Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peace process must remain within constitutional limits

The gaps in the 2001 ceasefire agreement must be addressed. While we are for peace, we must build a peace process that recognizes its limits under the Constitution.

While we welcome the efforts of the Armed Forces to capture and bring to justice those responsible for the murderous rampage that led to the deaths of our men in uniform, we must reiterate our position that bombings and the capture of rebel camps do not necessarily lead to victory in the field.

The US dropped more bombs during the Vietnam War than they then did during World War II, yet they lost to the Vietnamese.

We must win the peace. Military operations, war, and destruction will not achieve this.

Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces

Hungduan Rice Terraces

For 2,000 years, the Ifugao rice terraces have helped to shape the culture, identity, and livelihood not only of our brothers and sisters in the Cordilleras, but also of the Filipino people. They have become symbols of our ingenuity and vision, our rootedness in nature, and the value of community, among others. We cannot allow the rice terraces, as well as these values, to be eroded over time. These help define our being Filipino.

It is important to preserve the Ifugaos’ traditional methods of upland rice farming and sustainable communal agriculture, and, more importantly, pass on this knowledge to future generations of Ifugaos, as these are sources of huge tourism and economic impact that will also improve the incomes of the Ifugao folk.

damaged irrigation

We cannot kill the Ifugao farmers’ source of life, culture, and pride. We must do whatever we can to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the rice terraces and make a sustainable living out of them. We owe it not only to them or to ourselves, but to our ancestors who have entrusted the rice terraces to us over the last 2,000 years.

For more updates on these efforts, interested parties may like the “Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces campaign” page on Facebook or follow @saveIRT on Twitter. Those who wish to help may also email

upper Batad damaged eroded rice terraces

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Proceeds of FTI sale should go into synergized efforts to increase farmer's income

Should the proposed sale of the Food Terminal Incorporated push through, its proceeds should be plowed back to the agriculture sector, particularly to efforts in increasing the incomes of farmers and fisherfolk.

My only concern is whether or not the sale of the FTI would run counter to our efforts at achieving food self-sufficiency. Our goal is to make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, or to make sure that the left hand is not taking away what the right hand is giving. At face value, it would seem that the sale of FTI means that we are moving away from our goal of becoming competitive and taking away from our efforts at upping the incomes of our farmers by giving them access to markets and top-of-the-line post-harvest facilities.

We must make sure that our efforts are synchronized so that the money will not go to waste. It has become the new mantra of this administration to increase the incomes of our farmers, and that is what we should focus on.

Having a food distribution hub is crucial, as it has been proven in other countries that farmers can double their incomes if they have access to the markets. The DA must make their position clear to the DOF how much land they want to retain within the FTI property to ensure that our efforts at strengthening the entire supply chain will not be compromised with this sale.

Privatization per se is not necessarily a bad policy, we just need to have a coordinated plan and a clear cut policy to ensure that the farmers and fisherfolk will directly benefit from the proceeds of the sale of the FTI.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Subsidize adaptive seed varieties to farmers in preparation for possible impact of Thailand flooding on world rice supply and price

Thailand may lose 6 million metric tons of unmilled rice as floods damage key plantation areas. This constitutes 40 percent of the normal Thai export, or 12 percent of total global exports. We must take preemptive steps to ensure we have steady supply to feed our people.

The DA must strategize in helping local farmers increase their yield by aggressive intervention. We call for massive modernization of the country’s rice mills.

We currently have 55 to 60 percent recovery. If we use more modern milling machines and increase recovery rate even by 5 percent, we won’t have to import rice. Comparatively, China and Thailand have 68 to 79 percent recovery. We must be proactive and our approach must be scientific in anticipation of disruptions in the world market. Depending on the adequacy of stocks in Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma, world prices of rice may go up again. We must engage in aggressive interventions now before prices skyrocket.

Increasing our yield is an imperative so that we do not find ourselves at the mercy of rice exporting nations as we secure the much needed supply of our basic staple.

