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Changing the world starting from one’s dining table

On the road to a resort in Lianga, Surigao del Sur late on October 28, our Grassroots Documentation and Reporting Training Team talked about the application of science in the food that we eat.

It was a humorous but “meaty” chatter. The usual one you get into inside the vehicle while heavy rains slow your trip down. A check on the time piece showed dinner should go ahead before check in.

We talked about the chicken in the fast food chains. We talked about the poultry products in our breakfast table. Then the conversation extended to the synthetics of food preparation in the world of fast food chains and how they alter way of life and relationships. Fast food vs. slow food. Old vs. new ways to prepare food. We also talked about that World Toilet Summit in Beijing (yeah, but that’s another thing.)

Just a week before, I sat next to a Vegan. Is that how you call people who live on plant-based diet?

So I had some inputs to make in the car ‘conversation’: that natural diet is a healthier choice.

When we arrived at the resort and dinner was served later, I was shocked to find fried chicken on the table. Wew! While most of us skipped it at least as the main course, I find it very funny.The caterer later on told us they failed to follow the agreed food requirements.

We usually have nice conversations on health and diet; very nice,  that we often do not see them in our decisions and actions.

The simple reflection I got during the chatter was quiet an awakening.

If I want to correct what for me were unhealthyfood  decisions, I should rather start it on my dining table.

Back in Malaybalay, I wanted to bring the reflection closer to home.

I immediately shared about the advantages of this diet choice. I felt it was welcomed, in the light homecoming conversation. But I realized its not going to be easy.

When you are not the only one deciding in the kitchen, the market day, and the budget, there will be complications on your desire to initiate or explore a healtheir diet.

This thing about science, technology and food is quite a sensitive topic at home. Because of preferences and primarily due to the lack of time to prepare with everyone working for a living and not being able to afford hiring a househelp.

I realized it requires mass-based, proper and open consultations with every one concerned at home. It requires education about diet, health, among other things.

We even need rules on how to talk about it (why and how are we going to change the menu that has been our choice through time?) We need information and communication. We need not only one-sided information dissemination. We need to listen to one another. (Now this sounds like the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front already.).

Anyway, we also cannot miss out on the environment or the market.

The poultry industry, despite the talk of unhealthy hybrid/synthetic-based production (millions of eggs in how many days?) is a big and multi-million industry.

If you look at trimming it down you are looking at cutting on the feeds sector, and eventually the corn industry for example.

From my window in Kalasungay, I can smell the odor of poultry farms in Patpat, our neighbor village in Malaybalay City.

What I thought are micro personal choices and basic human rights will have bearing on the world economy!

Likewise, the choices we make in our kitchens are  affected by the choices offered by the market. Its an economic structure embedded into our way of life.

I remembered a colleague expressed his potent view over that dinner in Lianga: “That’s why most of us often get sick” and “that’s why doctors and hospitals are making money.”

Who is winning if we are losing? Such a formidable foe I supposed.

I missed the forum organized by anti- GMO (genetically modified organism) groups (sorry for this label) or should I say pro-organic farming groups last week in Bukidnon State University where Bt Talong took centerstage.It should have been a venue for critical information.

We all need to look at these options laid on the table by modern science and technology. Science does wonders, too. I think what we must remember is that “modern” doesn’t always mean healthy.

That’s why I still wanted to offer my two-cents worth in the big cloud and inter-gallactic movement for change.

I start going natural and fry-free food for breakfast, at least. I hope it will snowball into something more significant.(The folks at home do not entirely like this move at all.)

But like the ripple effect, it starts from baby steps.

Maybe if we change what we eat for meals at home, we help change the landscape of our farms and plantations.  (End)

NIA’s organic fertilizers for Northern Mindanao: People’s money in shadowy subsidy

Hundreds of farmers become recipients of at most 20 bags each of organic fertilizers. But not all of them are happy. Some claimed they received 'very dry' stocks, useless fertilizers.

MALAYBALAY CITY, Philippines – About P30 million worth of organic fertilizer subsidy implemented by the National Irrigation Administration in Region 10 for thousands of farmers in Northern Mindanao becomes subject of public inquiry after farmers complained it is of sub-standard quality.

NIA-10 proposed the project to help irrigators’ associations they are working with to improve their yield in rice along thousands of hectares of rice farms.

But the farmers found the fertilizer useless, and a government official finds out it was produced by a company owned by no less than the NIA national administrator’s family.

Some farmers also found out that the report of the number of bags released to them was bloated: two farmers received only a total of 60 bags, and a receivable of 20 bags more; but the distribution report showed a total of 200 bags were released to them.

