Farmers, not capital, produce food

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


OUR last week issue’s editorial was titled “Give agri a face”, and our headline read: “Farmers, fisherfolk sufferP1-B in losses”. Why?  We sought to call the attention of local governments to start viewing the agriculture sector as an industry that depends largely on people -farmers and fishermen. The agri sector does not exist on capital resources but human resources that need support.

This concern was underscored when the Provincial Agriculture Office reported to the Sanggunian Panlalawigan to give the latter an update on the extent of destruction and damage of Typhoon Ompong two weeks ago.

Dutifully, the assistant provincial agriculturist rattled off figures and values in pesos to describe the reported damages as relayed by municipal agriculture offices in the province.

Perusing the figures, I thought the local agriculture offices were indeed on the top of the situation.

He said damage to agriculture reached P1.1- billion after the habagat (monsoon rains) in July and August, and  another P1.6-billion worth of palay, vegetables and other high-value crops were destroyed Typhoon Ompong.

This was complemented by PDRRMCs report on the breakdown:

Agriculture: Palay P1,524,343,636.92  from damaged 52,602 hectares in 46 LGU’s; Fish from  36,034 hectares in 11 LGU’s initially P18,699,000; Assorted vegetables: mango (7,716 trees), banana (9,286 hills), 676 papaya trees, ( 2,135 metric tons), from 25 LGUs, P105,695,095.42 estimated damages or a partial/unofficial total damages as of September 25 is P1,649,008,592.

Reports were very detailed except that the reports did not even have a line on the plight of our farmers, they who shouldered the brunt of all the reported losses.

A more comprehensive report that includes data on human resources could have helped government planners and policymakers to formulate appropriate strategies.

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FARMERS-ORIENTED NARRATIVE.  Hopefully, my questions below will help PAO and PDRRMC prepare a better narrative of the extent of destruction and damage to the sector.

  1. Based on reported damage of P1.1 billion, how many rice and vegetable farmers saw their farms wiped out? Which towns/cites suffered the most? What was the estimate?  
  2. How many farmers had to borrow loans for their lost crops? What was total value of loans secured by farmers for lost crops?
  3. How much will it take the farmers who lost their crops to replant and pay their obligations from the lost crops?

The absence of these data are exactly what prompt today’s children of farmers decide not to continue farming as their primary means of livelihood.  If nothing is done to address this, soon, with no one among their children willing to take over, the lowly parents will just decide to sell their rights to the farm to land developers. When they do, the province will have to rely on production of farmers of other provinces to sustain our population.

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CLIMATE CHANGE’S TARGET VICTIMS.  There is no denying that climate change has targeted farmers as its primary victims.

It has, therefore, become imperative for our government to acknowledge this fact, that  our farmers will continue to face their most difficult time from hereon. Theirs will be a crisis every year, every time a typhoon hits home.

Without these data and strategic responses to the plight of farmers, the next two generations will bear the burden of sourcing food outside Pangasinan.

In fact, it will be useful for the provincial government to commission a study and a survey to determine the appropriate response so our farmers plight in order to help sustain production while improving their lives.

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BAD NEWS ABOUT CROP INSURANCE. I am heartened by the news that finally our small farmers are told and taught that they can have access to crop insurance.

But having the access and actually benefitting from it are two different things. As insurance business goes, there are many gray areas for negotiations of claims that almost always lead to corruption and malversation.

There is a risk that syndicates familiar with the processing of claims will use the system to further exploit the small farmers plight who would just be too happy to receive any amount from their claims.

It is important that safety nets are provided to protect our farmers from abuses of the crop insurance.

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LIGHT UP AND RECORD . Below is a troubling message from a friend, Childe Libertad.

He called our attention to a recent incident involving mugging of high school students by drug addicts around the premises of the St. John Cathedral.

Childe pointed to a dark area on the side of cathedral which is lighted or turned off  by the church when it chooses to. The mugger-addicts have marked the place as their territory and anyone who passes through it takes the risk of being mugged, knifed or killed.

Would it be asking too much from the church to keep their lamps in that area continuously   lighted till late evening to allow unsuspecting students to pass through safely? At the same time, can a parishioner find it meritorious to donate and install a CCTV camera in the area to help record any attempts to commit a crime in the area?

And can Decorp volunteer to light up dark alleys in the commercial district and around the city plaza and Tondaligan Park with LED lights as a way of giving back to the community that made it one of the richest corporations in the city?

The recent slay-rape of a young woman in Barangay Pantal late night shows how risky the times are with prowling drug addicts lurking in dark alleys. Then the police still have not identified the suspects behind the stabbing inside a small restaurant in the absence of CCTV footage that could have helped identify the perpetrators.

In this light, I reiterate my suggestion for the city government to finally adopt an ordinance requiring all business establishment, i.e., restaurants, schools, banks, hotels, buildings, inns and hotels, etc. to install more CCTV cameras in front of the establishments to help in the  fight against criminality in the city.

A  “Light Up and Record!” campaign will make Dagupan the safest place in the province!

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BACKFILLING IS NOT THE CULPRIT. The outcry against the backfilling of fishponds in Dagupan City is misplaced.

It is not the backfilled fishponds that caused the recent severe flooding in the city.   Firstly, the factors that led to the severe flooding in the city was not unique to the city.  No town or city in the world was totally prepared for the unprecedented huge volume of rain that fell ever since climate change dawned on us. Secondly, the city is practically a one big reclaimed area whose development started with fishponds, then backfilled to provide for land development.

If the city were to stop backfilling fishponds, then the city can never hope to plan anything to boost economic activities.

I submit that fishponds help contain flooding only because these serve as catch basins and this is not enough reason to stop backfilling. What the city must do is to prepare and build an engineered plan for a structure that will serve as a catch basin for a flood control project.

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