The Federal Solution

By Ricky Poca
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 14:08:00 04/29/2008

Eleven senators filed last Wednesday Senate Resolution No. 10, “A Resolution Convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly for the Purpose of Revising the Constitution to Establish a Federal Form of Government.” A federal form of government is being pushed “to decentralize and sped up the development of the countryside and help dissipate the causes of poverty and insurgency, particularly the Moro rebellion.” The Senate resolution correctly pointed out that “this (centralized system) lopsided arrangement has spawned a host of problems, including massive nationwide poverty to runaway insurgencies and rebellions that feed on social inequalities in the nation.” [...]

The proposed federal form gives more autonomy in governance for the 11 states. State governments will wield enormous powers to sufficiently and quickly address concerns and problems that are peculiar to their areas.

In the executive government, the state will be headed by the state governor, who will have his own cabinet members coming from the different state departments. The executive department will be responsible for the administration and execution of the state laws that will be drafted by the state congress.

The state Congress, the legislative department will formulate laws enforceable in the territorial jurisdiction of the state. The state Congress can either be unicameral or bicameral.

The state supreme court will exercise judicial powers within its territorial jurisdiction. It will be the highest appellate court that provides final interpretation of the laws made by the state congress. In the United States, there are states that have state supreme courts, although in New York, the highest appellate court is not the supreme court but the state court of appeals.

So what ultimately will happen under the proposed federal form? Basically what we are doing is just breaking the humongous present highly-centralized government into smaller governments that are equipped with all the necessary powers of governance and are provided with better finances to respond to the peculiarities of the different parts of our country. Meaning, instead of having one highly-centralized government that will almost always be responsible in solving the many problems of the country, we shall then have many governments that will now share in solving the problems. We shall therefore be bringing the government – executive, legislative and the judiciary – closer to the people.

Let me warn you that the move to adopt a federal form, while it is a presidential campaign promise, has remained elusive because, naturally, the people in the centralized government do not want to give up their powers and the privileges that come with it. It is expected that the bureaucrats will vehemently resist change. Some local officials will object to the proposed federal form because their offices will be dissolved, as these will be another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, which the federal form intends to eliminate. In short, federalism rightly seeks to simplify the bureaucracy and bring the government closer to the people. I think that is the essence of democratic governance...

Click here to read full text.


On Senator Pimentel's Version of Shift to Federalism

Federal Fol-de-rol
By Antonio C. Abaya

My American Heritage Dictionary defines ‘fol-de-rol’ as ‘foolish talk or procedure, or nonsense.’ And that is what this recurring advocacy for federalism is: foolish talk and nonsense.

Senate Minority Leader Nene Pimentel is principal author of a Senate resolution calling for a debate on Charter Change (again), for a revision of the Constitution to shift from a unitary to a federal system of government. And Pimentel wants this debate to happen before the presidential elections in 2010...

The motivation supposedly is “to spur economic growth.” The implication is that economic growth is not possible, or is not fast enough, under a unitary state.

This is a lot of nonsense. The empirical evidence is that of the most successful countries in East and Southeast Asia, only one – Malaysia – is a federal union. The others – Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand – are all unitary states. So, contrary to what Nene Pimentel and his 11 apostles apparently believe, economic progress – even spectacular economic progress, in the cases of Japan, China and South Korea – is achievable and has been achieved under unitary states...

... [They] should also know that the empirical evidence is that archipelagic countries, of which there are only three – Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines – are unitary states, rather than federal unions, for pragmatic reasons. Being made up of islands, they would be vulnerable to centrifugal forces if they were to spin off into federal unions...

... [They] are no doubt motivated by patriotic reasons when they advocate a shift to a federal union “in order to spur economic growth.” But economic growth is a function of economic strategies, not of political systems. Our GDP grew by 7.3% in 2007 under our unitary state, better than the growth of Malaysia under its federal union...

Click here to read full text.

Read also. "Cha-cha thrust, counter-thrust" by Mon Casiple.

Like Senator Pimentel, I, being also from an island province far away from Manila, understood his concern of how many of the farther regions of our country are left out to stagnate in terms of progress and development because of unfair prioritization of national resources and of the inefficiency of the overall government machinery in bringing progress and development to the countrysides.

The concept of federalism in an archipelagic country may not be totally a bad idea. Surely there are major and serious setbacks in their version of federalism that need to be considered very carefully. But since there is a significantly large number of our population (especially in Mindanao and also in Cebu) who are inclined to support the proposal, that makes the idea worthy of a big debate in order to shed light on the concept.

When is the right time to start the debate? We are still in the middle of a crisis and people are yet preoccupied with how to cope up with the current situation -- at least those people who are mostly affected (the poor) by the crisis and those leaders who are truly concerned of helping them.

Maybe the advocates of federalism have thought that it may be good to take actions concerning their advocacy while some of them are still in office. If in case Cha-Cha (Charter Change) will push through, they will have a good chance of pushing for their version of federalism if in case also a Constituent Assembly (Con-As) will prevail over a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).

Reading from Mon Casiple's analysis, one would think that these advocate senators may not be really sincere in their intention at this point in time. It could indeed be a "brilliant" move -- by those who oppose ChaCha to happen under GMA's term of office -- to preempt moves for ChaCha by administration allies. No timing is more [im]perfect to talk about ChaCha (unsuspectingly disguised "kuno" as shift to federalism) than in the midst of a food crisis. T
hese anti-ChaCha-under-GMA senators that composed the team knew very well that any mention of ChaCha in the midst of many crisis would be [mis]interpreted by the people as being an insensitive maneuver by GMA and her allies to stay in power, and hence could trigger a very hostile reaction by a crisis-pressed citizenry against the administration thereby setting the atmosphere initially charged beforehand for another round of impeachment in the coming months.

Perhaps the proper time to start a serious debate on this proposal is after 2010. Some of those leading advocates of federalism may no longer be suspected of having a hidden agenda since they would no longer be in office by that time and also it could prove the sincerity of their intention if they would still be willing to push for their advocacy after putting it off for another more years and revived later within the period of a new set of leadership.

RP Seeks WB Help on Rice Imports

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:05:00 04/29/2008

The Philippines has asked the World Bank to persuade rice-exporting nations to lift shipment curbs that threaten the food security of importing countries, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said Monday.

"I have asked the World Bank if it's possible to use its moral persuasion, its stature, its influence to talk to the supplier countries," Yap said on television.

He noted that exporters seemed to be afraid to release their rice into the international market. "It's going against pricing. We need to convince them that they must release the flow of supply," he said.

Rice exporting countries such as India and Vietnam have banned exports of Asia's staple to cool domestic inflation, putting pressure on the Philippines, the world's largest rice importer, which is trying to secure stockpiles ahead of a traditional lean period in the third quarter.

The Philippines said it would import 2.1 million metric tons of rice this year...

RP demand pushes prices up

The Philippines' recent flurry of rice tenders has helped propel rice prices to record highs and Yap said the country was looking at ways of buying stocks without alerting the world to how much it needs, as currently happens in public bidding, propelling the cost higher.

"There is a lot of concern that tendering big volumes at this point in time tends to increase prices," said Yap.

"We want to explore a procurement or buying system that is not going to expose us to the speculative pricing attacks that we see right now in the international commodity markets," he said, without giving further details...

Click here to read full text.

Read also, "Arroyo eyes cutback in government rice subsidy".

Sometimes the best help one can extend to someone asking for it is not to give in to the specifics of the demand. There are times when what appears to be a solution to a problem would turn out to be a mere "crutch" that could even cause the further delaying of a complete rehabilitation.

When one is recovering from a limb injury, it is painful and hard to learn to walk again using one's own muscle strength than relying on the strength of a crutch. But it is the only way for the injured limb to regain its strength and coordination -- or else it will stiffen and remain paralyzed for the rest of one's life.

Our nation is not born lame. We can walk again normally on our own strength from this injury (the less prioritization of our agriculture sector and the collective neglect by our past and present leaders), if only we would realize that it is rehabilitation that we long overdue needed and not an overly used crutch.

Maybe the Philippines is asking help from the wrong "specialist". Perhaps we should be going to the "physical therapist" instead of to the "craftsman". We have long been overdue for rehabilitation because we are so afraid to let go of this crutch.

At this point in time, rice importations by the NFA must be stopped. NFA should focus on procuring supply from the local farmers' harvest and NFA must set the purchase price so as to establish a reasonable competitive floor price for other rice traders.

