By Walter Balane, Armando Fenequito, Rey Garcia and Julie Jubelag/Aspire 5 News
SINAYAWAN, Valencia City – Francisco Matulac never got tired. At 68, he still farms rice like he did in 30 years. His neighbors would always see him as an able-bodied old man. He never runs out of anything to fix. Work in the farm and the household make him happy.
But not on this particular cropping season. In a backyard shed are 50 bags of organic fertilizers he bought but cannot use. For the past days, he has been cursing about it. He and the 38 members of the Lateral G-7 Bayanihan Irrigators Association here were unable to plant rice due to lack of water. Bukidnon, initially not in the forecast, is among the 32 provinces affected by the El Niño.
He knew they cannot blame it all on the weather. The other problem, Matulac added, is that the government did not act swiftly to help farmers prepare for the dry spell.
“Wala na gani ulan, manhid pagihapon kaayo ang NIA (National Irrigation Administration) sa ilang mahal nga irrigation fee (While we have no rains, the National Irrigation Administration refuses to waive irrigation fees),” he said.
Bobo Narciso, head of the Abag Kalambuan (Support Development) peoples’ organization, one of the biggest associations of farmers in southern Bukidnon, said the concerns of small farmers like Matulac should be at the core of the 2016 national election candidates’ agenda for Mindanao – considered the country’s food basket.
“The problem is they are giving us motherhood statements about their plans,” he added in a telephone interview Thursday night.
Narciso cited the promises of presidential candidates to work for an increase of the budget for Mindanao to boost agriculture and the economy of the region as a whole.
During the presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro on February 21, Sen. Grace Poe and Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte spoke of the need to increase the budget share, which at present is P380.9 billion or 22.2 percent of the P3 trillion national budget in 2016.[VIEW INFO-GRAPHICS: Regional Share of Mindanao’s P380.9 billion budget (Source: MinDA)
“The electorate should push for the candidates to cite concrete examples. The devil is in the details,” he said.
Narciso speaks to farmers in a forum in Don Carlos, Bukidnon, Philippines
Narciso’s FB Account
Narciso said they wanted to check if candidates are with them on specific concerns.
Farmers feared the unknown about their fate in the economic integration brought by the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), he said. He explained that with zero tariff on agricultural products, among others, they cannot compete without sufficient and appropriate government support.
“We need price subsidies for major farming inputs such as fertilizer. We want to decrease irrigation service fees, among others. Are they in favor of that?” he asked.
He said pushing for an increase in the budget for Mindanao is not enough. The candidates should also reveal how they will use the budget, he added.
“If we have an increased budget, well and good. But if they will just use it to build airports and seaports in the urban centers, then it doesn’t directly help ,” he said.
Farmers in Mindanao needed more and longer farm to market roads, post harvest facilities, cold storage and other facilities.
“Is their bigger budget for Mindanao going to agriculture and is it intended for the small farmers or for the multinational corporations?” he asked.
Except for Senator Miriam Santiago, all four other presidential candidates, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Duterte, Poe and Manuel Roxas III have expressed more than one specific programs on agriculture as of February 25, based on an online research by Aspire 5 News.
All the four, except Roxas, pronounced making irrigation available for free. [VIEW INFO-GRAPHICS: The Presidential Bets and their Agriculture Agenda]
According to gov.ph, the over-all budget for the Department of Agriculture for the country in 2016 is at P93.4 billion. This is nothing compared to the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) at P766.5 billion with about P268.4 billion intended to pave all national roads by 2016 and construct access roads to airports, seaports, and tourist destinations.
In North Cotabato, the farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the additional budget increase will not help the plight of the farmers.
Jerry Alborme, KMP spokesperson told Aspire 5 News via telephone the farmers are always left behind in the budget even this year with a 25.7 percent increase or about P78 billion additional allocation for Mindanao.
“Wala man gyud na (nila) matilawi sukad pa na sa una (They have never experienced any development),” he said.
Alborme said that until now farmers still face woes like lack of water system and farming assistance. LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW : Jerry Alborme, KMP-North Cotabato
“Kanunay gyud naga krisis ang kinabuhi sa mga mag-uuma nga mao man unta ang nagahimo og mga produkto sa atong nasod (The life of of the farmers are always in crisis even if they are the ones who made the food products),” he said.
Most farmers have been buried in debts especially that the province has experienced dry spell.
“Here in North Cotabato, the only response of our government is the P4 million cloud seeding,” he added.
Alborme said for the farmers, the dry spell is just a secondary concern.
The primary disaster, he added, is that their farm products are bought at a cheap price (in the market).
Romeo Montenegro, director for investments and public affairs of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), in a telephone interview said the issues raised by the farmers are valid.
But he clarified that while it appeared that the budget for farm to market roads is smaller compared to the budget for highways, airports, and seaports it doesn’t mean small farmers were neglected.
He said the cost of building airports and seaports is always higher than how much it would to build farm to market roads.
Montenegro said increasing the budget for Mindanao has always been the goal. But it should be viewed at per capita share. He argued that Mindanao’s per capita share of the budget is now higher compared to those of Luzon and the Visayas.
“(This means Mindanao residents are better off compared to years ago),” he added. As of midnight, Montenegro was unable to send a copy of the report showing the per capita figures.
The farmers are worried about another thing.
Alborme from KMU’s North Cotabato chapter said any additional budget might be diverted.
“It has been a tradition of our politics in the country that the candidate of the administration will use it to buy votes,” he said.
