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Classroom Backlog, Rice Importation, Final Peace in Mindanao

Widely varied matters all-in-one that might appear one weird composition. Again and again we have been feed good news about them.

And every time, I can’t help it, I might appear rude in my reactions, but I feel I am being feed preposterous information that I wish are true. I sense distortion, I sense deception – the common denominators.

Classroom, rice shortage gone by 2013

But that’s what they are – wishful thinking at least, which makes them ridiculous.  The most revolting side of it is that we are getting them from people who are supposed to be telling no-nonsense. Skip the craps, this government can survive without it hoodwinking the people.

Classroom backlog: I am a product of public school. Lack of classrooms in our public schools has always been a problem since my time. And that has been since more than 50 years ago. The problem is more acute today than in my days. In my time there were average of 45 pupils per room, whole day [morning and afternoon] session for one class.  Today it’s something like 70 pupils per room at start of school year, to taper down as time progresses due to drop-outs, two or three shifts [classes] per classroom, per teacher, per day. Common in urban areas and lesser or better as we look farther in the countryside. Out there the problems concerning education are a bit different. Like, some places need schools  and teachers where there is none.

And it would be wrong to assume that all the public school administrators that came and went, never thought of putting an end to that. To say it simply, I think the problem is money. The Philippines is not rich to slash dead the problem in a single stroke. Government needs to deliver many other [legitimate] services, and funds can only be allocated and divided, meager and inadequately it will seem, for each of all those needs. Any allegation of neglect in there appears nothing but politics and political squabble, actually. Who of all the administrators who came and went never dreamed of being hailed a hero?  Nobody. OK, maybe priority is an issue. Sure,  sound priority makes some difference. But I don’t think that the difference can be considered revolutionary in regard to the scope of the problem. Indeed notable improvement in there could be awesome.

The Philippine public school system is no place to talk about success. I know how parents feel in there. I have 7 children who went through there. Those who capitalized on the public education system for higher positions did not win elections: Secretary Raul S. Roco for President and former Senator Teresa Aquino Oreta for re-election.

OK, there must be an end to this problem. But looking at present government resources and needs, I don’t think we will see that happening in President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s time. The problem appears perennial that could be marginalized to its barest minimum. Again, I don’t think that it is possible under the present administration without putting itself into a very difficult situation.

Like, one solution being tried with the private sector right now, as reported, which is Build and Lease – is actually a dig deeper into a hole dug for the taxpayers. We are dealing there with debt, interest and rent, charged on the Filipino people. And it is not good news like they make it appear. It is a bitter pill forced on the people hoping it will do them better in the end.

Another is for government to push for more revenues. Former President Gloria Arroyo was criticized and attacked for pushing Value added taxation [VAT] from 10 percent to 20 percent. The present administration not only maintained them, it actually pushed for more like the added hundred percent [increased] taxation called “Sin tax” on consumer products like cigarettes and alcoholic drinks. No, my figure may not be real. But “sin tax” has caused consumer products like cigarettes to sell double the cost they used to be at the retail end, as a result.

While the authors of this “sin tax ” can praise themselves as progressives, I think the nation is actually reeling back in its push forward. We are killing there industries and jobs at a time when we need more of them. More industries and jobs can also mean more revenues.

Done is done. I think Filipinos prefer to hear sympathy instead, something not in the vocabulary of much-disliked-ex-President Gloria M. Arroyo, rarely heard in her State of the nation addresses. Personally, I rated her as the most egotistic president who went in this republic, for anybody to grab that title from her.

Rice self-sufficiency

Ancient Rice Terraces, Philippines

The Banaue rice terraces, Mountain Province, Philippines. Lifted from Google search: riceland philippines.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, in the time of President Arroyo assured rice self-sufficiency for the Philippines starting 2010. Where does that put him now that we are 2013?  So we see, what works in paper does not always work in the real world. And sad to say, sometimes we get to see technocrats who seem do not know what they are talking about.

Now Filipinos are being told that we are soon to become a rice exporter country. Indeed, rice produced in the Philippines to be shipped out will qualify as “export”. But in the situation where the country is a traditional net importer of rice, I think the nearest description is plunder of Philippine resources by foreigners. Like, when foreign nationals invest in rice production, clouted under assistance or cooperation, or disguised as local capital and the product is shipped out when there is shortage of rice in the Philippines.  Chinese capitals for one have been investing significantly in rice production in the Philippines. No, nationality behind investment in agriculture is not really an issue. There are government regulations regarding foreign ownership in the country, if anybody would like to make an issue of them. It is the shortage of rice in the Philippines that is the issue.

I remember during the rice crisis of 1972, local government units were empowered to restrict or regulate movement of rice in their municipalities.

I think Filipinos need to review their values of  bad and good. OK, lets upgrade that to good and better. Like, it is good that our neighbors from Malaysia, China, Taiwan and Korea are buying out the Filipinos. But is not it better if it is the Filipinos who are buying into Malaysia, China, Taiwan and Korea? So we see that the Filipinos are not really better than their neighbors, for them to prate anything about when it comes to the economy.

But we are going a-side, where were we… ah, the awesome great leap from being a rice importer to becoming a rice exporter country just around the corner for the Filipinos.

