’t expecting much, with the El Niño in full effect, but the crops were ready, so they had little choice but to harvest.


Farming is already a gamble, and so Bernie took one more roll of the dice with this field in Barangay San Juan. The piece of land was not particularly desirable, because it had no access to any kind of water. With no river or irrigation, others deemed planting there to be doomed to fail.


Bernie had taken matters into his own hands two years ago, digging a tunnel connecting the barren field to a creek where wastewater flows. He invested in a motor pump that would distribute water to the farm, selling one of his cows to make the purchase.


And to everyone’s surprise, a bit of life survived from the crops dried by the summer heat: 141 sacks, to be exact.


Bernie and his wife Tess are pleased; this is above and beyond what they expected.


Their high spirits after the harvest contrasted greatly with the mood of those of the farmhands who did the actual harvesting. They were notably more serious, all business. Tess explains that they were far from done for the day.


The hired hands are given a total of five sacks for their trouble. Each 50-kilogram sack amounts to P800 as fresh palay is sold at P16 a kilo. Among them, each farm worker would earn only P200 for the backbreaking labor.


The half day’s earnings are barely enough to get by, so immediately after the sacks are tied up, they briskly walk away onto the next piece of land to work.


After splitting the sacks among the farm workers, the landowners, and himself, Bernie is able to take home 107 sacks of fresh palay.


Resty, the 60-year-old farmer, was present for the occasion. He was happy for his friend though he didn’t have the same luck.


The first batch of Resty's yield from his Caingin field totaled only eight sacks of fresh palay. But he had to pay four sacks to a group of harvesters. The rest, Resty still had to split with the owner of the land.


After months of waiting, Resty will only be take home two sacks of palay. He forces out a smile.


Later, Bernie would be able to take home 27 and a half more sacks of palay from two other fields he worked on. Resty would take home another two and a half from his second batch of harvest, making his total yield four and a half sacks.


With all the uncertainty that comes with farming, and getting so little after putting in so much, it is little wonder that farmers are a dying breed.


Farmers are getting older and there is no one to replace them. Like Ella who has opted to become a teacher, their children are choosing a different path.


“Dito sa bayan ng Morong, karamihan ng magulang magsasaka pero ang anak engineer, teacher. Talagang iginagapang na mapagtapos para hindi na nila ranasin ‘yung hirap ng katawan,” Bernie says.


(“Here in Morong, most of the parents are farmers but their children become engineers, teachers. They really strive to send their children to school so that the young generation won’t go through the same backbreaking work.”)


This trend bears itself out in the rest of the country.


Official government data showed that from 11.84 million in 2013, workers employed in agriculture were down to just 10.26 million in 2017. This is despite the increase in the country’s labor force through those years.


According to a study by the Philippine Rice Research Institute, the median age of rice farmers increased to 55 years old in 2016-2017 from just 48 years old in 1996-1997.


And who can blame them when there’s barely any movement in the agriculture sector, with Philippine Statistics Authority data showing just 0.90 percent growth in 2018, even as the whole economy grew by 6.2 percent for the year.


Resty doesn’t see a new generation of farmers emerging.


Bernie, in fact, wholeheartedly agrees with the notion that farmers themselves are the reason they are a dying breed.


“Kahit kailan hindi ko sinabi sa anak kong ‘pag ako’y matanda na, ikaw naman ang magsaka. Hindi ko sinabihan ng ganu’n ang anak ko. Ang pangaral ko sa anak ko, magtapos ka't maganda ang trabaho mo, ‘wag mo nang ranasin ang hirap kong dinaranas na pagsasaka ang ibinubuhay ko sa inyo,” he says.


(“Not once did I tell my children to take over farming when I get old. I never told them to do that. I lectured them about finishing school to land a good job so that they won’t have to bear the same suffering that I am going through in farming.”)


The apparent absence of a younger generation to take on the rigorous tasks in the farm opened up opportunities for other laborers to enter the scene.


Most of the farm workers in town were not originally from Morong, a mix of migrants from Laguna, Bicol, and Visayas, among other places.