There will be initial reactions among various concerned sectors of the society but these self-adjustments are necessary. When these happen, we will see the ingenuity and resilience of our people cope with the new situation. Watch how the stocks of rice will flow out and normalize the market and watch how the prices of rice will gradually stabilize in time. Price stabilization is the first positive step, and price levels may be brought down later little by little as better ways of reducing production costs and more efficient means of delivery are discovered and implemented.

In times of food crisis, leaders should be focusing primarily on the security of food rather than on the security of their stay in office. True leaders are often tested most during times of crisis -- self-sacrifice could show as their hidden virtue.


Peculiarities Of The Pinoy

What makes the Filipino special?
Author Unknown

Filipinos are brown. Their color is at the center of human racial strains. This point is not racism, but for many Filipinos to realize that our color should not be a source or reason for an inferiority complex. While we pine for a fair complexion, white people are religiously tanning themselves whenever they could, under the sun or some artificial light, just to approximate the Filipino complexion.

Filipinos are a touching people. We have lots of love and are not afraid to show it. We almost inevitably create human chains with our perennial akbay (arm around another shoulder), hawak (hold), yakap (embrace), himas (caress), kalabit (touch with the tip of the finger), kalong (sitting on someone's lap), etc.

We are always reaching out, always seeking interconnection. Filipinos are linguists. Put a Filipino in any city, any town around the world. Give him a few months or even weeks and he will speak the local language. Filipinos are adept at learning and speaking languages. In fact, it is not uncommon for Filipinos to speak at least three: his dialect, Filipino, and English. If they work abroad, many speak an added language, the host country's language.

In addition, Tagalog is not 'sexist.' While many "conscious" and "enlightened" people today are just now striving to be "politically correct" in their language, in the process, bending to absurd depths to coin "gender sensitive" words, Tagalog has evolved gender-neutral words since time immemorial - asawa (husband or wife), anak (son or daughter), magulang (father or mother), kapatid (brother or sister), biyenan (father-in-law or mother-in-law) , manugang (son- or daughter-in- law), bayani (hero or heroine), etc. Our languages and dialects are advanced and, indeed, sophisticated! No wonder Jose Rizal, the quintessential Filipino, spoke some twenty-two languages!

Filipinos are "groupists." We love human interaction and company. We always surround ourselves with people and we hover over them, too. According to Dr. Patricia Licuanan, a psychologist from Ateneo and Miriam College , an average Filipino would have and know at least 300 relatives.

At work, we live bayanihan (mutual help); at play, we want a kalaro (playmate) more than a laruan (toy). At socials, our invitations are open and it is common even for guests to invite and bring in other guests. In transit, we do not want to be separated from our group. So what do we do when there is no more space in a vehicle? Kalung-kalong! (sit on another's lap). No one would ever suggest splitting a group and waiting for another vehicle with more space!

Filipinos are weavers. One look at our baskets, mats, clothes, and other crafts will reveal the skill of the Filipino weaver and his inclination to weaving. This art is a metaphor of the Filipino trait. We are social weavers. We weave theirs into ours, so that we all become parts of one another. We place a lot of premium on pakikisama (getting along) and pakikipagkapwa (relating). At almost any cost, the Filipino will avoid the two worst labels, walang pakikisama (no comradeship) and walang pakikipagkapwa (cannot relate).

We love to blend and harmonize with people, we like to include them in our "tribe," in our "family"-and we like to be included in other people's families, too. Therefore we call our friend's mother nanay or mommy; we call a friend's sister ate (eldest sister), and so on. We even call strangers tita (aunt) or tito (uncle), tatang (grandfather), etc.

So extensive is our social openness and interrelation that we have specific titles for extended relations like hipag (sister-in-law' s spouse), balae (child-in-law' s parents), inaanak godchild), ninong/ninang (godparents) kinakapatid (godparent's child), etc. In addition, we have the profound 'ka' institution, loosely translated as "equal to the same kind" as in kasama (of the same company), kaisa (of the same cause), kapanalig (of the same belief), etc. In our social fiber, we treat other people as co-equals.

Filipinos, because of their social "weaving" traditions, make for excellent team members.

Filipinos are adventurers. We have a tradition of separation. Our myths and legends speak of heroes and heroines who almost always get separated from their families and loved ones and are taken by circumstance to far-away lands where they find wealth or power.

Our Spanish colonial history is filled with separations caused by the reduccion (hamletting) and the forced migration to build towns, churches, fortresses or galleons. American occupation enlarged the space of Filipino wandering, including America , and there are documented evidences of Filipino presence in America as far back as 1587.

Filipinos now compose the world's largest population of overseas workers, populating and sometimes "threshing" major capitals, minortowns, and even remote villages around the world. Filipino adventurism has made us today's citizens of the world, bringing the bagoong (salty shrimp paste), pansit (sauteed noodles), siopao (meat-filled dough), kare-kare (peanut-flavored dish), dinuguan (innards cooked in pork blood), balut (duck egg embryo), and adobo (meat vinaigrette), along with the tabo (ladle) andtsinelas (slippers) all over the world.

Filipinos are excellent at adjustments and improvisation, managing to recreate their home, or to feel at home anywhere.

Filipinos have pakiramdam (deep feeling/ discernment) . We can feel what others feel, sometimes even anticipate it. Being manhid (insensitive) is one of the worst labels on anyone, to be avoided at all costs. We know when a guest is hungry though he insists on the contrary.

We can tell if people are lovers even if they're miles apart. We know if a person is offended though he may purposely smile. We know because we feel. In our pakikipagkapwa (fraternizing in oneness), we not only get to slip into another man's shoes, but also into his heart.

We have a superbly developed and honored gift of discernment that makes us excellent leaders, counselors, and go-betweens.

Filipinos are very spiritual. We are transcendent. We transcend the physical world, see the unseen and hear the unheard. We have a deep sense of kaba (premonition) and kutob (hunch). A Filipino wife will instinctively feel her husband or child is going astray, whether or not telltale signs present themselves.

Filipino spirituality makes him invoke divine presence or intervention at nearly every bend of his journey. Rightly or wrongly, Filipinos are almost always acknowledging, invoking or driving away spirits into and from their lives. Seemingly trivial or even incoherent events can take on spiritual significance and will be given such space or consideration.

The Filipino has a sophisticated, developed pakiramdam. The Filipino, though becoming more and more modern (hence, materialistic) is still very spiritual in essence. This inherent and deep spirituality makes the Filipino, once correctly Christianized, a major exponent of the faith.

Filipinos are timeless. Despite the nearly half-a-millennium encroachment of the western clock into our lives, Filipinos -- unless on very formal or official functions -- still measure time not in hours and minutes but with feeling. This style is ingrained deep in our psyche. Our time is diffused, not framed. Our appointments are defined by umaga (morning), tanghali (noon), hapon (afternoon), or gabi (evening).

Our most exact time reference is probably katanghaliang tapat (high noon), which still allows many minutes of leeway.

That is how Filipino trysts and occasions are timed: there is really no definite time.

A Filipino event has no clear-cut beginning or ending. We have a fiesta, but there is bisperas (eve) and the day after the fiesta is still considered a good time to visit. The Filipino Christmas is not confined to December 25th; it somehow begins months before December and extends up to the first days of January.

Filipinos say good-bye to guests first at the head of the stairs, then down at the descamo (landing), the entresuelo (mezzanine), the pintuan (doorway), the tarangkahan (gate), and if the departing persons are to take public transportation, up to the bus stop or station.

Other people's tardiness and extended stays can really be annoying, but this peculiarity is also the charm of Filipinos who, governed by timelessness, show how their brothers elsewhere how to find more time to be kind and accommodating rather than prompt and exact.

Filipinos are space-less. As in the concept of time, the Filipino concept of space is not numerical. We will not usually express space in miles or kilometers but with feeling in malayo (far) or malapit (near).

Alongside numberless-ness, Filipino space is also boundless. Indigenous culture did not divide land into private lots but kept it open for all to partake of its abundance.

The Filipino has remained avidly "space-less" in many ways. The interior of the bahay kubo (hut) can easily become receiving room, sleeping room, kitchen, dining room, chapel, funeral parlor, etc. depending on the time of the day or the needs of the moment. The same is true with the bahay na bato (stone house). Space just flows into the next space, so that the divisions between the sala, caida, comedor, or vilada may only be faintly suggested by overhead arches of filigree. In much the same way, Filipino concept of space can be so diffused that a party may creep into and actually appropriate the street! A family business like a sari-sari store or talyer (production or work area) may extend to the sidewalk and street. Provincial folks dry palay (rice grain) on highways! Religious groups of various persuasions habitually and matter-of-factly commandeer the streets for processions and parades.