Here are some links to the running story of the controversial Northern Mindanao organic fertilizer subsidy project as posted on news website MindaNews:

A dog sleeps above a pile of unused organic fertilizer in bags in a farmers' association garage in Sinayawan, Valencia City, Bukidnon

Samples of NIA-distributed organic fertilizers taken as Bukidnon board member alleges scam. The FPA-10 regional office already sent board member Glenn Peduche a copy but the results are yet to be revealed.

Valencia agriculturist says NIA didn’t coordinate with LGUs. Engr. Gerson Galvan said NIA did not have the expertise to test the quality of the organic fertilizers.

Bukidnon Gov wants P-Noy to look into fertilizer scam. The Department of Agriculture already announced it has initiated an investigation by ordering their legal division to probe on the issue.

Mayor-wife of NIA chief supplier for NorMin’s P30-M fertilizer subsidy program. NIA-10 regional director Julius Maquiling was qouted in official records of the Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan that Lila, Bohol mayor Regina Salazar owned Bayugan, Agusan del Sur-based supplier 3K and C  Enterprises. He identified the mayor to be the wife of NIA administrator, now replaced, Carlos Salazar.

NIA chief Salazar owns outlet supplying NorMin’s fertilizer subsidy program, says FPA.  The Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority Manila Office revealed that Carlos Salazar, the NIA administrator actually owned the company, based on documents he submitted to the FPA to apply for product registration.

DA team starts 45-day probe on NorthMin organic fertilizer project. The Department of Agriculture, upon request of the Bukidnon provincial board, has initiated an investigation into the possible organic fertilizer scam. NIA officials have been investigated. The report is due oin mid-September.

Organic fertilizers and pesticides are left to the elements at a motor pool of the National Irrigation Administration compound in Valencia City pending an investigation.

P2.3M worth of fertilizers in Bukidnon put on hold. The Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority has put on hold P2.3-million worth of organic fertilizers and pesticides here following complaints by farmers over alleged substandard quality, overpricing, and rigged bidding.

About 2,700 bags of Grow Organic Fertilizers and 3,741 liters of Green Organic liquid fertilizer-pesticides have been placed inside a motor pool building in the National Irrigation Administration compound after these were delivered in the first quarter of 2010.

Jimmy Apostol, NIA Bukidnon irrigation officer, told MindaNews Wednesday the fertilizers and pesticides are part of the last of three tranches of the NIA’s Bio-Organic Fertilizer Subsidy Project in Northern Mindanao initiated in June 2009.

The stocks have been put on hold since last June 4 by virtue of an FPA “stop use/stop move/stop sale” (SUMS) order pending their own tests of samples.

Two months after samples were taken, the fertilizers and pesticides are still kept in the open motor pool building.

Next:  Full-length Investigative Report on the NIA 10′s Organic Fertilizer Subsidy.

[The report is Investigative Journalism project for the Ateneo de Manila University MA Journalism course. Note: This is just a teaser to the full-length report.]

EO 765: Good for bakers, bad for corn farmers

First published in MindaNews.com. President Arroyo signed Executive Order 765 in December 2008  claiming that  “reduction on tariff on food wheat would help stabilize the price of bread and other baked food products.” Unfortunately, former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor said in a report that the order did not only include the lifting of tariff on importation of food wheat or milling wheat, the ingredient used to produce bread, but also on feed wheat, which like corn, is used as animal feed.

Excess feed wheat supply brought by the zero tariff has competed with local corn supply, Roderico Bioco founding chair of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. told MindaNews.

The implementation of EO 765 has led to an estimated P6-billion losses in income for corn farmers and at least P1-billion loss in revenues for government, Montemayor, now a member of the House representing of the ABA-AKO party list, said.

The lowest price for yellow corn was P6.50 per kilo or P6, 500 per MT, lower than the production cost of P10.

The  Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported  last week that the price of corn had dropped from P 9 per kilo to P7.50 during a five-week period.

The executive order was effective until June 2009 but favoring sectors, including the livestock feed millers lobbied for the extension. The corn industry stakeholders such as the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. and ABA AKO party list lobbied against the extension. Read More…

Time to harvest?

The Bukidnon Forest Incorporated has initiated its clearance process to cut down trees in its industrial forest plantation project in Bukidnon. Read news report here.

This must be subject to scrutiny especially viewing it from the firm’s reported dismal record of reforestation since it started operating in 1989.

The firm might be good in cutting but are they as good in planting? This should be considered in the approval of its application for Environmental Compliance Certificate.

Its Industrial Forest Plantation Management Agreement (IFMA, yes silent “P”), which will expire in 2016, should be reviewed if they have cut more than they planted.

Communities near those areas subject for reforestation and cutting should be empowered to monitor this endeavor.

Released Philippine eagle killed in Mt. Kitanglad

Three-year-old Philippine Eagle “Kagsabua” was killed by a local airgun shooter near the village where
he was released just four months ago inside the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, an environment official said.

