LETTERS FROM DAVAO

By Jun Ledesma

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte issued a clarion call to the nation to unite behind the incoming administration.  Indeed, we are facing the biggest challenges -- the wave after wave of oil price increases and resulting in the looming food crisis.  

We have just wiggled out from the scourge of coronavirus and the engines of our economic recovery have just started to rev. The economic team of Duterte has managed to steady the course and the country is emerging as the most resilient in southeast Asia. 

But there are external factors that are beyond our control. The price of oil commodities has skyrocketed and there are no indicators it will wane. There are no wise guys who can stop the price hike. Meantime, the biggest challenge for the incoming administration is to sustain the momentum of recovery. 

Thus, Duterte asks the nation to put a stop to the divisive politicking that we went thru and to rally behind the incoming administration.  

For now president-elect Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has been holding constant dialogues with the members of his economic team to brace up for the impact of the oil and food crises. As we see it, the government can come up with mitigating measures to address the oil crisis.  

The solutions to the food crisis however are all within the control of the government. Top on the list is the sufficiency of rice. Marcos' assumption into office is precisely timed with the planting season and his agriculture team should hit the ground running. Rice on average takes about four months for from planting to harvesting and then milling. With the right incentives like guaranteeing to buy farmers palay from ₱18 -₱20/kilo farmers will be able to deliver the volume of rice we need. 

The Department of Agrarian Reform on the last minute on the clock comes up with the idea of consolidating farm holding particularly those of agrarian reform beneficiaries.  Sec. Bernie Cruz claimed that this will finally bring down the price of rice to ₱20.00.  That concept actually is not new. During the early implementation of Marcos' “land for the actual tillers” agrarian reform program, DAR under Agrarian Reform Minister Conrado Estrella, consolidated farms out a chunk from the Davao Penal Colony in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte, was awarded to prisoners who had finished serving their prison terms but opted to stay in Davao. They call it Tanglaw Settlement. It is a contiguous area and therefore easy to consolidate.   Tagum Agricultural Development  Corporation (TADECO) helped in the clearing and preparation of the land and had it irrigated later. 

Secretary Cruz cited Cory Aquino’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. CARP actually contributed to the decline of production in that actual tillers, meaning tenants, were out-smarted by speculators who hate the smell of the earth but were awarded farmlands just the same because they do not own farmlands. CARP dumped Marcos' land-for-the-actual tillers program in favor of Cory’s “land for landless” dictum.  CARP, by the way, also had provisions that allowed the issuance of shares of stocks instead of land titles. Such was the case of Hacienda Luisita of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan. In retrospect, the Court of Chief Justice Renato Corona decided to issue land titles to tenant farmers. The vengeful regime had him impeached later over flimsy issues. 

We have abundant sources of fish. Domingo Ang, the owner of Davao City’s Marina Tuna, has some suggestions: Open special windows at the Land Bank of the Philippines or the Development Bank for fishermen to avail of cheap loans so they can purchase the right fishing gear. The Cooperative Development Authority personnel should come out of their airconditioned rooms and encourage fisherfolk to organize coops for them to be granted long-term loans to buy boats equipped with cold storage, generators, communication, and other fishing gear. So there. Do not believe the fairy tale of William Dar. If there’s a will, there’s a way and importation is not one of them.

Fishermen coops can also engage in marine fish cage culture. Inland fishing has now a huge potential with the legislation of hatcheries for marine and freshwater fishes. Thanks to Congressman Alan Dujali of the 2nd District of Davao del Norte for the draft and authorship of the bill which has become a law.

Our vegetable farmers grow more than what we can eat and it is, therefore, a sorrowful mystery why we import and even countenance the smuggling of vegetables. 

Our poultry product had been hit by avian diseases. We need not import the whole chicken. Maybe it's cheaper to import hatching eggs instead. In a month's time from hatching, there will be enough spring chicken for everyone. 

Anyway, the ball is in the hands of President-elect Bongbong Marcos now. He needs all the support from all quarters. As President Duterte enunciated we should now put a stop to politicking and rally behind the incoming administration.  

In times like this, “united we stand, divided we fall”.  

About the Columnist

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Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.