Spend our billions on food production, not war, in Mindanao

There is nothing that our country will gain by waging an all-out war against our fellow Filipinos. In fact, in the four decades that we have been waging war in the south, we have already lost close to P100 billion in damage to crops, infrastructure, property, and in spending for arms and ammunition that have killed countless lives. That’s P100 billion that we could have invested elsewhere, like for agriculture and food production, education, housing, health, and other basic services.

We have neglected agriculture for decades, which is why our neighbors like Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand are zooming past us while we are limping like a crippled old man. If we had, instead, focused on developing agriculture in our “food basket” of Mindanao, think of where we might be today.

History has taught us that a military solution in Mindanao has failed time and time again. We must look at the Ramos administration’s aggressive peace initiatives in the 90s that helped create the window of opportunity that laid down the foundation for economic progress in cities like GenSan (General Santos), Cagayan de Oro, and Davao. In the Mindanao experience, war has brought only misery while aggressive peace initiatives have brought real, tangible progress and development in these areas.

General Santos, for example, has risen from being a war-torn area to the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” with exports in 2010 valued at $359.4 million (approximately P15.5 billion).

The root cause of insurgency is poverty so why should we waste even more precious resources when we should instead be helping our people get out of poverty? What our people in the rural areas need are sustainable agricultural programs that can help feed our people and give our farmers and fisherfolk dignity in their professions. Then maybe they will no longer be encouraged to take up arms.

Ang sanhi ng gulo sa Mindanao ay matinding kahirapan. Ang solusyon ay pagkain at kabuhayan, hindi baril at armas.

We continue to call for justice for our fallen soldiers, plus the innocent lives that got caught in the crossfire. But while we need to re-think our handling of the peace negotiations with the MILF, we ought to do so in the context of how to strengthen the peace process rather than abandoning it for the path of war. And we need to retrain our focus on feeding our people, rather than perpetuating an unnecessary war.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Temporarily suspend ceasefire talks with the MILF

We support the President’s call for sobriety in not going for an all-out war against the MILF, but we urge the MILF to come out with a categorical statement in regard to their so-called ‘lost commands’ that have been sowing violence in Basilan over the past weeks. We also urge the President to suspend peace talks with the MILF temporarily. The GPH and the MILF must first strengthen the mechanisms of the peace talks, specifically the provisions on ceasefire violations.

Unless the loopholes in the provisions on ceasefire violations are addressed, we fear that violations will continue and more lives will be lost.

Ceasefire violations are a hindrance to genuine peace talks. The strengthening of mechanisms against such violations is crucial to both parties moving forward with the peace negotiations. This must include provisions on bringing to justice those perpetrators who, with their actions—regardless of their motives—have resulted in the loss of lives.

Achieving lasting peace and ending armed conflict

The Philippines has been afflicted with social unrest armed conflict for several decades, The roots of the insurgency are poverty and underdevelopment. Apart from an aggressive peace negotiations that must lead to a peace settlement and a peace accord amongst the different warring factions, economic growth and good governance must be put in place to achieve lasting peace in war torn areas. The communist insurgency and the Muslim separatists have cost us the loss of tens of thousands of lives in the last half a century. It has also drained our national coffers of meager resources that could have been used to fund basic social services for our people. Achieving lasting peace is therefore essential if we are to truly move the nation forward.

How do we achieve lasting peace? The peace initiatives during the Ramos Presidency of 1992 to 1998 are a rich source of lessons that can serve as a template for future peace negotiations with the CPP NPA NDF and the MILF. The Ramos Presidency arguably was the most successful presidency in terms of pushing for a genuine peace agenda with various rebel groups such as the CPP NPA, the MNLF, the MILF and including rightist rebels from the RAM.

The ceasefire talks and negotiations with all armed groups created an atmosphere of relative peace in the years 1992 to 1998. The peace accord with the MNLF signed in 1996 created a window of opportunity for development in Mindanao. Through aggressive peace negotiations and an aggressive enticing of the private sector to invest in Mindanao, a wave of development was realized which gave way to the development in cities like General Santos, Cagayan de Oro and Davao City. Prior to the 90s, these cities were all backward and underdeveloped. This progress was achieved as well in part due to the emergence of reform minded local leaders in these areas.