Malacañang has announced a drastic drop in rice importation by the National Foods Authority this year. No, there is no revolutionary leap in rice production if that was the impression.

The [projected] importation by NFA this year will be an impressive drop from previous figures due to “over importation” by National Foods Authority [NFA] done last year. Or, the buffer stock of the NFA has been considered a glut. Importation can only be approximated because typhoons and drought conditions that are among the causes to them cannot accurately be predicted.

I really feel this “rice exporter” talks is mental conditioning and  a pa-consuelo de bobo for Juan dela Cruz while he is being plundered – my nearest word of choice, when that happensThis dashing convergence of bigger-than-reality good news could not be by chance.

Preposterous issues like in the world of showbiz do not really work. They affect more the people engaging them than their intended audience – the masses, actually. Like, should Presidential sister Chris Aquino be endorsing political candidates for the May 2013 election? Remembering her as a Presidential problem-daughter, and also looking at people around me, I think she has more dislikes than likes, to even be endorsing anything.

The Philippine entertainment world is a different world by itself. It is a syndicated world with its own established order. What their mafias in there think become their reality. They affect little the world of politics.

In politics, leaders stay because masses see no better. And masses know better when they see them. Oh, OK, this is a free country, anybody has the right to campaign for, or even against anybody.

Graphic1

Killing a myth. Endorsers of Sen Manny Villar for President in 2010 election, clockwise top to bottom: Willie Revillame, Manny Pacquiao and Dolphy. Politics has its own rules. One, people are sold by their own merits and not really of who are selling them.
Lifted from Google search: willie revillame, manny pacquiao, dolphy. Pictures arranged by rltjs.

If the trend lives on, tomorrow’s elections might even be costlier for candidates as expenses could include endorsement by big names –  a becoming must-spend-for by those seeking elective public office. Talents and their handlers cost.  It is business, and nothing is free – binabayaran ng pera kung di utang na loob.

But we are going a-side, where were we… ah, 10 tons average harvest, per hectare, for Filipinos. The Philippines is not in the Mekong or in the Yangtze for a 10 metric-tons-per-hectare large-scale projection, to douse the over-expectations and the hope of becoming a rice exporter country. A harvest of one kg of rice is achievable in one square meter experimental plot. It means, a hectare which is 10,000 square meters, could produce 10 tons per harvest or 30 tons in a three-crops year. Ten tons per hectare,  times area,  times three, works only in paper.

Where 3 cropping is possible, 15 tons per hectare per year is achievable. That has been the Filipino computation. But considering upland and rain-fed rice-lands, and considering Philippine weather or seasons, the total national  average in rice production is way, way down 100 cavans, or 5 tons per hectare. And that is per year and not per harvest. That’s about Philippine reality at present.

There has been an anti-landlord culture in the country that has discouraged large-scale agriculture by Filipinos, actually, adding to the situation. You can thank the Maoist revolutionaries for that if you think it is good. But I think they need to update their politics to be in the mainstream. Three quarters century has brought many changes to the Philippine and world political landscapes.

Anyway, I think we have a prospect of free trade coming into heads with national food security – the looming issue.

Bangsamoro Entity – the so-called Final Peace in Mindanao

“Final Peace” is too big a phrase to use and  it is actually baseless at this point in time.

Secession, like any rebellion, has its own bases that determine it. Say, poverty. Say, government neglect. Whatever, there is social-political-economic discontent by a people for their government. Discontent becomes dissension that in turn further develops to organized armed rebellion.

Eliminate all those causes and rebellion will be floating on air with nothing to stand on. That would be next to lasting peace.  But the situation is far from that.

Moreover, the Mindanao conflict is quite complicated than that. Add in there Bangsamoro nationalism and religious Islamism and that would be more like it – the Mindanao war.

In 2007, President Gloria M. Arroyo actually announced the end to Moro Secession and NPA rebellion by year 2010. Well, if she knew what she was talking about, as we are now 2013.

Right now we have a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities – peace that is good while it lasts, between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  and the Philippine government.

The Bangsamoro Entity to replace ARMM:  MILF to govern a [Moro nation] within the folds of the Republic of the Philippines. It has to be real, genuine and never token, or else the romance and honeymoon between rebels and this administration, like with the ARMM under the MNLF, will come to an early end.  Philippine government must deliver the agreement, which is a contradiction with itself.

It smells like Federalism between the Bangsamoro and the Philippines but it cannot be a federal form of government that Malacañang is creating over there since it has no power to do that over the Constitutions. Chief architect for the Mindanao peace process, Marvic Leonen, who negotiated this Bangsamoro Entity for Philippine government, and who has since there been promoted as one of the justices of the Supreme Court, surely would assure us more on that.

Bangsamoro Entity is bringing us just a step away to “Final” peace? Come on, give us a break, that’s another crap. It is just another name for ARMM which was a failure in the views of Muslim rebels. Frankly, I see Bangsamoro Entity more in the side of Moro independence should it veer that way. For one thing, it brought cognizance to Bangsamoro as a different people or nation giving it an international legal personality. Bangsamoro means Moro nation. The mere word alone serves as a concrete divide between the Moros  and all other Filipinos.

I am of western Visayas. Ilonggos do not call themselves as BanwangIlonggo. They are comfortable being Filipinos, co-equal rightful owners of what is entire Philippines.