Armida Pajaron, a community officer of a non-government organization supporting farmers in Valencia City said agriculture is one of the sectors prone to corruption.
“I observed that most budgets for farmers implemented by DA (Department of Agriculture) go to whoever is close to their heart,” she added.
A farmer in Dabongdabong, Valencia City inspects a rice stalk
Photo courtesy of Masipag Mindanao
At the time it reaches the farm level, she said, it has already gone through a lot of cuts. She said the government should address this problem.
“You can have a big budget on paper high above, but it doesn’t mean that intended recipients at the grassroots get it all,” she said in the vernacular.
Some of DA’s projects on fertilizer and seed subsidies became controversial. VIEW RELATED STORY: DA investigators find irregularities in P30M NIA organic fertilizer project.
Alborme said that the government should provide assistance to farmers for fertilizers and seedlings, especially in times of calamity.
The farmers, he said, are always short of money because calamities damaged their crops.
He urged that the next national government officials should pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill into law to address the issue of land distribution, one of the major factors of production.
Alborme said he also urged other farmer groups to exert pressure on Congress to pass the bill.
The problem with Congress, he added, is some of their members are also big landlords.
Abag Kalambuan’s Narciso said farmers want their government to listen to their needs.
“They can’t make plans addressing poverty and development here if the government don’t come and talk to us,” he said.
Bukidnon and North Cotabato were two of the 16 poorest provinces in the country in 2014.
Francisco Matulac, the farmer from Sinayawan, Valencia City, is cursing as he covered his bags of fertilizers with tarp late that afternoon.
He said it’s the government who earned his ire for its failure to act on the farmers’ needs.
“The El Nino is bad for us, but their slow response is the worse disaster,” Matulac said. (Walter Balane, Armando Fenequito, Rey Garcia and Julie Jubelag/Aspire 5 News)
In many neighborhoods, bamboo fences are common fare. The use of bamboo as material for fence is most affordable for Filipinos especially in rural and sub-urban areas.
There is a proper way to cut the poles – near the nodes. A wrong way of cutting, however, exposes us to risk. If cut too far away from the nodes, the open bamboo cylinders are receptacles of water and — possible mosquito breeding sites. Dengue fever is one common condition not only in poor communities in the tropics. Even developed city-states like Singapore have to deal with it.
Let us not host mosquitoes in our homes. Often, we are reminded that receptacles or catchments should be turned upside down, be emptied to help drive away mosquitoes.
Receptacles on bamboo poles in fences, however, could never be turned upside down like pails or canisters. Instead, we must put a hole at the bottom of the receptacle to drain water. This will rid us from breeding sites for mosquitoes and possibly mosquito-borne diseases like dengue.
With a hole as drain, you may also cover the bamboo receptacle with anything clean to block entry of liquid.
We know this is an old practice for many. I got reminded of this by a family member. It’s time to share this practice to others so they can also do it in their neighborhoods.
Things needed: A hammer or any hard object like a rock to be used to pound. A steel bar or any pointed concrete object.
Time needed: Five minutes only.
Apil na sa Buslot Buntong Anti Dengue Challenge!
What can be done? Include anti-dengue measures as an item in the agenda of meeting in the purok/zone or barangay. Invite a health advocate to speak on dengue and what can be done against it. During community work or pahina, include the checking and draining of bamboo poles used in fencing the neighborhood as part of the many anti-dengue measures. If you are already doing it, you may post the photo/video of you taking the challenge in your neighborhood (Optional).
One simple safety act a day, keeps the danger away.
Waltzib of Kalasungay, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines
By Walter I. Balane
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:
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.
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.
DA investigators find irregularities in P30M NIA organic fertilizer project. A fact finding team created by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala in July 2010 found irregularities in the National Irrigation Administration’s P30-million bio-organic fertilizer subsidy program implemented in Region 10 in 2009, among them that there was only one bidder and that the organic fertilizer delivered did not comply with the specifications of the procuring entity, “hence should have not been accepted and paid for.”
No raps, only ‘reorientation’ for NIA officials behind P30-M fertilizer program. Irregularities were found in the implementation of the National Irrigation Agriculture’s fertilizer subsidy program in Northern Mindanao, but Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was satisfied with the recommendations to withdraw and replace the substandard organic fertilizers released to farmers and reorient the officials behind the questionable P30-million project on bidding procedures.
In her letter to Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata on October 18, Lealyn A. Ramos, Department of Agriculture-X regional executive director said the recommendations came from the investigation team formed by her office.
Rice farmers in this city were among the recipients of the organic fertilizers distributed by NIA-10 in 2009. At least 1,000 farmers in Northern Mindanao, mostly in Bukidnon received the fertilizer procured with funds from the DA’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) – Rice Program.
Ramos said the reorientation means keeping all members of NIA-10’s bids and awards committee abreast with the latest updates of the Government Procurement Reform Act (RA 9184).
She said Alcala’s decision was prompted by Sangguniang Panlungsod Resolution no. 425-2011 passed on August 1 urging the secretary to “take the appropriate actions based on the said recommendations.”
Alcala’s decision drew the ire of City Councilor Glenn Peduche, who was among the first to expose the alleged irregularities of the project, including lapses in bidding and the reportedly substandard quality of the fertilizer.
“The DA should conduct a more in-depth investigation how this happened. If proven to have violated the law, perpetrators must face the consequences,” Peduche said.
[The report is an Investigative Journalism project of the author for the Asian Center for Journalism Ateneo de Manila University MA Journalism course.]
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.
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…