The Ramos administration's peace and economic initiatives together with the efforts of strong leaders in the local level made progress in many areas in Mindanao possible. It is a template that should be built upon by future administrations. A second wave of peace and economic development initiatives can lead to the emergence of more progressive cities like Marbel, Iligan, Cotabato and Zamboanga in Mindanao and progress in provinces such as those in Samar and the Bicol Region where the incidence of poverty continue to be very high.

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Show no mercy for murderous lost commands

We cannot simply turn a blind eye to the murderous and lawless armed elements in the area, who with treachery take advantage of the restraint exercised by our men in uniform out of respect for the peace process.

We should continue to talk peace with the MILF but we should show no mercy for the murderous lost commands. We trust that the MILF will agree that these lost commands should be dealt with the full force of the law.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On the death of Muammar Gaddafi

The death of Gaddafi should serve both as a warning and stern reminder to all those who wield political power everywhere in the world. It should make political leaders pause to think hard about the essence of power and leadership in a world that is changing so rapidly. Sic transit gloria mundi.

We will all be made to account for our official acts and as such we must strive to ensure that the power that is entrusted to us by our people should never be abused lest we face the wrath of those we serve.

Political power is not an end in itself, but must at all times be a means to uphold our people’s rights and their welfare and that most importantly one’s exercise of political power shall, as in all things, come to an end.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We urge NDF, MILF to give up armed struggle and work toward just and comprehensive peace settlement

It pains us to see that at the same time we are mourning the loss of lives due to armed struggle in our country, our brothers in Spain are rejoicing at the end of violence in theirs. We urge our brothers in the NDF and MILF to end decades of armed struggle and open channels that will allow us to enjoy lasting peace in our country.

The end of violence in Spain gives us hope, and we believe we have more cause to be united as Filipinos and more reason to work harder for peace. This generation and its leaders must exhaust all efforts to achieve lasting peace.

With the genuine desire of President Aquino to reach out and have a dialogue with the NDF and MILF, now more than ever our goal of finally achieving peace is within reach. We hope that all parties exert extra effort to make this happen now, within our lifetime. Forty years is too long to be at war with our own brothers. Too many lives have been lost, and too much precious resources have been wasted in addressing this conflict. The time to end all this is now.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We mourn with the nation for the slain soldiers in Basilan

We mourn with the Filipino people for the death of 19 soldiers in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Basilan.

Every single life lost in this conflict is a pin pricked in the heart of our nation. We grieve for our soldiers, their families and loved ones. They paid the ultimate price for our nation.

We must work for genuine peace and usher in progress so that their deaths will not be in vain.

Government must firm up its resolve to end the root causes of social unrest and armed conflict in Mindanao so as to put meaning in the deaths of our men in uniform.

We urge the GRP peace panel to review its current track to the path of peace and rethink its handling of the MILF given this latest unfortunate incident. It appears that the approach needs a serious review. We cannot allow the MILF to dictate the terms and conditions of the peace process. This latest incident is a major setback in the efforts to secure a just and honorable peace.

While we will not jump into the fray and call on a suspension of the talks, given this latest incident, the GRP should not rule out the option of suspending the talks if we find the MILF explanation and its subsequent acts to address the matter as unacceptable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My statement on the SC ARMM postponement ruling

We welcome the postponement and the appointment of OIC’s. This is doing things differently and seeking new approaches to address the problems in the region. To expect real change to happen by doing the same things over and over again is insanity, it has been said. Going ahead with the ARMM elections now would simply keep ARMM where it is: Violent, corrupt, and inutile to effect change.

It was a close shave considering it was 8-7 but we are thankful that we can still draw some support from the Supreme Court for the reform efforts of the president. We do hope however that there won’t be any last minute flip-flopping by the SC on the issue. Given recent developments and the close vote one cannot help but be wary of the final outcome. Still it is a welcome development for the cause of real reform in ARMM.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Go slow on rice imports; we don't want to be swimming in rice

There is a need to balance the sufficiency of supply of rice in the country and addressing the concern of farmers, especially those hardest hit by typhoons and flooding.