“Ang nangyayari kasi rito, ‘yung galing sa ibang probinsya, nakikigawa. Kagaya nu’ng mga mag-aani namin, magtatanim, wala namang lehitimong taga-Morong na. Lahat estranghero," Bernie said.


(“Farm workers from other provinces work here, like those who reap and plant in our lands. There are no more homegrown farm workers in Morong. All of them are strangers.”)

SIDEBAR: ‘ESTRANGHERO’


BERNIE MANAPAT FIRST MENTIONS the term on a hot day in March as he explains how he hires a group of farmworkers to plant and harvest rice every season.


Estranghero. In English, it means strangers.


It is the title tacked on to them by the native farmers in Morong — simply because they were not born and bred in Rizal. They come from provinces far away.


In reality, these people are hardly strangers. They have lived in Morong for the past two decades.


Fernando “Pando” Losito, 54, originally hails from Sorsogon. He decided to settle in Morong 20 years ago and he has no plans of ever leaving. His eight children grew up here. His six sons are also farm workers and so was his wife before she retired.


“‘Yun ‘yung tawag ng mga taga-rito, estranghero raw kami kasi wala kaming lupa. Ang lupa namin nasa probinsya namin… pero nakarehistro na kami sa lugar na ito,” Pando says.


(“They call us strangers because we have no land here, our land is in our respective provinces. But we are registered here.”)


He is hardly the only outsider that found his way to Morong. Over a hundred of them who hail from different parts of the Philippines now consider the town their home.


The tension between the two sets of farmers is undeniable.


In initial interviews, Bernie appears to find it disquieting that the role of the estranghero in their town was seemingly growing larger than their presence.


“Parang kami ang naging estrangherong magsasaka,” he says. (“It’s as if we’re the strangers here.”)


But Bernie can’t deny he needs them. They are a vital force in the field. He hires them time and again to do a lot of the dirty work, from harvesting to planting, and the things in between.


Pando says the jobs during the planting and harvest season tend to pile up. He and his team work on one hectare after another in different parts of Morong, sometimes until the last of the sun slips away.


That’s not to say they earn much.


In fact, their earnings definitely took a blow this season — unsurprising, given the El Niño that has wrapped Rizal in near-suffocating heat.


In April, Pando recruits a team of 10 to hack at Bernie’s hectare in Barangay San Jose. They collect the crops; feed them into the thresher that Pando saved up for; sort through the grains; and place them into sacks.


Their payment for three days of hard work came in the form of 20 sacks of rice. This was split among him and his 10 recruits, and they each earned an equivalent of P1,000.


But that’s because luck was on the side of Bernie — the same couldn’t be said in the other farms they worked on.


An afternoon spent at Resty’s one-hectare farm only yields 10 sacks of rice. After splitting the harvest, Pando and the eight farm workers who helped him only got half a sack each.


Even worse, no one wanted to buy the grains because they were crumbling — an effect of the tremendous heat brought on by the El Niño.


“‘Yung palay mahina, tapos minsan maselan pa ‘yung may-ari ayaw magbigay ng konsiderasyon sa amin. Kaya kami nagtitiis na lang kesa walang kainin ang aming pamilya,” he adds.


(“The grain is weak, and sometimes the buyers wouldn’t give us any consideration. We’d just suffer through it because otherwise we’d have nothing to eat.”)


The estranghero’s work is backbreaking. Pando means this literally.


He can no longer carry heavy loads because of a back injury he sustained five years ago.


The day had been close to ending and he pushed himself to finish the work, Pando recalls. He slipped from the dike and fell on his back. He was unable to return to the field for a month.


But despite the taxing work, the health risks, and even the casual discrimination thrown his way, Pando endures and keeps farming despite such little reward.


He knew from the start that he and others like him are disadvantaged because they were born into a poor family and were unable to finish their education.


Still, he sees himself in a better situation compared to when he started. After all, he originally moved to Morong because he gets paid more for a day’s work.


And like many farmers nowadays, Pando is willing to do the work so his grandchildren won’t have to experience the same hardships.


