Feeding our future

During the food crisis early this year, we batted for one common sense solution, that is, to plant more food crops to increase supply and stabilize the spiraling price increases.

The national government responded with a number of measures to address the crisis including massive subsidies and reviving the so-called “corporate farming” to entice big corporations – just like during martial law – to help in food production. Among those that responded was the San Miguel – Kuok Group combine which promised to put in $1 billion for the “Feeding our Future” program.

The Department of Agriculture is now identifying at least 1 million hectares for this project.

Davao city is the largest city in the country with over 244,000 hectares. Only about 10 percent of this vast land, however, is urban and urbanizing; the rest are forestal and agricultural. In the case of the forestal areas, much is actually grassy lands not yet classified as alienable and disposable. Thus, they lie idle and unproductive. Much of these lands are in Paquibato and Marilog Districts.

Marriz Agbon, who heads this national government program, once edited a local paper here and knows the city’s many potentials.

Unfortunately, Davao city s not in the priority list of areas for the “Feeding our Future” program. It is truly a waste of our vast land resources, our abundant water supply and excellent weather not to be included in this food production program.

I’m upset that the national government is not using its common sense in implementing this project.

7:38 a.m.

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Doha Round

A mini-ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization is taking place starting on July 21 in Geneva in an attempt to revive the failed Doha Development Round.

New draft texts were released last week. Our main trade negotiator, Secretary Peter Favila, has not even read it.

In Hong Kong during the 6th Ministerial in December 2005, we campaigned that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” I maintain the same position emboldened as it was by the recent food crisis. I believe that the crisis is the direct result of failed policies of multilateral agencies like the World Bank, IMF and WTO.

10:09 a.m.

OTOP

During the 14th City Council, I authored Davao City’s version of the national government’s One Town One Product (OTOP) campaign. We called it One City Ten Products program.

Davao is such a huge city, one of the largest in the world in terms of land area, that we have 11 political districts that are equivalent to towns. Thus we adopted the following products for the following districts:

Poblacion, Talomo, Agdao – durian product processing, handicrafts, e-services, meat product processing;

Buhangin, Bunawan, Paquibato – wood products, banana chips;

Toril, Tugbok, Calinan, Baguio, Marilog – fresh and processed vegetables, fresh and processed fruits, virgin coconut oil, ornamental plants

I am happy that the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) is helping us in the implementation of this program. The problem with the local government is the absence of an office doing the task of the DTI.

Whereas almost all national agencies have their local counterparts, e.g. Department of Tourism, we have the City Tourism Operations Office, Department of Agriculture, we have the City Agriculturist Office, etc., we have no office that is the equivalent of DTI.

We have a Business Bureau that is purely regulatory, handling application for business permits. We have a one-stop investment promotion center that is just a mini-Board of Investments.

Thus, for the meantime, we have to depend a lot on DTI in helping us push for the OTOP in the city.

Last September 25-26, we conducted a stakeholders’ consultative meeting with the food industry. Next month, we will meet with the handicrafts and wood industry groups.

I am sure that with this initiative we shall be able to expand our Davao Branding System, which I likewise authored during the previous City Council, with more accredited producers and products among our MSMEs.

(4:20 a.m.)

Food congress

I will represent Mayor Rody Duterte at the opening today of the two-day 6th Mindanao Food Congress at the Royal Mandaya Hotel.

Timed for the Kadayawan Festival in the city to celebrate the good harvest, the Congress would gather stakeholders from all over the region to push further the vision of Mindanao as the country’s food basket.

At its launching several months back, I also represented our Mayor and I recall sharing to our media colleagues my thoughts about the congress. I remember telling them the need to focus the congress in helping solve hunger and poverty rather than highlighting the export potentials of the food industry in the island.

It is truly ironic that in spite of the bounty of food in Mindanao, hunger and poverty incidences continue to rise.

Several bigwigs from Manila, including Senator Ed Angara and Secretary of Agriculture Arthur Yap, are coming to listen to policy proposals from Mindanao food producers. I hope addressing hunger would be one of them. (6:01 a.m.)

Slowdown

Agriculture accounts for one-fifth of the Philippine economy.

There has been a slow down in aggie production during the past two quarters, 3.3 % and 3.64 %, much lower than targets of 4-5 % and just half of last year’s output of 6.7 %.

The government is blaming the “drought” for this dismal showing.

I blame policies such as this one.

(5:19 a.m.)