It is not uncommon to close a street to accommodate private functions. Filipinos eat, sleep, chat, socialize, quarrel, nearly everywhere or just anywhere!

"Space-lessness, " in the face of modern, especially urban life, can be unlawful and really counter-productive. On the other hand, when viewed from the Filipino's context, it is just another manifestation of his spiritually and communal values. Adapted well to today's context, which may mean unstoppable urbanization, Filipino spaceless-ness may even be the answer and counter balance to humanity's greed, selfishness and isolation.

So what makes the Filipino special? We are brown, spiritual, timeless, space-less, linguist, groupist, weavers and adventurers. Seldom do all these profound qualities find personification in a people. Filipinos should allow - and should be allowed to contribute their special traits to the world-wide human community - but first, we should know and like ourselves.


On Biofuel Crops And Rice Crops

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:25:00 04/25/2008

The statement of Sen. Rodolfo Biazon that we discontinue the biofuels project because it usurps land for food production is a knee-jerk reaction, made without first studying the problem. The crops to be planted for biofuels production, like jatropha and malunggay, will not rob rice and other food crops of land.

Rice needs plenty of water. Jatropha won’t grow where there is too much water. Its roots will rot. Jatropha grows on very poor soil and cogon land, and on denuded mountainsides.

Malunggay, too, can be planted to reforest denuded slopes. It grows easily and fast. Stick a twig into the ground and it grows. It produces plenty of leguminous and very nutritious leaves and elongated fruits with brown winged seeds. When ripe, the fruit pops open and the seeds fly out and when they land they sprout into new malunggay trees.

Jatropha also has brown seeds that drop to the ground and grow. What’s more, if a piece of stem also drops to the ground, it grows. So these two biofuel crops are self-propagating. That’s the beauty of it.

Another beauty is that they grow on poor soil. Thus they don’t have to compete with rice and other food crops for land.

Farmers should not shift from food crops to jatropha, either. They cannot earn as much per hectare from jatropha as from any food crop. The only advantage of jatropha is that it grows on soil where no other food crop will grow.

Malunggay, on the other hand, being a legume, fertilizes the soil while it grows. Its leaves not only make a very nutritious vegetable dish, they also fertilize the soil, being rich in nitrogen. With its oil-rich seeds good for fuel, it deserves the name “miracle tree.”

Cassava, another source of biofuel, also grows easily from cuttings. The tuber is very cheap, being considered a poor man’s food. It can be processed into cassava flour for bread or alcohol for fuel.

Sugar and coconut, also biofuel sources, already have their own acreages. Farmers don’t earn much from them because of less demand due to health reasons (sugar and cholesterol). Thus, the biofuels industry will increase demand for these crops and help coconut farmers and sugar planters to earn more.

In some LGU's (Local Government Units), they conducted mapping and zoning of arable land areas. They found out that there are many land areas not fit for food production but which can be made productive by utilizing them for biofuel crops.

Rice crops and most of the staple crops cannot grow normally on land areas that have high degree of slope (like in the sides of mountainous and hilly places). Many of these type of land areas are now denuded due to rampant cutting of trees for use as firewood. If you extensively tour the countrysides and the rural areas, you can see this idle land areas with only wild grass growing. This is where biofuel crops may be planted.

Jathropa and malunggay plants are not of the type of plants that can be utilized for firewood, therefore they are safe from the local firewood gatherers. And since they are very prolific and require less moisture, they can thrive and flourish in these type of lands even if left alone without much care.

There are always better ways of doing things if only there are determined individuals who are willing to discover them.

Top photos: Jathropa - seeds for biofuel; leaves & bark for herbal medicine; fruit is poisonous

Middle photo: Malunggay - seeds for biofuel; leaves, bark, & roots for herbal medicine; leaves are very nutritious and regularly used as green leafy ingredient in local soups

Bottom photo: rice planted on plain land area, while coconuts are planted on sloped land areas


Ideas Worth Exploring: On Rice Self-Sufficiency

Aussie’s Suggestions To Solve Rice Crisis
By Bevan Ramsden
Letter To The Editor
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:09:00 04/23/2008

It is somewhat audacious of me to write this letter, as I am a citizen of Australia, but I am married very happily to a Filipina (Mary Ann Sajo from Iloilo) and was visiting my Filipino relatives whom I love dearly, when I read about the “rice issues”—rice shortage, rice importation from Vietnam, rice hoarders and the high rice prices—in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

I would like to suggest some measures which might solve the crisis.

1. All rice land owners must be required a specific minimum level of rice output per hectare, say, 3.2 metric tons, or a quantity to be decided on by agricultural authorities.

2. Rice land owners who fail to meet this required level of production per hectare should relinquish their farms to an agency, say, the National Food Authority, designated by the government.

3. This designated government agency shall organize self-managing cooperatives, whose members shall come mostly from the previous cultivator-workers of the relinquished lands.

4. The required minimum level of rice output per hectare must be sold to the designated government agency at an agreed price applied nationwide. This must be distributed/sold to Filipinos through government-controlled outlets at an affordable price. The outlets shall be supervised by a politically independent body.

5. Harvests in excess of the required minimum level of rice output per hectare may be sold in the open market. This will provide an incentive for farmers to increase their rice output by planting higher yielding rice varieties.

6. The designated government agency, with full government funding, shall develop new rice lands in cooperation with the farmers’ cooperatives it has organized; at the same time, it should provide the farmers scientific guidance and training in organic rice production technologies that use higher yielding rice seeds with less dependence on fertilizers.

I believe these measures will once again make the Philippines self-sufficient in rice, and the staple will be available and affordable anywhere in the country.

Population: Consumer and Food Producer

By Angel Abp. Lagdameo

Do we have rice crisis or price crisis or both? What is the real situation? There seems to be at the same time some problem of accountability, transparency and credibility! NFA rice is at 18 pesos while commercial rice is at almost 40 pesos. A big problem for the poor! And the Philippines, once upon a time a rice granary in Asia, is now the top importer of rice.

Who is to blame for this crisis? What is the solution to this problem? One answer we are hearing these days is: blame the crisis on our growing population; and therefore there is need for a program of population control.

It is both an economic and moral problem. I would like to quote the answer of a young city councilor from Olongapo under the Kapatiran Party, John Carlos de los Reyes. What he courageously and insightfully said can be applied to the problem of rice and food sufficiency. John Carlos de los Reyes in a convention on the Family held in Cebu said: “The root social problem of our nation is not over-population but massive, enslaving poverty. Philippine poverty cannot be the result of a growing population, but rather the outcome of corruption in both government and business sector … We are poor not because we are many, but because a few wittingly or unwittingly deprive our kababayans of opportunities to prosper …”

Click here to read full text.

Yap Could Learn From Tadeo

Yap As Rice Czar Won’t Solve Crisis -- Senators
By Veronica Uy
First Posted 18:18:00 04/22/2008

Senators called the designation of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap as rice czar by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a mere change of title that is not likely to solve the country’s problem with the staple cereal.

Yap was named rice czar during Tuesday’s meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said.

"There was a designation of a rice czar. Secretary [Arthur] Yap will focus on rice situation and an executive order will be issued [in this regard]," Pangilinan said.

But Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Manuel Roxas II, and Francis Escudero said Yap’s designation is not the solution to the rice crisis .

Santiago described Yap's designation as “cosmetic” and a mere change in terminology, adding that the post of rice czar is a short-term solution to the rice problem when what is needed is a long-term solution.

Click here to read full text.

More than anything else, it is practical knowledge accumulated through many years of actual experience that could make a czar truly succeed in his assignment.

Have you seen the latest episode of ANC's Strictly Politics entitled "The Politics of Rice"? Time was just too short to savor every word that Ka Jimmy spoke concerning our nation's rice crisis (and the situation of Philippine agriculture in general).

In that episode, those who do not know Ka Jimmy (especially the younger generations) can get a glimpse of his vast knowledge and experience regarding rice problem in the Philippines and how to solve it. Don't miss the replay on Saturday.

Ka Jimmy would be a better czar than Ka Arthur.


Being Prepared for the Harder and Heavier Yoke?