“Ayaw ko na sila makaranas ng ganito, sobrang hirap. Kaya sabi ko sa mga anak ko, pagsikapan ang mga anak niyo. At ako tutulong nalang sa inyo na sila ay hindi magaya sa amin,” he says.


(“I don’t want them to experience this suffering. I tell my children, work hard for your kids. I’ll just help you so they don’t end up like us.”)


Despite the slight resentment between Morong farmers and the estranghero, the two parties have learned to coexist.


Bernie admits that there’s no one to help him; he has encouraged his two children to pursue different livelihoods and managing three hectares of land is too much work for one man.


There would also be no one to take up the job once he’s retired.


Even then, he wouldn’t go so far as to say that the estranghero will be the ones to inherit the land.


There is the issue of the landowners, whose families have always lived in Morong. Bernie says they would not easily entrust their lands to so-called strangers. There’s every chance that when there’s no farmer left to manage the fields, they will simply sell the land to be converted into commercial districts.


But Bernie says that as long as he is able, he is willing to guide the estranghero through the ins and outs of farming in Morong.


“Kailangan ko sila, kailangan rin nila kami. Hanggang kailan, ang tanong. Hanggang kailan?” he asks.


(“I need them, but they also need us. The question is, till when?”)




VI.


BERNIE WAS ABLE TO BEAT THE ODDS, while Resty was not. Bernie risked more hoping for higher rewards, while Resty risked what little he had, simply hoping to survive.


Resty is the face of many farmers in Morong whose investments bore no fruit. He is also the face of those greatly affected by the El Niño, which was technically a mild one even though its impact was anything but.


“Sa tagal ng pagsasaka ko, ngayon lang ako nakaranas ng nagkaganoon at ganoon ang nangyari sa mga palay, ang pagkakasira ay iba. Noon, masira man, may maaani ka pa rin. Ngayon sobra,” Resty says.


(“This was the worst that I have ever experienced in my long years of farming. This was the first time that my crops were damaged that much. In previous El Niños, I still managed to save some harvest. This time it was different. My crops were really scorched.”)


Even during what they used to consider bad seasons in the past, Resty was still able to salvage 25 to 30 sacks of palay. Now he was only able to harvest just four and a half sacks.


According to the Morong Agricultural Office, 86 farmers from Barangays Maybancal and San Pedro filed for crop insurance after their fields were scorched by the mild El Niño. Based on the damage assessment of the local authorities, half of the damaged crops were at the reproductive stage and amounts to P2.61 million. The other half was at the vegetative stage, amounting to P408,000. But these are conservative estimates because not all El Niño-affected farmers applied for crop insurance.


The effect of El Niño in the Philippines is relative. Because the country is not a solid land mass, there are parts that get sufficient rain, even as others suffer dry spells.


This is true even in Morong. Based on information from the Samahan ng mga Pangulo ng Asosasyon sa Morong, Rizal, only an estimated 200 hectares of the 700-hectare irrigated agricultural land was affected by the mild El Niño. Only 176 farmers out of 1,463 in Morong suffered disappointing yields.


As of April 25, the Department of Agriculture pegged the El Niño damage to P7.96 billion — equivalent to a volume loss of 447,889 metric tons. This included P4.4 billion in losses for rice and P3.89 billion for corn.


The El Niño affected 277,889 hectares of land, affecting 247,610 farmers and fisherfolk across all regions in the country.


Cagayan Valley was hardest-hit, comprising 33.60 percent of the total damage, followed by Cordillera, Bicol, Mimaropa, and Bangsamoro. Calabarzon, where Rizal is located, registered 2.22 percent of the total agricultural damage.


All told, the damage due to the El Niño this year is still less than that of previous El Niño seasons.


According to the Department of Agriculture, the El Niño in June 2009 to May 2010 caused P17.44 billion in damage across the country. Agricultural losses amounting to P15.2 billion were recorded nationwide when during the El Niño from February 2015 to July 2016.


But with climate change, there is a danger that the weather conditions that led to these losses could become more frequent.


“Extreme weather conditions are effects of climate change. More frequent extreme events occur. We can observe it when there’s an overabundance of rain, or insufficient amount of rain,” says GMA resident meteorologist Nathaniel Cruz.