I think anything that divides any Philippine tribe with the rest of the Filipino nation, which cannot be reconciled, should be pulled down, dismantled, or eliminated.

Probably, a little near to “Final peace” in Mindanao is when or if the Moro rebels will cease to see themselves as a different nation fighting for a different state. That has not been easy, though we see progress,  as it is very deeply rooted in their culture. The lingering animosity between ethnic groups comprising Bangsamoro and all the others that make up the Philippines stretches back since Spanish colonization of the archipelago in the 16th century, or probably even before that in old Borneo.

Or, if Republic of the Philippines will surrender part of its territory to this Bangsamoro.

We don’t see any of that, or any of that happening soon, to expect that kind of peace.

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An Inherited Problem for the President – Hacienda Luisita

Hda Luisita is used to be owned by the Cojuangcos – of the Corazon C. Aquino circle of family. It’s been subject of land reform under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP.

Land reform was originally passed to eradicate feudalism in the country. It was aimed at emancipation of peasant-tenants from feudal bondage.  Peasants became land owners. Land reform today no longer limits to tenancy as they may also include any farmland, tenancy or not, over 5 hectares in area. The idea is to break up big farm units into small farm units, which is some politics’ idea of “democratization of wealth”.

Land Reform in Capitalist Farming

Hda Luisita is capitalist farming, corporate farming to be specific. And in capital farming, farmer actually refers to the owners of the means of production, in this case Hacienda Luisita Inc. [HLI] that owned and ran the land. And, yes, Sire/ma’am, small miserable farmers and super rich farmers are the same. They are all farmers. Welcome to the era called capitalism.

Farm-er [fa’armer] (plural farm-ers) noun

Somebody who farms: somebody who owns or operates a farm

1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved

Employees under the landowners or farmers are actually not farmers but farm workers, also known as wage earners. Hacienda Luisita is a case where farm workers would like to own the land to be the farmers. One big farmer to become many small farmers.

Anyway, Land Reform in capitalism is a matter between the state and landowner in one hand, and between the state and would-be-farmers in the other hand. State and the landowners agree on price and mode of payment. [In principle, would-be-recipients are represented in an adjudication board] State then distributes the land to recipients  under terms agreed upon by state and recipients or beneficiaries.

When landowner conceded or agreed to land reform, and when landowner accepted payment from the state, then, state became the new owner of that land until ownership has been passed on to recipients of land reform. Outgoing landowner has no business with the recipients of land reform.

At least in principles. Because, in the case of Hda Luisita that is not the case. The hacienda happens to have a sugar mill in an estate that is around 6,000 hectares [hectare X 2.471 = acre]. Hda Luisita has since been exhausting all legal remedies not to have the land simply distributed to interested farmers. They have fought for a say how it should be done, which is the “stock distribution option” or SDO for would-be-beneficiaries. By stock distribution, beneficiaries must incorporate their farm lots with the sugar mill. Interested beneficiaries in the other hand see it as THEIR option.

For HLI, giving up the land appears to be no problem. In fact many landed families made money better selling their lands to government than by anything else. Surely the Cojuangcos were not short changed in the deal. Big income is in sugar trading and not in sugar production, anyway.

Since the time of President Cory C. Aquino up to 1997, or in the first 10 years of CARP, 4, 619,000 hectares of land have been distributed under the program, 2.7% of them within compulsory acquisition [CA] and 97.2% of them within voluntary offer to sell [VOS]. VOS is land reform from landowners’ initiative. This is the period after the collapse of the sugar industry, and when the future of sugarcane farming has always been bleak until this day.

Hda Luisita is VOS but with “stock distribution option” attached to it. Why else would an estate owned or controlled by the family of a President ex President be subjected to land reform if not volunteered? So we see why giving away the land is not the problem. Preserving the sugar mill is another thing.

The existence of the sugar mill built on the land may be threatened. While sugarcane is top grosser, farmers will spend less for production and will net-profit better if they, and most likely, plant rice or corn instead. And a sugar mill without the farmers to supply the canes is sure-dead mill. Bye to lucrative sugar trading as well.

For the owners of Central Asucarera de Tarlac, simply giving up the land was therefore not as easy as would-be-farmers want it their way, or as easy as some implications of the law. Viewed from certain quarter, there are efforts by owners of Hda Luisita to defeat or circumvent the CARP for reason we have already outlined. Until Hda Luisita, CA or VOS did not have provision called SDO.

Personally, I think VOS should be scrapped and CARP modified rolled back, to affect only tenancy and idle private lands, which was what original land reform had been all about. But since there is the present CARP law, then, law ought to be law, we like it or not.

So, we have a case here of interested farmers going against the interest of those very influential in government. Interested farmers are dealing with the family of no less the President, Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III, son of one time President Cory C. Aquino. The conflict revolves around the SDO. In his mother’s time as president of the country, activists, militant farmers and farm workers, marching on their way to Malacañang Palace to demand the land under the agrarian reform law, ended up killed in what is now known as the Mendiola massacre.

And the heir of Pres Corazon C. Aquino, clear enough, is trying to avoid the same thing from happening in his time. While Noynoy apparently is not turning his back on the family’s “stock transfer” position, his administration, so far, has been quite liberal in its approach with those demanding for the land of Hda Luisita. A referendum regarding the SDO has been devised.