In the past government was heavily addicted to rice imports. Going back to this addiction is the wrong way to go. We trust that President Aquino has sufficient information regarding the state of our rice supply to decide against additional rice imports for 2011. While importing rice ensures we have an adequate and steady supply of the commodity, it has also a direct impact on the price of rice in the local market should the supply be more than sufficient.

An oversupply of rice due to imports impacts directly on the income of our farmers who have suffered greatly due to the damage to their crops brought about by the recent typhoons.

The country cannot afford to have an oversupply of rice as doing so will impoverish more farmers in the countryside.

Too much rice is a disincentive for farmers to plant more rice when the farmgate prices are low. We do not want to add to the suffering of our farmers by flooding the market with rice imports. In order to protect the welfare of our local farmers, the importation of rice must be done only when it is absolutely necessary and in amounts that will not flood the markets. We cannot afford to go back to the days wherein we were swimming in rice as it hurts our local farmers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Declare ceasefire and resume talks

We welcome the release of Surigao Mayor Henry Dano and his two military aides and the four jail guards by the New People’s Army.

This release increases our confidence in the peace process. In the final analysis, we all want lasting peace to become a reality in our country. Now is the time for both panels to sit down and declare a truce and resume peace talks.

Talking peace is not at all possible when we are shooting at one another. A ceasefire is a must.

We all look forward to the day when we finally have lasting peace. We must continue to strive for it and achieve it in our lifetime.

As a former student activist during the Marcos dictatorship, I am well aware of the cause the NDFP espouses. When the roots of armed conflict are addressed by a government committed to genuine change then the path to peace must be given a chance to succeed.

We urge the GPH and the NDF to immediately declare a ceasefire as a means to give way to formal talks. A new generation of Filipinos deserves to see lasting peace achieved in our lifetime. We look to the future wherein the guns of war are silenced forever. The peace process must pave the way for economic growth and development in the rural areas. Only when we succeed in developing our rural areas--creating gainful employment for our people in the countryside in an atmosphere of unity and peace--can we truly progress as a nation.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

On ambassador Harry Thomas' apology for sex tourism story

We laud the humility and honesty displayed by Ambassador Harry Thomas. Coming as it does from no less than the ambassador of the most powerful nation in the world, the gesture is a rarity and actually quite refreshing. Admitting error and owing up to it requires courage and strength of character, not weakness. His act deserved admiration and respect.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Allocate calamity funds to rehabilitate fingerlings industry

We urge Malacanang to allocate funds to fast track the recovery of losses incurred by the agricultural sector in the wake of typhoons Pedring and Quiel.

We need immediate restocking of bangus fingerlings in small fishpens in Bulacan and other areas damaged by the typhoons. Left alone, it would take them 60 to 75 days to restock. That would take too long. If we don’t act fast, this will impact our food supply chain.

We also urge the Department of Agriculture to give away fingerlings for free to fishpen owners to help them recover.

Most of these fishpen owners are left with nothing. Wala na rin silang pambayad para mag-restock. Instead of subsidizing, the DA should give away fingerlings for free.

Data from the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food (PCAFI) show that more than 36,000 metric tons of bangus and tilapia were lost due to typhoon Pedring alone. In Hagonoy, over 7,000 hectares of fishponds were destroyed. Figures are expected to go higher as officials tally the damages. BFAR can get fisherlings from their stock as well as private hatcheries. The government needs only to allocate funds for the DA to be able to give away the fingerlings to fisherfolk as soon as possible.

Let us prioritize small fishfarmers and help them get back on their feet and help mitigate the damaging effects of the typhoon. If we don’t do so soon, we will feel the immediate effects on our food supply chain. We urge the government to allocate and release funds now for the immediate restocking of our food.

Rehabilitate rice producing areas in Luzon

We urge the government to allocate funds to mitigate the damages to the country’s rice producing areas and help farmers recover quickly.