El Niño, which used to happen only ever four to six years, could become a more regular occurrence.


“At kapag naging mas madalas ang El Niño at ang epekto niyan dito sa atin ay kawalan ng ulan, eh tayo basically is an agricultural country, eh anong mangyayari ngayon sa ating crop production?” he asks.


(“And what would happen if El Niño, which leads to less rain, comes more often? We’re basically an agricultural country, and what would happen to our crop production?”)


Indeed, damage that used to be relative could simply become the norm.


VII.


AS FEARSOME AS IT MIGHT BE, farmers take the specter of climate change in stride. They will just have to adjust, they say, as they always do. They’re used to it after all.


What they find harder to swallow than being at the mercy of nature is being at the mercy of the government — particularly the government’s recently signed Rice Tariffication Law.


“Ang climate change ‘yan nama'y lugar-lugar ah. Ang apektado kami eh iyang pagka-[tariffication] rice na iyan na iyang ang laki ng aming gastos, ang inaani namin napakababa ng presyo,” Bernie says.


(“The effect of climate change depends on your location. Our pressing problem is rice tariffication because we spend too much on capital but our crops are bought at a cheap price.”)


Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last February, allows the unlimited importation of rice as long as private sector traders secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35-percent tariff for shipments from neighbors in Southeast Asia.


Critics expressed concern that the influx of imported rice could drown the local rice farmers’ livelihood. But its proponents said the law earmarks P10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, of which P5 billion will be allotted to farm mechanization and P3 billion to seedlings.


As of mid-July, tax collection from rice importers reached P6.5 billion, according to the Bureau of Customs. The collection was pegged at an average of P1.4 billion per month after the law took effect in March.


The measure may sound promising in the long run, but for farmers like Bernie who depend on a measly profit in the industry, the daily struggle to make ends meet should not be taken out of the picture.


The expenses prior to planting is already deadly: farmers have to shell out money for diesel, crude oil, seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, and labor — only for their harvest to be sold at such a low price.


“Hindi ‘yung climate change [ang problema], ‘yung presyo ng aming palay. Gaya ko, narito naman kayo nu’ng bilhin ko ang hunos nila (ng mga nag-ani), nu’ng panahong iyon ang presyo ng palay na tuyo P20, ngayon ang presyo ng tuyong palay P18. Bente ang bili ko. Ibebenta ko ng P18? Ano ako nagbibigti na?” he says.


(“Climate change is not our concern, but the prices at which our palay is sold. When I bought the portion that the reapers earned during harvest season, the price of dried palay was P20. Now the price has dipped to P18. Buy at P20 and sell at P18? That’d be like hanging myself, right?”)


The price of fresh palay went down to as low as P12 in some areas, four months after the Rice Tariffication Law was implemented. Former Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has claimed that Filipino rice farmers could lose as much as P114 billion this year because of the steep drop.


President Rodrigo Duterte recently said rice importation should be halted during harvest season to prioritize the welfare of the local farmers. He called this a “happy compromise.”


How would this be reconciled with the Rice Tariffication Law since Section 3 of the act repealed all laws “prescribing quantitative import restrictions”?


Senator Cynthia Villar, the principal author of the law, says Duterte has the special power to restrict the importation.


Whatever action the government decides to do cannot come soon enough for rice farmers.


“Marami nang nawawalan ng pag-asa. Marami nang tinatamad. Unang-una, hindi ‘yun El Niño eh, 'yung baba ng aming produkto dahil sa rice [tariffication] na iyan,” Bernie says.


(“Farmers are losing hope. Many are being discouraged. It’s not because of El Niño but because of rice tariffication.”)


VIII.


BY LATE JULY, THE UNFORGIVING HEAT has been blown away and replaced by constant rains.


And after a wait that’s longer than usual, the farmers in Morong were able to start anew.


The beginning is precarious — each time the field gets flooded with water, their hopes are raised, only to be dashed again when the ground sucks the water dry.