Felix Mirasol, community environment and natural resource officer, confirmed to MindaNews Wednesday that witnesses have identified the culprit described as a young man who failed to attend information
drive on the Philippine Eagle (pithecophaga jefferyi).

Mirasol is the Mt. Kitanglad Protected Area superintendent.

Kagsabua was last sighted on July 7 and was known to be missing between July 8 and 10, Mirasol said. He said a search operation was immediately launched. Read More…

Kalilang in a hotel under renovation, and identity in Mindanao

It was a bit awkward for me and Omar, a reserved Maguindanaoan who tried to be informative, as we took a peek at the wedding of a couple from two big Maguindanaoan families in Cotabato City.

We were looking through the window from our side of the conference hall— we looked like kids wanting to gate crash or something. Everybody in the training was doing just that as we waited for our morning session to start.

We were holding grassroots documentation and reporting training next door and the arrival of wedding guests drew our attention —especially when traditional wedding songs and hymns began to play. Read More…

No rice shortage in Bukidnon?

Measuring my rice has been the tease at home — something that has caused me ‘hunger’. When you are carrying heavier load than you should, you know what I mean.

I did try to eat less of it every time I remember; most of the time I failed.

So when the rice shortage news was carried in broadsheets the tease hit me even more. There was a friend who said I was to be blamed. I was also blamed for the protests in Tibet. Read More…

Surviving in the Mindanao “island village”

I couldn’t help but be depressed listening to stories of conflict that continue to afflict our people.  The images and sounds are chilling.

Sometimes I shut my senses out in order to avoid the hassle. But, normally that isn’t possible.

Maybe its the same surge of terror that pushed me to post this piece even if I had been plagued with a mysterious strain of “blog silence”. Mute, but not muted. Read More…

Rehab sought on Bukidnon’s Mt. Kitanglad

 The provincial board of Bukidnon has approved a resolution seeking more funds for the rehabilitation and reforestation of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park. Read full report here.

In a resolution approved on January 30, the provincial board “significantly and zealously” requested Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., Second district Rep. Teofisto Guingona III and First district Rep. Candido Pancrudo, Jr. for additional funding for the park.
The four officials were asked to allocate at least P1 million each for reforestation and rehabilitation of the mountain, which was declared a protected area in 2000 by Republic Act 8978.

The resolution did not specify, however, how the allocation would be allocated.

As a protected area, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was supposed to get annual budget from the national government to maintain, conserve and rehabilitate the mountain, a source from a non-government agency working in the area, said.

This was confirmed by an environment official. “Very minimal allocation is downloaded to the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) from the General Appropriations Act every year so we rely on the local government,” said Agustin Lilangan, a desk officer at the Protected Area Superintendent office.

This should be a priority indeed as the whole of Bukidnon is considered a watershed.

I used this as an update this month considering the concern’s urgency. Please come back for more entries. :)

Upward legal battle

From the office of councilor Nenita Orcullo in 2004, when it was first proposed, Davao City’s ordinance banning aerial spraying seems bound for the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals granted the plea of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association for a 60-day temporary restraining order — stopping the city government’s ban for two months.

The city government might want to appeal the TRO, but is likely to focus on PBGEA’s major petition, which questions the Regional Trial Court decision on the ordinance’s constitutionality and validity.

Read the latest on the issue at Mindanews.com.

Mindanao biz speak up on government’s anti-graft focus

Mindanao traders are keen on seeing government putting up systems to prevent corruption rather than seeing suspects charged and convicted, an official of the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC) said.

Vicente Lao, MinBC chair, told a press conference for the road show here Friday of the multi-sectoral National Anti-Corruption Program for Action (NACPA), that businessmen have simpler wishes: that procedures were implemented to prevent graft and corrupt practices to prosper.

“We don’t like to see a lot of people being convicted. Instead, we would like to see systems institutionalized to prevent corruption,” he told the press conference presided by TanodBayan Maria Merceditas Gutierrez.

 Read the rest of the report at MindaNews.com.

BizTalk: Shaping up to cut cost

I haven’t covered the Mindanao Shippers’ Conference in June but in the sidelines I heard one of the organizers talk about the high cost of freight as among the bigger concerns there.

I was reminded of this when I interviewed Maritine Industry Authority officer in charge Virgillio Armonia last week.

He said small shippers should pool their cargo to minimize freight cost as shipping lines charge by container van.

Armonia stressed that the practice for now is costly because most of the shippers are not organized, as this report on MindaNews.com presents.

What’s the significance of this? The small shippers referred to are mostly growers and marketers of fruits and vegetableproducts. Many of them consolidate ouput from small to medium scale farmers in countryside communities. Read More…

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