Another issue there seems to be who decides on who should qualify as beneficiaries. Right you are, at the end of the day, it is the owner of the land who decides. In cases involving land reform, only government that now owns those lands has the right to do that. Only DAR issues certificate of award, land or stock.

A CA usually started with  a petition by people’s organization  for some land to be acquired by government and then redistributed to the petitioners, under the land reform program.

VOS, in the other hand, stemmed from landowner’s will to sell land to government. VOS are not as simple as they sound. Ordinarily,  landowners  did not know their way around. They found their way to people who know the way. Those agents could be lawyers, or influential individuals or groups, who are knowledgeable in the maze of the bureaucracies i.e. Department of Agrarian Reform, Land Bank of the Philippines, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Lands, and more.  The fee was usually 20% of the total amount of the sale of land.

It is not usual way for DAR to take the burden of seeking or finding interested beneficiaries for VOS land. S.O.P. requires list of beneficiaries as one requirement for approval of VOS application. And VOS applicants and their agents should provide a tentative list of that or else  their application sleeps. That system has been formalized as voluntary land transfer, a term which is technically parallel operation land transfer [OLT] of the old land reform. Almost all VOS went that way.

Farm workers-turned-farmers as stockholders of Central Asucarera de Tarlac? Next thing to happen there will be a squabble between them and the original stockholders for control of the Corporation. Contest for control of a corporation is normal, natural, and universal of all corporations. But as we have seen just the mere thought of them is no longer acceptable to many of the would-be-farmers. First, they cannot agree with Luisita’s admin on many terms. Second, they seem do not or cannot trust the other side. The situation, which has already wasted a lot  of blood right in Luisita, hangs in there.

Lastly, HLI uses the “number of days worked by a farmer” as a basis for determining the number of stocks to be given to a farmer. Through this, HLI can unilaterally deny any farmer his entitlement to the stocks by the simple expediency of not giving him any working hours or days.

Land re-distribution in Tenancy land reform is easy. There are actual tenants with actual specific areas assigned them by landlords. State simply surveys them to draw parcels based on actuality.

How would you parcel out land to farm workers? They come and go. Some of them have been there for generations. Some of them are residents while some of them are seasonal migratory. Some of them have worked there for many years, while some of them just came yesterday. What about the women and the children who weeded in the fields? Sometimes, as in the case of bloody Hda. Luisita and bloody Hda Velez-Malaga in Negros, the farm workers cannot even agree among themselves. Who qualifies and how much should go to each can, indeed, be chaotic.

SDO by HLI?  That cannot be because HLI can only recommend to DAR, which has the authority to decide and to approve.

Actually, half the interested-farmers in Luisita have already accepted and tried SDO. They were not happy. What did they expect to earn in a hectare or a fraction of it from sugarcane production, really? Even five hectares in there is a waste of time under present circumstances. And that’s what I said selling land earns better! And we already saw 4 million hectares sold by their owners because they saw no good to them! There are better things than sugarcane farming.  First, there is the instability and volatility of  the  sugar market in the country  with a long  history quite pessimistic for the planters.  Second, is the nagging issue of slave wages that have always been blamed on the landlords, and to which  nothing seemed can be done about in the situation.

As for the land reform called CARP that is actually more of politics than sound economics? Well, it looks like the President can do nothing about it. Maybe Philippine Congress will do something for CARP or whatever people would like to name the program. And whatever that is, I don’t think the President will be comfortable with. Because, he is in a situation that damn if he does and damn if he does not.

The program had actually expired but was extended by congress to appease farmers and radicals. Or maybe that is only what we see. Fact is, CA is deemed terminated while extension applies to VOS. There were lots of VOS applications that are pending yet when the program matured. Department of Agrarian Reform [DAR] has received VOS applications more than it had handled.

Damn CARP! Or, maybe, we should say damn sugar trade in this country!

Give all the lands to the poor as they are what they want and as they are what politicians think is good. Then, give farmers a little better than rice and corn. Or, give them better reason than for them to leave their lands idle. The latter solves the problem of any sugar mill, the problem of Luisita included.

Give more incentives and protection to our producing sectors. The country which is blessed with land and climate suitable for agriculture should have been an agricultural power instead of having become dependent on world agriculture. Damn “Comprehensive Agrarian Reform” program. And damn sugar trading.

Related post here. Doing away with comprehensive agrarian  reform…

Updates: SC latest ruling regarding stock distribution option in HLI.

Land distribution ng Hacienda Luisita…

The Craziest of All Ideas for Filipinos – Self Reliance

I think, for a change, state should redirect its focus at self reliance. Yes, like, state should have a direct hand at industrialization where there is much need if not a void.

Adolf Hitler, reconciling capitalism with socialism, employed it. President Ferdinand E. Marcos  also made a push at there.  No, it is not dictatorship I am selling. They are  the good sides in them viewed from national standpoint that I am saying. Aside from self reliance, industrialization by the state where there is none, also meant more employment.

The idea of national self reliance is old. Filipino leaders in the past must have had it in mind. Like, without many infrastructures needed everywhere, they had Philippine National Construction Corporation [PNCC] for that. Today, with the private sector proliferating in there, the thing has naturally become a Burloloy [white elephant]. Whatever functions to justify its continued existence can easily be assumed by later-day agencies like, say, National Economic Development Autority [NEDA] and the Department of Public Works and Highways [DPWH].