A Priest In Politics
By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:59:00 04/01/2007

...“Among Ed,” as he is fondly called, is noted for his eloquence as a preacher. But the poor of Pampanga know him better as the tireless director of the Social Action Center of Pampanga (Sacop) who put a face to the Church’s presence among the communities displaced by lahar in the 1990s. Today he is recognized as the visionary behind the province’s most successful micro-lending program for the poor.

Father Panlilio defends his controversial decision to pursue a political role as a logical continuation of his ministry for the poor, whom he sees as having been exploited and neglected for too long by successive administrations of corrupt and uncaring politicians. This is a necessary move, he says, taken at an extraordinary moment in the life of the province.

What that means exactly is clear to everyone who has observed Pampanga politics. Two well-funded politicians are contesting the governorship—the incumbent 29-year-old Mark Lapid, who inherited the position from his father Sen. Lito Lapid; and provincial board member and former Lubao Mayor Lilia “Baby” Pineda, the gracious spouse of alleged jueteng lord Bong Pineda. Both are staunch supporters of President Macapagal-Arroyo who traces her roots to Lubao. Lapid is running under Lakas-NUCD, and Pineda under Kampi.

Despite repeated official declarations against this illegal numbers game, jueteng continues to flourish in almost every region of the country. The Central Luzon jueteng network, which Bong Pineda allegedly controls, is also reputed to be the biggest and richest. The Catholic Church has long been waging a vigorous campaign against jueteng because it regards this game as aggravating the condition of the poor and promoting corruption. Jueteng often supplies the crucial funds that decide the outcome of closely contested local elections...

Click here to read full text.

Read also, "What Among Ed's Victory Means".
And also, "Cruz, Lozada, Panlilio".


Change At The Grassroots Level

There is a newly launched blog website called "Filipino Voices" powered by a collective voice of Filipino bloggers all over the world. Like most political blogs, among the many subjects they focus to discuss are about Philippine politics, news, and commentaries.

The concept of a community blog, which will become the center or hub of expressing collective ideas that could contribute to the finding of solutions to our nation's problems as well as sources of constructive criticism that will help correct the wrongs in our society and government, is an excellent and noble idea.

Experts say that blogging is a "labor of love." It can be a hobby or a sacrifice or both. Personal blogs driven by hobby usually do not last long because their bloggers often abandon them due to personal and resources constraints. But community-driven blogs have better chances of surviving longer so long as subjects and topics are timely and relevant and are discussed in a constructive manner -- not merely like a noisy cyberchatroom.

May the "Filipino Voices" thrive and last long and become one of the tools of the Pinoy cybercommunity that they could use to help reshape our nation and our people.

There is a discussion going on in the said blog. It was initiated by a blogger named Cocoy in reaction to Manolo Quezon's article “Resistance isn’t futile“.

Because We Can
Posted by Cocoy on April 17, 2008

...You want a country that works. We need to GET good people to run. How the HELL is that going to EVER happen? Well, we need real Political Parties. Real grass roots-based Political Parties that elect their own nominees, that would support their chosen Flag bearer, who ARE for the people. Not this SHAM every party in this country have that elects only members from the same old boys club.

We need new blood!

We need people from ALL walks of life running for public office BECAUSE they think it is about CIVIC DUTY. We need political parties that NOMINATE candidates from within their party— real people, not the same old for the boys club.

You can laugh that this all pure speculation, all pure idealism. I point you to the current Pampanga Governor, who was a priest. He had no party, no money, nothing. He won because of grassroots support. Because REAL people believed in him. Anybody who can duplicate the same but across the entire nation, in every town, in every city, in every province, in every region will have the greatest opportunity to change things.

Instead of wasting resources organizing street protests, I STRONGLY urge EVERY CIVIC group, every MEMBER of the Filipino Diaspora, if you truly believe in Change, to band together and PREPARE for 2010. IF YOU truly believe in CHANGE, let US be the instrument of that CHANGE. Set aside all this talk about special prosecutors and revenge towards the Arroyos. For as long as the status quo remains, for as long as the old boys club of Philippine politics is in effect, it doesn’t matter who lives in the Palace. We can not change laws. We can not remove those who do not deserve to be in power through impeachment. But we need the mechanism to do so, and we have it: through an election.

It may or may not be an Arroyo in 2010, but someone else can and will repeat the same mistakes, if we do not change how we choose our leaders. And this bloody country will never, ever change.

The answer is so simple. Empower people. really, really, empower them. Break the status quo. For all the talk Lozada, Estrada, Aquino, the Church have in the past few months about Truth, for all that your generation, and the generations before and my generation owe our people, and our children’s children for our hand in all this, for all the righteous anger, we all feel towards this mindless thing our politics has become, for all the disgust we have with the cycle of greed and apathy our people, so rightly, so justly feel, we must act...

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Because We Must
Posted by The Jester-in-Exile on April 18, 2008

...Cocoy focuses on the the fight of the people to wrest back the sovereignty we have granted to our elected officials as being on the grassroots, with Pampanga Governor
Ed Panlilio as his example. On this, I am in agreement.

What, then, can we do, with the 2010 campaign and elections just about two years hence?

Here’s what I propose:

1. Let’s harness the growing influence of cyberspace, on several fronts...
2. Let’s be involved. Personally...
3. Let’s take the fight from the streets to the halls...

There’s more concrete actions that can be done. Let’s think about what we can do — and LET’S GO DO IT.

However, I must disagree with Cocoy’s seeming tone of disagreement with Manolo with regard to the need for people to oppose the current administration, especially with what the administration’s been doing against civil and political rights with only their political survival in mind.

I do not believe in waiting for the 2010 elections to express my dissatisfaction and dissent with the current administration’s actions. With Saint Augustine’s maxim “an unjust law is no law”, I’d take that further and say that an unjust administration must be opposed until it reforms. If it does not, then I would definitely support its ouster.

Constitutionally, of course.

The constitutional processes being bastardized (with Cocoy’s straightforward take on Congress being quite persuasive), however, leaves us with few alternatives.

Except — as I have begun to be convinced by — this single, powerful alernative: the Constitutional provision (which to my mind is a guarantee that has yet to be exercised) that sovereignty emanates from the will of the people...

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Must We?
Posted by Rom on April 19, 2008

Seriously. The pettiness of those little acts of resistance(?) bowls me over. More than anything else, it just shows how immature we can be when piqued.

Of course this isn’t to say you shouldn’t, if the mood hits you, take a sharpie to a 200 peso bill. Heck, do it on a 1000 peso bill. Cross out GMA’s signature (because leaving it untouched means you concede she has the authority to sign the note) even. All I’m saying is, must we?

There are many other ways to express dissatisfaction with this government. Blogging is one. Plus, blogging has the added bonus of potentially being a very creative way to vent. Just ask jeni jen jen. But otherwise, must we go out of our way - and maybe even sour an otherwise fine day - just to fuel our hatred?

So, if I don’t think the elections will matter; and i don’t believe in a protracted, low-intensity protesting, what do I propose to do?

Well obviously, we need to go out and vote anyway. And we need to boost good candidates and actively campaign against the ones we want thrown out on their keisters.

But on a day to day basis, we need to work to improve what we can. Those of you who work in government for instance, you can try to influence your co-workers with your diligence and industriousness. And stop watching the clock!

Those of you who are in business for yourselves, do your bit by paying taxes on time, remitting SSS contributions for your employees promptly, and encourage other people to go into business as well. Help em out. Start mentoring programs to give budding entrepreneurs a hand up.

Those of you who work in the private sector, volunteer more. And not just for ‘cool’ things. Give back to your community by working with your barangays and SKs.

Those of you who work abroad (mabuhay kayo!) please relentlessly promote the Philippines. Not in the left-handed way I’ve seen alot of people do (it’s a good country with a rotten government). Talking like that turns potential tourists and investors off. If you must, consider this: don’t think of it as giving GMA more investments she can take credit for, think of it as bringing in investment money for our people.

There are many positive ways of working for the betterment of the country without venting our spleen at every chance we get. All I’m saying is maybe we should give those strategies a chance...

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Rice Crisis: A Combination of Shortages

The Staff of Life
By Peter Wallace
Manila Standard Today

In a crisis, people tend to panic, and there seems little doubt there is a pending crisis on rice today. How this crisis gets handled will be critical to national stability. Much will depend on the President and her ability to guide the response to the crisis smoothly. One of the hallmarks of great leaders is that they are able to think and act rationally when all around them are losing their heads.

There is no question that there is a rice crisis today. But there is question as to what sort of crisis it is. Is there a genuine shortage of rice, or have fast-rising prices led to hoarding creating the appearance of a shortage? My suspicion is that it’s a combination of both.