“Ang obserba namin, umulan, nagkatubig, nakapagpunla na rin kami. Bigla rin nawawala ang tubig. Kaya sabi namin, gutom pa ang lupa,” Resty says.


(“We could see there would be rain, there would be water, so we are able to start preparing the seedlings. But the water would suddenly be gone. The land is still thirsty.”)


Finally, the rains stick, and the ground blooms with fresh seedlings.


Resty is somehow able to pay off his P25,000 debt to the local co-op by saving money from his construction sideline and borrowing a little from a relative. He borrowed another P25,000 from the co-op to be able to plant again this season.


There’s no telling what will happen in the next few months. Will they get a reprieve and have a wet season that’s within their normal standards? Or will one of the many typhoons expected to cross the country this year wash their fields empty again?


Either way, they have no choice but to grin and bear it. Resty accepts a new construction job once again, just in case the worst hits again.


“Maski alam kong walang mangyayari... siyempre ang kalamidad hindi natin alam kung may darating o ano. Maski alam kong lalaki ‘yung tubig o matutuyot, siyempre mahahanap mo ‘yung trabaho sa pagsasaka,” Resty says.


“Masakit man tanggapin dahil ‘yung hirap namin at inaasahan ng pamilya...nagkautang pa, nagkaganito pa kami. Walang magagawa talagang sakripisyo ng magsasaka.”


(“Though farming is full of uncertainties, my hands are comfortable in the field. Even though it hurts because all our hard work and our family’s source of income was lost — we ended up in debt — we must accept that this is a sacrifice that farmers have to make.”)


Bernie, on the other hand, is reelected as the president of their association. No one else would like to shoulder the problems the El Niño had brought upon their group, he says in jest.


The culprit behind the burning of the farmers’ water pump was never identified but Bernie believes the suspect was one of their own — someone who was also trying to save his crops from the unforgiving heat.


“Walang aamin noon pero kasamahan rin namin iyon na maaaring nagagalit sa akin o sa aming mga namumuno kasi hindi namin napagbigyan ‘yung gusto nila… [na] gamitin namin ‘yung malaki naming bomba eh wala ngang mahithit. Wala ngang tubig eh. Kaya ang ginawa namin parang nag-reduce kami para ma-maintain ‘yung dumarating sa aming tubig, maraming makinabang,” Bernie said.


(“No one would admit to the crime but I believe the suspect was also one of us. It’s probably someone who resents the decision of the association’s officials not to use the bigger water pump that we have during the dry season. We do not want to use that pump because water was already scarce. We wanted to efficiently use the irrigation so that many would benefit from it.”)


Looking at the wet field being planted again with new seeds, Bernie takes in the picture of fresh hope after what had been a long, desperate summer. He acknowledges the bitter truth.


“Hindi natin kayang labanan ang kalikasan eh. Kusang dumarating 'yan, nagdadaan,” Bernie says. “Kung halimbawa may El Niño naman eh ‘di laban lang nang laban. Kaysa naman magtigil ka sa bahay, wala namang ibang choice… ‘Di ba sabi nga’y kung maikli ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot.”


(“We cannot go against the force of nature. It comes and it goes. If there’s El Niño, then we'll just have to continue fighting. We cannot stop. We have no choice. We’ll have to bend and bear with the situation.”)
BEST STORY IN TOBACCO PRODUCT ALTERNATIVES. 
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LOUISE MAUREEN SIMEON
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The story tackles the vision of having a “smoke-free future as Philip Morris targets to commercialize its “heat-not-burn” IQOS devices. It talks about meeting the changing needs of consumers, and the ways in which technology has paved the way for better alternatives for smokers.
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2019 Tobacco Alternatives Smoke-Free Puffing In The PHL Soon?
Smoke-free puffing in the PHL soon?: Phillip Morris to sell heat-not-burn tobacco product


HONGKONG- Leading mutinational tobacco company Phillip Morris International is not losing its sight on penetrating the smoking population in the Philippines albeit hoping for less stringent regulations at it continues to lean towards a smoke-free puffing world.