They had National Power Corporation [NAPOCOR] and the National Waters and Sewerage Administration [NAWASA], that the private sectors under them today would like to take over. Ill-administered, top heavy and became financial burdens, these state-owned corporations are more in the side of burloloys that may be dissolved except for their barest function – Regulatory.

[In the world of ideologues, privatization is a lease of life to capitalism]

But back to self reliance. Let’s talk about fuels. Putting aside pretensions, the world went to wars for that. Nations invaded for that.  Terrorism is rooted to that. The latest world economic crisis was caused by a domino that is rooted to that.  Maybe, we Filipinos can pursue our needs for fuels without any thought of going into any war.

President Marcos, recognizing the very peculiar vital rule of fuels, created Philippine National Oil Company [PNOC] and PETRON. Aside from being a move towards self-reliance and stability, Petron also contributed to the coffers. I think, privatization of Petron, later, was some stupid monkey business. Because, the reasons behind their creation, unlike others, are becoming aggravating instead of receding as time goes on.

Self reliance. Surely every Philippine President that came and went had dreamed about it. The idea looks simple when it is not. Under the present circumstances the idea is in fact crazy.

Let’s talk of our Bio-fuels Law passed just a while ago. It created a big demand for Ethanol to fill but where are all the ethanol plants and the ethanol because there are none. So we import something that could easily be produced locally while saving on foreign currency reserves as well.

Let’s fantasize that government is putting up ten ethanol plants for a start. Imagine 10 ethanol plants where there is nothing! That will be sisiw [small timer]. Kayang-kaya, wholly owned by the state, or in partnership with other states and or in partnership with the private sector.

Perennial problem of troublesome informal settlers living in streets and gutters?  Then, state can start relocating them to the sites where those industries are and where jobs and housing for them await there.  That makes  the practice of selling rights in relocation sites and coming back to the streets and gutters a thing of the past for them.

No, professional squatters does not mean professionals who live in squatter areas. The term applies to squatters who have already  been relocated for the ump time so that it seems squatting getting relocated has become their means of living.

But Ethanol plants need farmers. Without farmers to supply the raw materials, mills are  no better than scrap metals. Many of those small farmers today are in the streets and gutters than starving back home or living more miserably in farmlands! They have to be enticed back to the farms from the cities. Financial-agricultural assistance, mabigat but still kaya. Maybe the presently allocated billions [21 Billion  a year] of pesos ‘cash transfer’, alms, palliative that does not solve the problem of poverty, should be cut and diverted to long range solutions.

But, most of all, farmers need motivation – stable and good price for their produce. That’s to sustain them and the system of production. That will also make many people in streets and gutters to pack-up and start moving back to the provinces. Yes, going home by themselves as they have moved into the cities by themselves !

But, to make farmers happy, State needs to elbow the Compradores aside. Or, leaving the traders as they are, to pose stiffest competition for them. State will end up getting its hands on trading of fuels, or fuel components, if not strongly dictating over the whole agricultural and agro-setup.

Laws will be needed. Everything and everyone that contributed to the deep quagmire that the nation is presently in will be rocked!

So, you see, as we go deeper to the bottom of  the matter, it gets more and more complicated. The whole idea is what and why I call crazy. It’s like telling the majority of our lawmakers to tell themselves to go to hell, or to get lost! Present day Philippines is much a creation of the comprador class.

Ethanol, the big talk in the country in 2000, is something nobody is investing. Apparently the problem is about trade and not about production. A look at the situation of the sugar industry, and of the state of the country’s sugar mills, are enough to douse any enthusiasm for ethanol, I guess. Interested would-be-producers see no guarantee in trade. In short, private capital has sensed no money in there, or else they’re in there now.

Should not we just drift with everything and everyone to the edge?  Maybe there is a miracle somewhere to snag the Filipinos for the better.

Still, I strongly recommend Stronghold Crusader by Firefly Studios for everybody or everyone running the state. Maybe they’ll learn a little of something from the game. And don’t forget to select Castle Builder Build peacefully, with just the camels for company!  There are big cats in the way, lest you forget.

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Deliver us from hell, God

I wish she were mistaken. I have a hunch she sticks.

What did I mean by that? Let’s take a look at Philippine agriculture particular in the Visayas, in Negros Island – the Sugarland, for example. There has been noted increase in the cultivation of sugarcane for CY [Crop year] 2010-2011. Calendar year 2009 ended  with  optimism for many sugarcane farmers.

Dwindled supply of local sugar has come to highlight lately. This is followed by an almost 100% increase in the price of sugar in the retail end. Currently, sugar sells at around P13.00 to P15.00 per ¼ kg from previous P7.50. Indications point to a new round of figures settling in there. And we are talking of a multi billion peso national industry and not of loose change.

Supply of local sugar has never been at its lowest, and the situation is not imagined but very real. Supply has not  been a problem to the traders, actually, as they can always bring in sugar say from Thailand. In fact they always did, and pointed to the “glut” to bring Filipino farmers down.