Rice distributors and traders have shown themselves to be an unscrupulous lot with little moral conscience in the past. So I wouldn’t put it past them at all to be profiteering from the difficult situation today—rather than trying to ease it.

But the real question is: Why did we get into this situation in the first place? Government policy used to be toward self-sufficiency. But the fast-growing population and decimation of rice lands through an ill-considered agrarian reform law, coupled with serious underspending on irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads and general support to farmers, has led to a shrinking in the interest to grow rice. A farmer gets next to nothing from the crop he plants; even gets further into debt to usurious middle men. So why plant rice?...

Government has failed miserably to support this sector and the chickens are coming home to roost.

Maybe this crisis is a good thing. Maybe it’s the signal the government needs to now act more forthrightly. As exemplified by the President’s emergency release of P44 billion to revive the industry. P44 billion, by the way, that wasn’t budgeted, so other things will suffer.

What must now be done is to ensure that the P44 billion actually gets spent on what is intended, not deposited in Joc Joc Bolante’s bank account. Or somebody else’s. Here’s a chance for the President to prove her assertion that she is going to go after the corrupt. Well, here’s a specific case where she can back her words with action...

Click here to read full text.


[Over]population: Who Is To Blame?

When the means and the resources used for feeding is not able to cope with the corresponding needs of a population, a state of crisis occurs.

Amidst the world crisis on food's availability, prices, and production, it can not be denied that one of the major contributing factor to this problem is [over]population. But who [what] is [are] to blame for it?

There is a timely and relevant brainstorming going on in Dean Jorge Bocobo's blog which is being participated by many of his avid readers. His recent blog entry entitled "Are the Catholic Bishops to Blame for Overpopulation?" triggered a lively exchange of ideas.

You may also want to read his previous related post entitled, "How Catholic Hierarchy Loves The Poor And Makes More of Them."

Have you seen the latest episode of The Explainer? Dean Jorge Bocobo hosted the show in Manolo's place. If you missed it, watch for the replay because the subjects discussed on that episode is also timely and relevant to the problem our nation is undergoing right now.


Similar Hardships, Different Outlooks

Coping with higher food prices
By Timi Nubla

Eddie Tubice is as pedicab driver. He works 13 hours a day so he can send his four kids to school, one of whom is already going to college this June.

Despite his hard work, Eddie says his earnings aren't enough to make ends meet.

"Yung kinikita ko ngayon, kinabukasan wala na. Maghihintay na sila ulit, wala nang sobra," he says.

Three-hundred pesos immediately goes to food expenses and his children's school allowance, while the remaining 100 pesos pays for their utilities and rental for a 10-square meter room.

His wife, Mrs. Marilou Tubice, is at a loss on how to cope with rising prices of food.

"Iyan ang hindi ko pa alam paano ang kinabukasan, kasi walang ba-budgetin eh," she says...

'Aangat pa ang buhay'

Under a bridge in Valenzuela City, a family of seven lives in a small house.

The head of the family, Manolito Escopeto, supports his five kids by collecting old bottles where he earns only 100 pesos or less, which is why his wife is already an expert in budgeting.

They only eat two meals a day. A meal usually consists of one-and-a-half cups of rice and a small can of sardines or one scrambled egg to be shared by two adults and five children...

And though life is hard, he refuses to lose hope.

"Hindi naman ako sumusuko eh, hangga't may trabaho nagtratrabaho ako..aangat pa ang buhay namin," Manolito says.

Click here to read full text.


Bishop asks people to shun panic buying

By Roy Lagarde
CBCP News Online

MANILA, April 11, 2008—A Catholic bishop called on the people not to engage in panic buying of rice so as not to aggravate the situation.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop said such move could also help slow down price increases of the staple food.

“The first thing to do is not to resort to panic buying because that will just increase the frustration and nervousness of many people,” he said.

Ledesma urged the public to remain optimistic despite reports of rice shortage setting in over the lean months of July to September.

“I think it’s better to just look on this as a problem that can be resolved if all of us are able to cooperate together,” said the chairman of the Second National Rural Congress (NRC-II).

Civil society groups warn that worst situation in the country’s rice supply is yet to come as they predict the prices of rice will soar to as high as 40 pesos.

Reports of tightening global supply of rice have pushed local prices in the market of the staple food, abnormally high even as the harvest season is still headed for its peak next month.

Former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod, meanwhile, lashed Malacañang officials for giving contradicting statements about the looming rice crisis.

He said instead of giving the people reasons to think positive, some officials further exacerbate the situation.

“I think the government should just designate one spokesperson for the rice situation in the country in order to have uniformity in statements and not add to the confusion,” said the lay consultant of the NRC-II.

Monsod also opposed a proposed plan to create a special committee that will handle the rice situation.

“You will complicate the problem if you create super bodies because there are already existing bodies tasked to do the job. Just fire government officials who are not doing their jobs,” he said.


Bread prices going up, too

‘Pan de sal’ to cost 25% more on April 15
By Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:55:00 04/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Starting April 15, P10 will buy you only four small pieces of pan de sal, the breakfast fare of Filipinos, instead of today’s five because bakers are raising their prices to reflect soaring flour prices amid low global supply.

Three umbrella groups of bread makers Thursday announced that pan de sal would cost 16 percent to 25 percent more.

“The result of these price adjustment is that the price of pan de sal would go up to P2.50 apiece from P2 for the small size, and P3.50 from P3 for the regular size,” said Lucito B. Chavez, vice president of the Philippine Federation of Bakers Association.

A 25-kilogram bag of flour now costs up to P990, a 71-percent increase from P580 in June 2007, according to Chavez.

Prices of wheat, from which flour is derived, have jumped 149 percent since April 2007 and 50 percent since last December, according to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, an economic adviser to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

A combination of high oil and fuel prices, rising demand for food in wealthier Asia, the use of farmland and crops for biofuels, bad weather and speculation on futures markets have all combined to push up prices of rice, wheat and other food items, prompting violent protests in several poor countries.

Also set to raise the prices of bakery products next week are the Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association and the Labak Bakers Association, a group of bakeries based in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon that mainly produces pan de sal.

Click here to read full text.

A Viable Variation of Pan De Sal

In the face of the ricing price of rice and other basic commodities -- as if it is not already an overwhelming burden for the poor -- this another looming increase in the price of bread and wheat-based flour products could mean more reduction in their food intake. To the poorest class of our society living in urban areas who are without stable livelihood, this would mean more drastic survival measures. This means that their "pangtawid gutom" food stuffs like noodles and pan de sal (which are made from wheat flour) will no longer be affordable to them as before. This means that some meals must be skipped more often than before. And for how long?

Involuntarily missing one meal a day is mild hunger -- and some people can still endure it by drinking water (if occurring regularly, the body's metabolism will adjust and develop a way of coping with the situation. I myself purposely skip a meal a day regularly for a reason). But missing two meals a day for a sustained period of time is already severe hunger (local folks termed it, "one day one eat"), and this is when food riots could start to happen.

In big urban areas where there exist large number of urban poors, the possibility of artificial hunger to intensify is not remote. Unlike in rural areas, there are no land spaces available for the urban poors suitable enough for them to grow alternative garden crops and vegetations that can be utilized to compensate for their lack of the usual staple food stuffs.

In our tropical country, root crops like sweet potato ("kamote") and cassava ("balanghoy" in bisaya, "kamoteng kahoy" in tagalog) are used by many people in the rural areas as the main alternatives for rice and bread.

In my province, cassava is grown more abudantly than sweet potato because of its startch. In Carmen, Bohol (the only place on earth where the Chocolate Hills can be found), the Philippine Startch Corporation (PhilStartch) produces and exports cassava flour.

Since cassava flour is far more cheaper than wheat flour, some enterprising home bakers in our province tried using cassava flour in the mixture of the major ingredient (flour) in making pan de sal. After many trials and errors, they come up with a viable variation of the pan de sal. They first tried selling it at an almost give-away price to their neighborhood just in order to get feedback about the taste and texture of their product. After improvements to the taste and texture were made, they experimented on the size and price of the product until they come up with a configuration which the consumers accepted with considerable fairness.

Now, more and more people in more barangays have come to know about the product because some enterprising school boys made use of their vacation season earning something by peddling this food stuff in local neighborhoods very early in the morning waking the people with their shouts, "pan de sal!" For a price of ten pesos a dozen (or five pesos for every six-piece pack), local folks have learned to patronize it.