With the goal of a “smoke-free future”, the maker of Marlboro and other major cigarette brands, is targeting to commercialize its “heat-not-burn” iQOS devices sooner rather than later, depending on government regulations which it hopes to be less strict than the conventional cigarettes.


“We know that they are ready in the Philippines but I also know that currently, legislators are trying to figure out what to do with this category. When that gets a bit more settled, we will know better how and when,” said James Arnold, PMI director for Regulatory Strategy and Engagement in South and Southeast Asia, in a briefing here.


“There are lot of things that we are currently evaluating, consumer awareness is one of them, looking at the current regulatory framework and hopefully all those we can make a decision soon when to commercialize,” he added.


Latest international data showed that there are close to 16 million Filipino smokers or about 23.8 percent of the adult population.


Another study conducted by PMI also showed that 60 percent of Filipino adult smokers are wiling to try alternatives if these are legal, met quality and safety standards and are conveniently available in the market.


PMI’s iQOS devices use battery power to heat tobacco at a very precise temperature, hot enough to generate aerosol to inhale and release nicotine but never gets to the point that the tobacco burns, which is said to be the major problem, not tobacco nor nicotine.


“Governments should recognize that the world is not binary anymore and there are products that can be part of the solution. We are now across the Asian region, selling in Japan, Korea, and Malaysia, and all of them, we have seen consistently that smokers are ready for something better,” Arnold said.


iQOS has yet to be commercialized in the Philippines and while there are a quite a number of other “smoke-free devices” in the country, these are oftentimes purchased in the black market.


Currently, PMI has a couple of manufacturing facilities in the Philippines which produce the conventional cigarettes but moving toward its goal may also pave the way for a possible additional facility in the future.


“There is good potential for Philippine tobacco in this smoke-free category. We cannot say that it will be a major source but there is a role to play,” Arnold said.


Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC), the Philippine affiliate of PMI, manufactures seven out of the top 10 brands available in the market, led by Marlboro, the world’s number one cigarette brand, and Fortune, the best-selling local brand in the country.


And while several countries, including the Philippines, are focusing on regulation and taxation to bring down cigarette consumption, the World Health Organization already said there will still be around a billion smokers globally by 2025.


“People want to see better alternatives, our ambition is to give consumers what they want, to give smokers better alternatives. We see where consumers are going, what they want, we know that through technology, we can invest in products that can help consumers and transform public health,” Arnold said.


“If you make these products less easily accessible, less palatable to consumers, more expensive, less consumer friendly, what you’re doing is perpetuating the harm caused by smoking and you’re making it really easy for smokers to keep smoking,” he added.


Generally, Arnold said that introducing a new product into an unregulated space, like the Philippines and even in the US, is not ideal but it raises real concern among tobacco regulators that no nicotine product should be unregulated.


“Smokers should be able to know about different products so they can make right choices. This is a totally different category and it should not be regulated similarly to cigarettes. There should be some absolute bars, if the science shows that this product is in a different category of risk and is a better option, then smokers should know that,” Arnold said.


In Japan, for one, the government allowed forms of communication across the whole tobacco category, resulting to million of Japanese switching to heated tobacco products.


“We should look at what consumers want and if they want better choices and science shows that it is possible, the world will get there,” Arnold said.


Scientifically-speaking, Arnold said tobacco harm reduction is a simple proposition but a challenging concept to execute as nicotine is the major factor why people smoke and why they are having a hard time quitting.


“But it is not the primary cause of smoking-related disease, combustion is. So if burning is the problem and nicotine is part of what’s making people continue to smoke, it indicates ideas that can actually solve the problem,” he said.


It was in United Kingdom in 2007 when e-cigarettes were first introduced. Ten years later, studies concluded that it is 95 percent safer than smoking normal cigarettes, with cigarette smoking rate dropping fastest to the lowest levels ever been observed.


“We know that the way people consume tobacco did not change much, tobacco is going to continue but the way people will use it is going to be dramatically transformed,” Arnold said.


“We know the future is not going to involve lighters anymore and rather than sitting back, we are taking a leadership position on that to make sure that smokers have access to better products as quickly as they can and ensure that governments can get policy frameworks in place,” he added. ##
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