A token part of the take of traders has been transmitted to the producing sector this time, enough to cause what has now been observed as renewed activities by farmers. Good for the farming sector, this time it is the general consuming public that has been hit by Trade. Last time farmers were hit hard was in 2004 when they suffered about a hundred percent off from their best. What a coincidence, 2004 as now, happened to be Presidential election year. Bank rob and Narco politics during elections that Philippine National Police has talked about now appear like hao hsiao, but this is beside my point.

So, there is expected increase in sugar production for Crop Year 2010-11 to exceed expected figures for the current crop year. And this is likely to go until 2012. You see, what planters plant now will keep them going for another extra year. Ratoon or second growth crop is profitable than the first crop. Ratoon saves on major expenses like mechanized plow services and cane points for seeds. Farmers will have more reasons to care for the second crop. Optimism is mostly by greenhorns and small planters. Old timers are mostly not as optimistic. However, beyond 2012 is viewed as uncertain. And the sugar industry is far from its best in the past, if you call that progress.

Current Crop year 2009 -2010 is expected to close early. Some mills have run out of canes as early as this month of February. DPCMA was the first to close for the season and words have it that it is going into a sleeping beauty again until another prince of a banker bails her out. Compare them to the times when mills must close in May, for at least a month of maintenance work in preparation for the next milling season. Longtime pessimism among our producers has resulted to the situation.

The industry has its history. Unless changes are instituted history will just play on and on, again, again and again. There are farmers who are hopeful. They can be fooled, again, again and again, and they will still hope because there is nothing else for them but to hope. There are ones who will rather wait and see. They want to see real and concrete changes in place. And this wait-and-see stance by the producing sector has long been hurting everybody.

Sugar trading in this country has its history. Traders have their nature – buy low sell high, which is universal and beyond which is none of their concern. It is State’s obligation to see that nobody is left out, not theirs. To expect people to buy high sell low would be insane. Only states can possibly do or effect things to that. Some of them are called nationalized trading and/or subsidies. They are also known as government regulations.

We have the producers – farmers and millers, in one hand.  We have a multi- billion industry that one might milk plunder if they can seat on top of it all, in the other hand.   You see, the road to progress has many such forks that anyone in power can easily get lost. Now who’s going to play fair, impartial,  just God, and deliver the farmers, big and small, from hell, folks? OK, it must be purgatory but seemingly perpetual and long enough to be hell.

And to my friends and former classmates out there, [Iko, Macao, et al], is not riding the small farmers you call peasants to go against the big farmers you call landlords becoming quite obsolete? Model 1917 T-Ford are no longer fashionable. The world has evolved.  Have not we been trying to kill the now wrong tree? Under some sets of conditions,  possibility of better benefits for farm workers points to bigger farm units. At the same time, possibility of cheaper  consumer products  again, also points to  bigger farm units.

No, I’m not saying that it is the small farmers that should be eliminated. I’m saying is that breaking up big farm units and limiting land ownership to 5 hectares –  called Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, is made crazy. It doesn’t even win seats in  town councils nowadays if that’s what it is all about.

The political clout of the landlord class has gone long time ago. NASUTRA or National Sugar Trading Administration that was instituted for them once upon a time has long been hi-jacked and buried deep forgotten in the dustbin of history. Sugar Regulatory Authority [SRA] in its place is totally useless as far as stability and good price of sugar for the farmers are concerned. Today, Landlords are only slaves to the more powerful traders. Farmers can only take what is handed down to them. To survive landlords have to push where it is softer, incidentally the farm workers, if you call that real political power. And that explains the slave conditions of the farm workers that nobody can do anything about.

Maybe you should train your scopes and sights, in your own way, at the Compradores, instead? Or, stick your sharp steels and arrows at their horses and vermin, at least. Isa isa lang matindi ang labanan. Sa Kongreso, siguro, puwede sabay-sabayin sa-sampo  🙂 Question there is how will we get seats in congress when we cannot even win seats in town councils 😦

If we look at social problems deeper than social classes, the real problem there is actually what sapiens sapiens call self-preservation, selfishness or greed when at its worst, which is  something that is also universal. Well, I guess not all have the opportunity  to exercise  greed, of the kind and magnitude we are talking, except those who are in power.

Anyway, courageous Lady Senator does not apply to me. First, I happened to be a mason-carpenter. I have discovered long time ago that I cannot just nail a board or lay a block on nothing but air. Meaning, even beliefs must have sound basis – historical basis, at least. Second, people have rights to vote for, against, and yes, abstain. Until I see things real, I guess, I’ll persist in reserving my rights to say I-have-no-part-to-do with-you when [or if ?] situation comes to worst. 😦

More Troubles for Mother Earth Ahead?

Non-ownership of land by non-nationals is indeed quite becoming obsolete. Filipinos can buy land, real estate or farm, in the U.S., in Australia, or anywhere half in the world today. But wait a minute. Let’s scrutinize them because we have indications of twists to them as proposed here in the Philippines.

We Filipinos cannot buy forestland in Australia, or in the U.S, or anywhere else, or people there must be insane. An Asian or an African Pedru buying private land owned by an American Pedru, or the other way around, that’s how it is but not land owned by everybody – or public domain.

Correct me if I’m mistaken, I might not be updated, but last time I knew, before any portion of public land can be utilized, especially by the private sector for agriculture it has to be declared Alienable and disposable by Congress.