There is a distinguishable difference in its taste compared to the ususal pan de sal which is made from the first class wheat flour, but it is good! Although its size is smaller than the usual standard pan de sal, but its weight is just about 20%-30% less. Its smell is similar to the usual pan de sal and its texture is tender and somewhat dense. All in all, it is delicious, "nakakabusog", and very affordable! Eating six pieces of it which only costs five pesos, and matched it with a cup of hot ginger tea ("salabat") which only costs about one peso, the combination is already a very affordable "breakfast."

I don't know of course the formula of the recipe but it is a viable alternative to the usual wheat-based pan de sal that could help answer the food needs of our poor kababayans who depend primarily on pan de sal for their breakfast.

In crisis, wherein affordability becomes the only language of the poor, it is a great injustice to take advantage of them.

(The photo shown above was my pan de sal and ginger tea breakfast this morning.)


On Indigenous Farmers And Modern Farming

How to starve indigenous communities
By Maurice Malanes
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Igorot people now acknowledge their ancestors’ long-term foresight in ensuring the food security of succeeding generations by carving rice terraces, even in tough, challenging terrain, in the Cordillera mountains.

Even during World War II and a rice crisis in the 1970s, the rice paddies have helped sustain the local folk. During the lean months, they supplemented rice with camote (sweet potato) from the nem-a or uma (upland swidden).

In recent years, however, this relative self-sufficiency has been threatened by “modern agriculture,” which the government has pushed purportedly to increase crop production through high-yielding varieties (HYVs) and, lately, genetically engineered seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

A study by the private Montañosa Research and Development Center (MRDC) tells of a farmer from the village of Dandanac in Besao, Mt. Province, who brought home a hybrid variety of corn given by a municipal agricultural technician. Concerned villagers warned that the seeds might be a strain or associated with Bt corn, but the farmer insisted on planting them because of an assurance of high yield.

“True enough, the new corn grew and flowered, but it did not bear ears,” said the study...

The high cost of producing Bt corn, which requires chemical fertilizers and pesticides, has buried many farmers in debt, forcing some to sell or mortgage their land, Prof. Elma Neyra of the SCC said...

The conversion of lands into plantations of banana, palm and lately biofuel plants will lead to “food insecurity,” he said. He noted how the plantations had displaced hundreds of indigenous folk, some of whom were forced to become farm laborers with meager wages that were not enough to provide them all their needs, including food...

Government and international policies, it said, must respect and recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to determine their own development – be it in agriculture and other industries, including mining, and other land and resource uses...

Click here to read full text.


Paradigm Shift

By Manny Villar
Manila Bulletin Online

A highly centralized structure of government tends to discourage those in charge at the local level from initiating the generation of alternative revenues.

The present practice is for local governments to depend on Manila for funding in support of locally conceived projects. Their share of taxes collected is not immediately released to them by the central government. This is counterproductive. It is a major stumbling block to national development.

A paradigm shift is necessary. Not a drastic change in the centralized structure that may take too much time, but a change in attitude by local executives in their relations with those in control of disbursements from the national coffers.

Perhaps local executives should revisit their term of reference through a marketing perspective. They should identify the unique selling point of their respective areas of responsibility.

A checklist is useful. How is the natural resource profile? What is the potential for tourism? Is there a presence of mineral deposits? What is the state of agricultural productivity? What industries exist? How organized are the NGOs? What credit facilities are available? How is the climate for the development of entrepreneurs?

In short, a province, city or municipality, singly or collectively, should try to be positioned as an investment destination and a bankable position.

Positioning is premised on credibility. It is false to claim that a particular city is a good place to set up an enterprise when the whole city government is not really business-friendly.

There is no business-friendliness when it is too inconvenient for a lot buyer to pay his realty tax. When the registration of new business enterprises is too tedious, there is no sense of genuine service at all.

When the officials and employees of a local government unit look at present and future taxpayers as customers whose goodwill and patronage they should earn and maintain, there will be a radical improvement in the quality of their service.

In business-friendly and customer-oriented local governance, there is no room for discourtesy and inefficiency. And when such a highly positive mindset gets to be pervasive, service always comes with a genuine smile.

However, no law or executive order can compel a change in attitude. The transformation begins in the heart.

Villar: Don’t blame developers for grains crisis

By Fel V. Maragay, Macon Ramos Araneta, Michael Caber
Manila Standard Today

SENATE President Manuel Villar, who made his fortune in real estate, yesterday defended the practice of converting rice fields and farmlands to housing subdivisions, despite a looming food crisis.

“We have a big rice problem. But we also have a big housing problem. We have a backlog of four million housing units,” Villar said.

He made his statement after Malacañang said it would impose a moratorium on the conversion of rice fields into residential sites, industrial estates, golf courses and shopping malls.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said the indiscriminate conversion was the reason the country had failed to be self-sufficient in rice.

Villar owns a number of real estate firms with housing projects in Metro Manila and the Southern Tagalog provinces.

The Senate president said the acute housing problem had been aggravated by the migration of the rural population to cities.

“The problem is that many farmers have stopped planting and they have migrated to the cities,” Villar said. “Almost half of the Philippine population is now living in urban areas.

“You cannot solve the problem of food by not solving the problem of housing. The best approach is to solve the two problems simultaneously.”

Click here to read full text.

Of course developers should not be blamed for grains crisis, but for the sake of the nation's food security, they should at least consider if in the long run it is the wiser and the right thing to do to build houses on agricultural lands. In the priority list of man's basic needs, food is the first. What is the use of having a house when you have nothing to eat?

Poor farmers sell their farmlands because they don't have the needed capital resources to make their lands productive -- most of them are born without fortune. So in order to survive (even though for a very short while), they are tempted to sell their farmlands to unscrupulous developers because they are encouraged by the easy and quick money that these developers kept offering.

And the result, these farmers and their families leave their barangays in the rural areas and migrate to urban areas and flock there as squatters or illegal settlers among those who are already overcrowding the slums. This situation gives a big problem to urban governments.

Then the government would attempt to solve the problem of urban squatting by building "affordable" mass settlements away from the urban areas. But when the squatters move to their "new" locations, they found out later that they could not make a living there because it turned out to be the same situation before while they were in their old barangays -- areas of lands but there are no support resources available to make it productive.

And so the cycle continues. Since they have no livelihood, they sell again their property -- but this time it is no longer land, but their housing unit. Then they leave the rural housing area and go back to the urban areas and flock there again in the slums where they hope to find a living in the midst and in the surrounding urban lives.

Now where do you think lies the sources and causes of these series of problems that these poor members of our society are experiencing?

For fishes to function normally and be useful, they should be in the waters. So also in like manner, farmers should be in their farmlands -- supported with every needed resources in their trade so that they can provide for the nations food needs, and in the process, earn a decent living that fits to their God-given calling.

Almost every nation started with an agricultural economy as the foundation. If our nation's economic foundation is weakened, so is our society be also weakened. But if our economic foundation is strong and flourishing, not only will our society also be strong, but other areas of our economy will also begin to grow strong and flourish because there will be a natural economic chain reaction that will result.

The Lord smelled the sweet savor. He said in his heart, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, because the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again strike everything living, as I have done. While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22)

Government-made Disasters

By John Mangun
Outside The Box - Business Mirror
ABS-CBN News Online

For the last 30 years, governments around the world believed that the answers to basic human needs are fulfilled best only when under their legislative and administrative command. Governments have created laws and infrastructure to take more and more control over economies out of the hands of the people and have therefore subverted the free-market system.

Today, around the world, we are seeing the results and consequences of government pride and subsequent action to control the vastly complex organism called the economy.

From Europe and Africa, through Asia to the Americas, the world is facing a food crisis. No nation will be spared from the "unintended" consequences of many widespread bad government policies over several decades. Even China, while officially denying (as usual) any supply problems, is paying farmers substantial cash amounts to increase wheat and rice production.

Riots and near-riots occurred in several countries in the last few months, in as diverse places as India, Mexico, Egypt and Russia. Although public unrest over food shortages is not uncommon through history, the recent disturbances center primarily on the availability of subsidized food.

Perhaps the most indicative example of bad government policy happened in Egypt where literally thousands "torched buildings, looted shops and hurled bricks at the police who responded with tear gas Sunday" (Associated Press). Since the 1970s, the Egyptian government has subsidized bread prices, a loaf selling for the equivalent of 1 US cent or about 40 Philippine centavos. Bread that is not subsidized by the government sells for about 10 times higher.