We need government’s intervention on our agricultural sector by securing our farmer’s yield on the next two croppings. At the most, we can only recover 50 percent of our harvest damaged by Pedring and Quiel. We ask the Department of Agriculture to subsidize palays for farmers and suspend irrigation fees for the next two croppings. Kung hindi natin gagawin ito, mababaon sa utang ang ating mga magsasaka at buong bayan ang maaapektuhan.

We also call for the immediate release of P500M state reserve funds throught the PCIC for farmers.Yang halagang iyan ay nakasaad sa charter ng PCIC. Dapat sana ay mailabas na sa lalong madaling panahon ang perang ito nang sa gayon ay hindi naman mabaon sa utang ang ating mga magsasaka. Isang kahig, isang tuka na nga sila, mababaon pa sila sa matinding utang dahil sa pananalanta ng bagyo.

Sa huli, hindi lang ang kabuhayan ng magsasaka ang isasalba natin dito. Nakasalalay din dito ang ating pagkain. Kalahating pursiyento ng ating suplay ng bigas galing sa Luzon. Maaaring hindi pa natin mararamdaman ang kakulangan karakaagad pero siguradong darating ito. Tulungan natin ang ating mga magsasaka at nang sa gayon ay maseguro natin na sapat ang suplay ng bigas sa bawat hapag kainan sa bansa.

Conduct regular barangay-based typhoon drills

e call on Local Government Units and other concerned agencies to include typhoon drills as part of their efforts in disaster preparedness.

As a means to strengthen disaster preparedness and educate our citizens on the necessity of evacuation operations and procedure during times of typhoons, LGUs and Regional Disaster Coordinating Councils should undertake typhoon drills on a regular basis.

Our schools and offices undertake earthquake drills regularly even if we have earthquakes perhaps once or twice a year, yet we do not have typhoon drills despite the fact that we have 20 typhoons hitting the country each year.

According to Local officials and rescue workers, when typhoons Pedring and Quiel hit, most homeowners refused to leave their property despite early warnings of flooding. This prompted a debate on whether the PNP and AFP should use forced evacuation procedures in such cases. Typhoon drills would address this concern as this will give the public the necessary information.

Disaster preparedness is the best way to ensure that lives are saved, and death and injuries brought down to a minimum. After visiting the disaster areas of Pampanga and Bulacan and conferring with local officials and our men from both the AFP and PNP, we see this drill as an effective way to educate and enlighten our citizens on the issue.

Increase crop insurance for farmers

We should find ways to help our farmers recover quickly from natural disasters, and crop insurance is key. With crop insurance we can minimize the effects of the damage from typhoons and other natural disasters and at the same time increase the bankability of our farmers’ produce.

The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation has a budget of P183M only for 2011. It should have at least a budget of P300M annually so they can cover as many farmers as possible.

The problem of farmers is not access to credit, but bankability. Lending institutions are more confident when the farms are insured. Kahit 50 percent ang coverage, malaking bagay na yun sa ating mga magsasaka bilang pantawid at para makapagtanim silang muli. On average, PCIC is only insuring less than 100,000 farmers every year out of around 4 million farmers in the country. That is not acceptable. Crop insurance, in the long-term, is going to be more cost-effective for the government than dealing with the tens of billions of pesos every year in crop damages.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Agri social enterprises coupled with public-private partnerships ensures sustainable agriculture in the Philippines

Sustainable farming must begin with the community, ably supported by various sectors. Farming, if done right, can be profitable and can lead to an improved quality of life for our farmers and fisherfolk.

We really need to drastically improve our farmers’ incomes, with some farmers earning as little as P30,000 a year. We must adopt Gawad Kalinga's model to develop sustainable agricultural communities.

The commitment of the private sector, the corporate sector, is key because it is the private sector that has the needed resources to sustain the effort of modernizing agriculture and achieving food sufficiency. Government, on the other hand, must come in to provide assistance in terms of technology, research and development, and key infrastructure development around those communities.

Agri social enterprises, coupled with public-private partnerships, is unleashing People Power in the rural areas in order for agricultural communities to increase their earnings and improve their quality of life, With this, we hope to become food-sufficient and self-sustaining, thereby reshaping our nation.