Concession in that regard, also granted by congress, as in Forestry [logging] concession, has already existed. Concession, same as lease, is not ownership. They are not covered by land retention limit and land reform.  Concession is economic exploitation of public land allowed for a specific period of time. The old form of exploitation of public land, more particularly forestland, is farther advanced or furtherance by the Billion Trees Act authored by Congressman Genaro Alvarez Jr and Congressman  Jose de Venecia II of the lower house of Congress.

As we have seen, this bill went through smooth passage in congress with some radical left supporting it actually. Squatters, soldiers and policemen, church people, everybody may now exploit our forest lands. That’s how the authors explained it. But that one day Filipinos will wake up to find one giant private entity operating thousands or even millions of hectares of forestland for agriculture, well, that’s reality made possible by this Billion trees Act.

Congress, in passing the Billion Trees Act of 2007, is passing direct control of Public lands to the Executive Branch of government —  to Malacanang Palace through its arm the Department of Energy and Natural Resources [DENR]. Whoever is interested in Philippine public land should go to them instead of Congress, that’s what the law says now.

Let’s go straight to the heart of the matter – Biofuels as one solution to save mother Earth. I believe we have a very, very legitimate issue there. Biofuels is a renewable source of energy, one solution to fossil fuels crisis. It will also bring about a cleaner environment. Now comes Jatropha Curcas for bio-diesel. Jatropha is projected at 5 metric tons of harvest, per hectare-per year at best. As we can see, same with Cassava, Jatropha cannot compete with crops like rice, corn and sugarcane in term of income for farmers. In short, people are not throwing away what they have at present just for Jatropha Curcas. Moreover, for investor to buy or to lease land just for Jatropha or Cassava is not economically feasible. Promoters of Jatropha have their eyes focused at they see are cheaper – public lands. They cannot do it in their own backyard. They cannot do it in advanced and developed countries; perhaps they can do it in third world countries.  With the Billion trees Act investors need not buy land. Vast territories can now be possibly exploited  for agriculture, for 50 years, for almost a token.

[Jatropha is good only where no other agriculture is economically socially feasible as in arid regions.]

Why cannot [Philippine] State do it for itself thus for its people, IF it must do it? The answer is obvious. Bureaucrat won’t make money for his /her personal keep, or make money that maybe he/she can stash secretly in an account somewhere else. That would be easy money acting like Real-estate broker for moneyed people incidentally, or most likely, foreigners… or, perhaps, be in secret partnership with them laway lang ang puhunan.  This one does not leave money trail, just some big questions where had one got money to buy so much shares of stock!  Are not they familiar old stories for Filipinos? [If you’ve been to rallies of activists and you don’t get what they mean by phrases like down with Bureaucrat capitalism, well, now you know the meaning of one. Simply stated it means one is in government to become rich by using government position to push for personal or selfish interests. But they are all about politics and economics.

Let’s talk about environment. War against Global warming and dirty air…is not that becoming just a horse for some greed here? I can’t see trees and Reforestation in Jatropha Curcas and Cassava. Maybe its me my eyes are twisted or crossed.

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Where is the Ethanol

The country now has a very big ethanol demand to fill but where is the ethanol?

That’s the best question so far asked of the matter. Yeah, where, because there are none. The Filipino people have expected ethanol industries to mushroom all over the country the way they do in other parts of the world. In fact, I’ve been pondering over the same things since 2003 when I helped to organize the Bayawan Valley Farmers’ Organization in anticipation.

I remember I was doing fine as a construction worker way back in 02 until I saw Kompareng Joel G. Miranda about this thing called ethanol. No, he is not the same Mayor Joel G. Miranda of Santiago. My compadre‘s middle initial G stands for Granada, I’m not sure about the other.  Sometimes I wished the meeting never took place. I’ve been bugged by this ethanol thing!

Well, for those who do not know, Joel is that crazy old guy with crazy mercenary mentality who many people I’m sure never heard about. Imagine him as one bully in Diwalwal mountains where he made money managing one small-scale gold mining operation while the company he worked for went bankrupt in the end. Imagine him as been involved in dagdag bawas in some elections there in Mindanao. Imagine him among the Teroray tribe, has or should I say had one of them for his wife, fancying himself as the  petty warlord Toothpick reborn. And then there was the time he thought he could bully his way in Gensan’s fish port. Lucky he made it back to Manila in one piece! That’s when he talked me about this  Ethanol thing. You see, I like my Compadre very much but not always the many things that he brokered.

He was scouting for at least 10,000 hectares that could be cultivated to sugarcane – for absolute partnership with one interested foreign investment group. Ten thousand hectares to be converted to shares of stocks! The idea was for one corporation to own the plant and facilities, likewise the farm that would guarantee supply of raw material to its own plant. This one proposed scheme is good.  In fact, I like the idea. I think it is advanced. Like, imagine a sugar mill eating up all the lands around it. Or, like one agri-corporation eating up the mill! But there are just many dead ends to it. The scheme is next to impossible if not insane under the present situation.

Nearest thing to that are Dole and Del Monte Philippines but they operate mostly on leased lands. Or Hacienda Luisita Sugar mill in Tarlac that owns 6, ooo hectares. But they all developed over a considerable period of time and not overnight.

