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Farmers to presidential bets: Show us your concrete plans

By Walter Balane, Armando Fenequito, Rey Garcia and Julie Jubelag/Aspire 5 News

 

matulac

Francisco Matulac File photo by Walter Balane

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-GRAPHICSRegional 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.

narcisoNarciso 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-GRAPHICSThe 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.
masipag
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)

Valencia City’s ex-mayor Galario: from radio adversary to broadcaster

He used to be a staunch critic of the broadcast media, even padlocking radio stations in Valencia City during his two-term stint at city hall. But guess who is now a broadcaster himself — operating, programming, and going on-air in his own radio station.

Former Valencia City Mayor Jose M. Galario Jr. now operates DXVC, a new 1-kilowatt FM radio station broadcasting from Bagonta-as, Valencia City.

The station styles itself as a member of a network of radio stations owned by the Polytechnic Foundation of Cotabato and Asia, Inc. (PFCAI).

Aside from playing music, the station airs a commentary program hosted by Galario himself. He said its programming is not “scripted” and is determined to report the truth in the city.

Read full report here.

I joined RP2010 Election Watchblog

I just want to announce that I joined RP2010 The Election Watch Blog created recently by Davao blog icon Blogie Robillo.

Here’s what I got from the new blog’s “About” page:

The RP2010.com blog endeavors to be the poll watchdog for the Philippine Presidential Elections in the year 2010. As such, we, the bloggers behind it, commit to helping ensure clean and honest elections through non-partisan coverage of election-related news and commentary.

I like poll blogging. I think this blog is different, however, because it will not only be a venue for just ANY commentary. This one leans towards and focuses on advocacy for clean and honest elections.

Being present at the Fourth Mindanao Media Summit

Participants take time to smile and relax for a date with posterity

Participants take time to smile and relax for a date with posterity (Photo by Skippy Lumawag courtesy of Mindanews)

The formal sessions of the 4th Mindanao Media Summit just concluded early afternoon today, 09 August 2008.

The theme: “Mindanao 2020: The vision begins with us”, is placed in an imposing tarp at the back draft. It was a reminder to me as a member of the group who took on “drafting” the vision from the participants. “Where are the other members of the styling committee?” I asked myself.

I ate a late breakfast today as I stayed late for my recent attempt to write a narrative report. So when I entered the summit hall, I have to do some catching up on who did what the night before.

I caught up on the secretariat who were busy calling the rest of the group for the picture taking.

Meanwhile, I picked the shiniest plate on the buffet table and proceeded to feast on hotel breakfast. In my peripheral vision and hearing I could hear Jocan talking me to drop the breakfast for a moment and smile it out in the photographic firing squad.

I managed some sips of brewed coffee and few scoops of the one-serving steamed rice and the hard-boiled egg and beef curry sud-an. I have to or I couldn’t move a muscle to say “cheese”. Oh, I went there seconds later as I have to squeeze in my summit shirt. I went there to see if the pool was really tempting enough for some laps of swimming, to regret I didn’t plunge when I could last night.

The last day of the three-day gathering of Mindanao media’s “decision-makers” started with quaint picture taking by the poolside of the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Lanang, Davao City.

It was supposed to capture for the future the faces of the news professionals who participated in the summit in a step to improve capacity as stakeholder to peace and development in Mindanao. Read More…

Broadcaster files raps vs. ComVal legislator in Mindanao

Compostela Valley board member Neri Barte is now facing charges of serious physical injuries, grave coercion, grave threats, serious misconduct and grave abuse of authority for allegedly attacking a Radyo Natin broadcaster right inside the announcer’s booth as the latter was on air.

Natin broadcaster Roel Sembrano filed the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao in the presence of his colleagues from the tri-media.

Sembrano recounted to reporters his encounter with Barte on Oct. 24 at the announcer’s booth.

He said he was on his daily morning program, Haring Lungsod Ikaw and Nasayod, when Barte, with his wife and daughter, barged into the announcer’s booth and mauled him, even drawing out a gun and pointed it towards him. Read the rest of the report on MindaNews.com.


(My Views) Reforms in selection process urged for Comelec

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting threw in their take on the recent noise at the Commission on Elections.

PPCRV saw something fishy in the alleged lack of transparency in the selection process with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s appointment of Iligan City judge Moslemen Macarambon, Sr. Read the MindaNews story here.

The poll watchdog making noise even from the start, say, in the appointment of commissioners is commendable. This is good rather than just deal with the problem only on election day.

I think the public clamor is more particular on the need to reform the selection process, instead of being so inhuman to dwell on the personal. Read More…

Juicy incentives await barangay officials

 Juicy economic benefits await winners of Monday’s barangay elections, officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said.

Rodolfo Razul, DILG regional director for Southeastern Mindanao, said economic perks are among the drawing points why the number of candidates for the barangay polls has increased.

In 1991, when governance was devolved to the local government units down to the barangays, the honorarium of a barangay kagawad was P600 and the barangay chair, P1,000 per month at the lowest.

“Now, officials in Davao City’s upland barangays would receive at least P2,000 per kagawad and P3,000 per barangay chair,” Merilou Limbaro, DILG city director, told MindaNews.

In the more urbanized areas Limbaro said the honorarium could be at least P3,000 for kagawads and P5,000 for barangay chair.Read the rest of the report on MindaNews.com.