Of course, this 30-year policy was designed to "help the poor." Then again, all government interference in the free market is to help the poor. How much is Egypt spending each year on food subsidies to help the poor? Nearly $14 billion...

Click here to read full text.

A Need for Proper and Honest Implementation

Gov’t subsidies don’t benefit country’s farmers
By Danilo Reyes
Letter to the Editor - Philippine Daily Inquirer

The reactions to the reports on the rice shortage are exaggerated. While the “haves” are worried that they might no longer be able to buy rice, the “have-nots” have long been dying from hunger and starvation, unable to buy rice or any food to eat. My wife’s parents and siblings, who spent all their lives growing rice, had to eat rice porridge, boiled green leafy vegetables and root crops. They were producing rice not for their own consumption but for others.

So, who’s afraid of the rice shortage? The government’s immediate intervention has been to subsidize the farmers—by way of allocating funds through the local government units—to help them increase their farm produce. But it did not elaborate how the subsidy will reach the farmers.

Obviously the government is not aware that the farmers, like my parents-in-law, have not been getting subsidies from the government for quite a time...

Click here to read full text.

No Quick Fix

A messiah, or engaged citizens?
By John J. Carroll, S.J.
Commentary - Philippine Daily Inquirer

...We are being told by editorial writers, columnists and letter writers to the editors that the bishops should take the lead in resolving the national crisis, that the people are confused and waiting for a word of direction from the bishops, that the latter are too timid to take a stand, implicitly that the people are looking for a Messiah to lead them or show them the way.

My impression is that most of those airing these complaints have already made up their own minds on what should be done and are only looking for the bishops to support their positions and call out the people to support them. They are not asking the bishops for direction but for support.

And are the people really confused? Again, my impression is that most are apathetic...

Perhaps the Filipino has for too long been looking for a Messiah who will solve all of the nation’s problems in one stroke. This, despite the fact that the nation has had at least one good and well-intentioned president in the person of Cory Aquino, who was nevertheless unable to clean the “Stygian stables” of corruption or to set the nation’s course firmly in the direction of the common welfare. No, change will not come from the top alone.

Hence, the bishops’ concern for building from the bottom up, while still working for reform, truth and accountability at the national level. We see this in their call for “’circles of discernment” at the grassroots level, in our parishes, basic ecclesial communities, recognized lay organizations and movements, religious institutions, schools, seminaries and universities.

I visualize here groups of citizens, both the local “big people” and the “little people,” meeting regularly to discuss their problems and decide what they can do about them. The problems can range from drugs in the community to water and sanitation to housing or whatever. If local action is not enough, alliances can be forged and support groups built up—to the national level if necessary...

Click here to read full text.


Continue search for truth, anti-graft advocate says

By Mark S. Ventura

DAVAO CITY, April 8, 2008—While fears crop up that the future of the Senate investigation into the allegedly overpriced $329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) contract may weaken for lack of witness, a Jesuit anti-graft and corrupt practices advocate urged the senators and the people to remain unwavering in their thrust to search for the truth.

Fr. Albert Alejo, coordinator of Ehem, an anti graft and corrupt practices advocacy program, said that all must be persistent in seeking for the truth behind the scandal.

“What we now see as an apparent dead-end may yet turn out to be the threshold of a new creation. In the seemingly desperate situation our country is in today, let the mighty wind of God’s spirit move us,” said Alejo.

“Let there be movement! And there shall be change! But first, give us no less than the truth, and the faith to face it now,” he added.

Alejo appealed to whoever has the key to the solution to this problem to speak for the people want to know the truth. Based on ZTE’s reluctant star witness Jun Lozada’s testimony the $329 million controversial deal has a built-in $130 million kickback.

“Whistleblower Lozada, of course, is not a saint. He himself confesses his previous wrongdoing. But his bold witnessing overcomes the tricks some authorities employ to avoid saying what they know and to prevent those who know from speaking out. The greatest casualty here is the truth. So tell us the truth, now!,” he urged.

For if all this is true, Alejo said, then it will confirm the grand scale corruption that the Philippine bishops have relentlessly been preaching against.

According to the Editorial of the official publication of the Philippine Bishops, “Graft and corruption in the government are so endemic and extensive that socio-political integrity in governance has seemingly become a moral impossibility to achieve during the remaining three-year tenure of the present national leadership” (CBCP Monitor June 25-July 8, 2007, p. A4). “This is a heavy statement,” said Alejo.

Alejo also added that it would be hypocritical, however, if we blame only the government.

At the moment, he said, no social institution in Philippine society seems to be immune to corruption.

“So, like Lozada, the media must also say “Mea culpa” for some distorted reporting. Like Lozada, the Church must also admit its lack of transparency in its institutions, and should also say “Mea culpa”. Like Lozada, the private sector must stop bribery and not yield to extortion, and say, “Mea culpa”, said Alejo.

The Blessing of Integrity

“We bless the dynamic leaders who literally walk the streets in delivering basic services to their people. We affirm the achievements of conscientious individuals in the corporate world and the religious groups who combine professional competence with social conscience. All this must also be hailed for they are true,” said Alejo.

“We celebrate, with both sacred rage and serene faith, the death of our contemporary martyrs who have sacrificed life, job, and family for the sake of justice. They lived in the joy and consolation of the truth,” he added.

At the same time, this Jesuit priest challenges those who hold positions of public trust to check and recheck their values. “We call on their relatives to interrogate the acts of their fathers or mothers or sons or daughters in positions of power. Do not be the cause of their downfall,” he said.
He also reminded the students especially Ateneans that they are the best contribution of schools to society. “Remember the values that your school stands for. Do not bring shame to your Alma Mater,” said Alejo.

“We call on the religious communities and members of civil society. Support the authentic whistleblowers. Give them shelter. Help them discern. Take care of their families. More importantly, do not leave individual whistleblowers to carry the burden of shaking the conscience of society. Let us transform our groups into prophetic communities and communal whistleblowers,” he said

Alejo also called on everyone to tell their stories of pain and anger, their dreams and energies. “In homes and classrooms, talk about Filipinos who tell the truth. Tell children not to cheat their way to success. Teach them hard and honest work. Tell them to respect the real value of words and numbers. Remind them of the dignity of our people,” he said.

“We believe that the present crisis is not in our genes. Even our seemingly immovable social structure and incorrigible culture of corruption cannot be our eternal destiny. If we dare to change, things will change. So let us change, he said.

Despite the seeming dying down of the ZTE issue, the Ateneo de Davao University students, faculty, administration, staff, and other concerned citizens here in Davao City are still in “communal action,” to pray hard and work even harder for enlightenment, cleansing, and the courage to live by the “truth that sets free.

“We commit ourselves to continuous struggle, within our own selves, our families and institutions, to abhor lies and to uphold truth,” concluded Alejo.

Still No To Gambling

By Angel Abp. Lagdameo

The publicized project of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for a $ 15-B “gaming complex” ala Las Vegas style beside SM Mall of Asia understandably will also be a complex of good and not-so-good. The project has undergone some shifts in presentation in order to gain acceptability in a Catholic culture: from gambling city to entertainment city to tourism city. Definitely with so much money at the disposal, it will be all three: gambling, entertainment and tourism. And only the future will tell which will be the dominant one.

The plan is impressive: hotels, malls, museums, cultural centers, sports arenas, parks, residential villages and then of course gaming facilities and casinos Las Vegas – style, and thousand of jobs created by the entire complex.

Click here to read full text.

"Give Us This Day Our Daily Rice"

By Angel Abp. Lagdameo

These are times when the prayer “Our Father” becomes most meaningful especially when we pray “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…Give us this day our daily bread.”

In the past, our local rice industry used to be the backbone of our country’s economy. That is how God was helping us with our daily bread. With our rice technology we were helping countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, and Indonesia how to produce more rice for their tables. We had both the advancing technology and more than sufficient domestic production. Farmers’ sons and daughters were fed from and educated through the rice farms.

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Next Time May It Be Real

The Rising Dark
By Patricia Evangelista
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:09:00 04/05/2008

Many of the reports call it “Plunging into Darkness,” as if a teetering Manila sucked in a deep breath, gritted chattering teeth, and leaped into the void with tightly closed eyes. In reality, Manila sank into a softer dark last Saturday, sprawled on the pockmarked grass under a periwinkle sky.