Presently, the nearest real thing there is for foreign investors is to find local partners for that plant. This is to conform to existing Philippine laws. Next would be to put up the plant, which is not simple matter since locating them can be complicated by politics, or something that needed connections in high places. And when it is located, then that would be it – compete it on with other sugarcane millers.

The ups and downs of Dacongcogon mill is one interesting case. DPCMA was set-up in a territory that was green, or generally subsistence farming  in southern Negros island. DPCMA was a cooperative mostly of  small landowners and farmers organized by the late Bishop Monsignor Antonio Fortich in partnership with the Gaston business group in 1969.  Financing  was then no problem. Land titles used to be clean. The Cooperative facilitated farmers with Philippine National Bank [PNB] and Development Bank of the Philippines [DBP]. The list of co-op members [my late old man was one of them] was long that in fact, just a quarter of them were possible to maintain milling operations. But the mill had collapsed several times due to member-farmers’ run. Monsignor Fortich must have passed away a very disheartened old man at what administrators had done to his brainchild. 😦 [My baptismal certificate said it was him who poured holy water on me when I was cute and he was young parish priest of Binalbagan.]

Free Competition among Millers  and Farmers

Cost of transport or proximity of farm to the sugarcane mills is one big consideration by farmers. Another major factor is Farmer-Miller sharing that varies from 65-35 to 70-30, and which can offset cost of transport. And then there’s the factor that always was the cause of farmers’ run – the efficiency of the mills – also viewed as millers’ trustworthiness. And such runs result to poor business if not collapse of mills in the end.

A farmer in Dacongcogon area, for example, either intentionally or by necessity, also milled with SONEDCO or sometimes went as far as BISCOM. Purity Sugar per Tonne Canes [PSTC] of 1.2 by one miller, 1.5 by another, and 1.6 in yet by another miller, all from the same farm-batch, spoke loud for the mills. And when analysis by millers [especially PSTC and molasses] has become questionable, the report from the Scale becomes questionable, too.

So, will putting up sugarcane mills encourage landowners and farmers to cultivate sugarcane?  Yes, It will have the effect, or it will help encourage farmers. Sugarcane farming has always been the dream of every farmer in Negros Island. It’s a dream, an obsession actually, of every poor farmer to become a small planter or a big Haciendero someday. But sugarcane farming costs and there is no available financing program that supports it. Crop loan applies only to farmers who already have standing crop and with track record. Land titles for loan collateral to start everything with, are out of the question. In land reform, beneficiaries hold only certificates that are not valid instrument for loan. Clean titles free of encumbrances are rare if not extinct ever since the collapse of sugar in the 80s. In fact, strictly speaking, many landowners no longer own their lands.  What now as there seems to be one dead-end here.

And then there is the problem of roads. We have large agricultural areas suitable for sugarcane agriculture. Sugarcane is suited to rolling terrains, which explains why 19th and early 20th century economic advances in Negros Island [Maao, La Carlota, La Castellana, Isabela, Payao, Himamaylan, Kabankalan] and the trails of the mestizo blood, were not in marshy or wetter plains until they were well-drained.

The absence  of feeder or farm roads, or lack of them, is one of the reasons why the hinterlands have remained undeveloped or underdeveloped for cash crops. Many areas do not even have farm-to-market roads, much more good and stable ones. One planter I know in Bayawan Valley has lost P300, 000.00 worth of canes unmilled last [2007-08] season. Those over-aged canes are Katis or trash that are not worth transporting  to the mill this season. It was stupid to have operated without dependable and stable farm roads in the first place. [And this stupid speculator happened to be my brother. Weather did not cooperate according to his expectations!]

And finally there is the lack of hard motivation for producer farmers, which is something beyond them – stable and good price for their produce. Trading sector has that in their hands. Millers, by definition, are part of the Producing sector. All millers, and some big planters I know, are engaged in commercial trading too, so they are little affected.  Obviously they earn little as producers and benefit much as traders.

Meanwhile, in places like Lucotan, Pingot, and yes, Bayawan Valley, it’s more of speculation than real agriculture in there on the part of the agricultural sector. It’s more of wait-and-see situation that I should say is generally sleepy-life-as-usual. There simply are people who have no place to go and nothing else to do but to farm. If you call that serious farming. And that is reflected. Who in his right mind will think of putting up a mill where they see no room for two, existing ones lack bounty of raw material, are on the red, actually. Checkmate. There’s no life in farming and mills are not coming because there are no farmers.

How will we know that farmers are finally motivated? Well, I guess, more people will be going up there to cultivate. Price of land will jump up, which right now is still considerably cheap. Arriendo system as well as VOS will be down. And, there will always be moneyed people around because people always find ways when they are obsessed and sure about it. There won’t be much idle lands that people can see. Right now, even loan sharks are not optimistic about lending money in there. And about farm roads, gangs of farmers will build them with bare hands, hoes, plows, anything, as they have always done when they saw the need. Simple farmers, like their fathers before them, have ceased to  complain bother about roads.  Road equipment just come without being asked. And like the big signs that come with them, everything means  that it is election time once again.  Then the rains come. And, all repairs are gone until next election.  Don’t worry, there will be the gangs of farmers with bare hands, hoes, plows, anything.   But, surely someday,  maybe everybody can do better than all that!

Meantime, where is the Ethanol?

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