First there were the children, pigtailed tots plodding around the grounds of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, offering flyers to all and sundry. Their mamas, dressed in the same black shirts and jeans, followed their charges’ progress, diving for chubby hands whenever small feet wandered into ruts. Next there were the teenagers, tangled on picnic blankets, in fisherman caps and the obligatory jeans. Then there were the cameras, the television vans, the occasional celebrity and the politician with a microphone. We are told that many of our leaders have crossed over to the dark side. This is the one time the accusation is not an insult...

There are arguments that Earth Hour, and other movements like it, do very little in the big picture. And perhaps it is true. In a country with 80 million people, in a world where many believe that development comes at the price of sacrificing natural resources, several million light bulbs in several cities are not particularly earthshaking. The Philippines may not be that responsible for global warming—the United States, for example, emits a fifth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, with just 5 percent of the world’s population.

“Gimmicky,” says one 24-year-old boy. Useless, says a blogger.

And yet, the value of Earth Hour is not the 2 percent decrease in power consumption—although that is well and good. It is the establishment of awareness, the highlighting of individual modes of action, and, most importantly, what amounts to a challenge to government to institute changes that have wider impact. In this country, politicians only act at the behest of cameras and crowds of warm bodies. Perhaps this is the one time it is a good thing.

Click here to read full text.

If the value of Earth Hour is the establishment of awareness (awareness of what?), then it should go beyond mere campaigning of turning off lights for one hour during a night time. Most people who participated in the action were willing to participate because of the simplicity and the dramatic mood of the action -- it was like a countdown at new years eve. Even a "bum" on the street who totally has no knowledge and concern for climate change and global warming would not be hard to draw to participate in it.

But what if the action to be done is something that will cause some real degree of inconvenience to those who will participate, will there be many still willing to do it? Suppose if the action is done during the day and within working hours, what do you think will happen? Instead of turning off lights (which has no significant impact on climate), airconditioning units are turned off for an hour during peak hours of the day, would there still be many who are willing to participate? Will the originators of the movement still be willing to campaign for such elevated level of the action?

This is where dwells the subtle deception (that I was mentioning about in my previous blog entry). People are merely made to be aware of global warming that causes climate change in a wrong way such that they don't truly experience the real effect and danger of global warming upon themselves. As a result of that wrong way of awareness, people will keep looking forward to that event every year without truly taking real steps that can minimize global warming. And so concepts like the selling and buying of "carbon neutral credits" becomes an easy escape from doing real actions like sincere compliance on the gradual reduction of carbon emission by industrial establishments, and efforts to actually go out to denuded forest areas to actually plant trees (instead of staying inside airconditioned work places wasting time thinking of how to gain more carbon neutral credits).

Global warming is a very serious matter that demands seriousness of answers and solutions. It calls for a degree of real sacrifice and commitment of every individual, and not just convenient movements in the level of mere awareness.

May the next Earth Hour be not deceptive and insulting.


Keynote Speech of PGMA During the National Food Summit

Friday, April 04, 2008
Fontana Convention Center, Clark Air Base

A strong and growing economy is the central pillar we have labored to create to help guarantee peace, order and stability in our country. It is paying off: we have the strongest economy in over 30 years, a strong peso, with investments surging in, and we are close to balancing the budget.

Our economic comeback comes none too soon, for there are global clouds on the horizon that are driving up the price of oil and food, particularly rice.

Half of the planet depends on rice but stocks are at their lowest since the mid1970s when Bangladesh suffered a terrible famine. Rice production will fall this year below the global consumption level of 430 million tons.

Wheat is suffering greater pressures, with price up 115 percent in a year.

Farmers worldwide are worried about feed costs.

For the last seven years we have been spending P 20 billion a year from budget and off-budget sources on Philippine Agriculture.

Since the global situation became apparent many months ago, I have been committed to helping increase and stabilize the supply of rice, as well as to deliver targeted subsidies to the poor who are most directly affected by the global price rises. We have reached out to our neighbors in Vietnam and others in ASEAN to ensure stable rice supplies. We have directed our government to crack down on price gouging; increase the supply of rice where necessary; invest more in planting and agricultural modernization; and to provide rice subsidies for our poor. I have delivered rice to the poor and gone to markets across the country to spot-check prices to protect our consumers.

We must work harder to grow and breed what we need.

We are going to cluster our food production drive in six assistance packages, which are the essential ingredients in making food abundant accessible and affordable. It is called FIELDS – F-I-E-L-D-S. F is for fertilizer. I is for irrigation and infrastructure. E is for extension and education. L is for loans and insurance. D is for dryers and other post-harvest facilities. S is for seeds.

On fertilizer, we will renew our push for organic fertilizer because the price of urea fertilizer being oil-based has increased 200 percent in the last two years. We must set aside P500 million from the ACEF fund for fertilizer support and production, especially for organic fertilizers. Specifically, the DA must utilize proven technologies like Bio-N to increase the yields of rice farmers in the current wet season and third crop.

On irrigation and infrastructure, I direct NIA to finish the rehabilitation of irrigation systems by 2010. On new construction, we encourage small irrigations systems, except for the large ones we have already committed to, like Kabulnan, Balintingon, Malmar and San Roque. We will spend P6 billion a year on irrigation and P6 billion on infrastructure, including farm to market roads, roll-on-roll-off ferry ports, and no-frills airports for agricultural cargo.

On extension and education, we recognize the importance of continuous training of farmers and fisherfolk on new technology. I instruct the DA to continuously implement programs and interventions with close cooperation from the DILG and the LGUs, as well as the DOST, aimed at training more trainors and technicians on new technology for dissemination to farmers; utilize the SUCs in its extension-related activities; provide more funds for training of farmers and fisherfolk on new and emerging technology. We will allocate P2 billion in research and development, P1 billion in capability building, P1 billion in trainors and technicians and P1 billion in the agricultural and fisheries education system.

On loans, I direct Secretary Yap to study how to maximize bank compliance to the agri-agra law. Meanwhile, the government financial institutions can assure P15 billion available for agricultural credit. But for farmers to have access to all this formal credit, I ask Congress to enact a law making farm land acceptable as loan collateral.

On dryers and other post-harvest facilities, I instruct the DA to establish appropriate integrated processing and trading centers in collaboration with the private sector, like the cold chain system and rice and corn processing centers. We will spend P2 billion on this from budget and off-budget sources.

On seeds, the most important is to support the seed growers. Their success will enable rainfed-lowland areas presently planted to good seeds to migrate to certified rice seeds and those planted to certified seeds, to migrate to hybrid seeds. Some 600,000 hectares this year will be targeted all over the country for certified seeds, with another 900,000 hectares for hybrid seeds planted by our farmers from 2009-2010. We must sustain funding this program which will require P2.7 billion for hybrid seeds and P6.5 billion for certified seeds for 5 harvests from 2009 until 2010.

In all these programs, we must be transparent. We will work to fix the corruption that still plagues our nation, including in the agri-business sector. We especially prohibit officials from dealing with fertilizer brokers and agents. They can only deal with official distributors in the regions and provinces.

The DA, NFA and NBI shall strictly monitor rice deliveries and investigate cases of hoarding, price manipulation and other illegal activities. We are holding officials accountable that have found to be corrupt and conniving with unscrupulous traders; we are letting the chips fall where they may as investigations are concluded and friend and foe alike and brought to account for their actions.

I have directed the DA and NFA to cancel the existing licenses of rice traders, retailers and bodegas. They have to apply all over again for accreditation.

According to Congressman Baham Mitra, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, the DA cannot watch over all transactions. According to him, RA 6670 gives power to appoint more Deputy Ombudsmen. In 1990 such deputy was appointed for the military. Considering the fact that farm spending may now be bigger than defense spending, a Deputy Ombudsman may be needed in agriculture. The appointment of a Deputy Ombudsman will be pursuant to our transparency initiative. It will also ensure that money is spent wisely.

Many things are left to be done. We plan on working hard the next two years to fulfill my Agri-business Agenda until the day I leave office. We will fight for Economy, including food security, Education and the Environment. We remain bullish on our country, optimistic about our future and deeply committed to being a force for good.

In all of these, an HONEST and CORRUPTION-FREE implementation is the most important factor that will make the real difference.

"...We are holding officials accountable that have found to be corrupt and conniving with unscrupulous traders; we are letting the chips fall where they may as investigations are concluded and friend and foe alike and brought to account for their actions."

The Lord will teach and test you on this matter. When you pass and succeed on this area, you will gain the strength needed to tackle the bigger matters in other areas of your governance where corruption is prevalent.