• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

There is this assurance from the Department of Agriculture as stated by Secretary William Dar that the Philippines will have enough rice up to the end of this year. Well, that’s very comforting knowing that the Philippines was the world’s biggest importer of rice last year, importing some three (3) million metric tons of rice for its 105 million population, beating China that only imported some 2.5 million metric tons of rice for its population of some one billion four hundred million Chinese.

It is painful to note that while the Philippines is an agricultural country but it cannot even produce enough rice for its people. This is a great paradox! Look at Mindanao with its more than 200,000 hectares of the choicest of land planted to high value crops, i.e., pineapple, banana, palm oil, etc., to satisfy the consumerist lifestyle of the obese people in advanced countries while we cannot even satisfy our own basic need like rice and milk.

Perhaps it is worth reflecting on why the Philippines does not have rice self-sufficiency?  A Study has shown that while Vietnam has some 8.4 million hectares of irrigated land and Thailand has some 9.2 million hectares, the Philippines has just some 1.8 million hectares of irrigated land.

It was also shown in a Study that farming is not anymore economically viable. In 1997, after the signing of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in Cebu, no less than the King of Thailand upon his return to his country took off his robe and crown and did farming with the Thai farmers. His advice was not to use chemicals but go organic and told them not to use tractors as the carbon emissions contribute to climate change but to use carabaos because the waste of the carabaos will fertilize the soil. As they debunked conventional agriculture and shift to sustainable agriculture, they were able to lower down the production cost of rice to just 5 to 7 pesos per kilo. The Filipino farmers being tied-up to conventional agriculture using chemical s heavily are producing rice at about 13 to 15 pesos per kilo.  Thus, when we allowed the entry of imported rice thru Tarrification and imported rice are just sold at about 10 pesos per kilo, how can the rice of our farmer be bought when sold more than 15 pesos per kilo?  As farming is not anymore viable, 4 out of 5 farmers, mostly the young generation, have left farming to find jobs in the urban centers working as drivers, janitors or waiters. That’s the reason why our cities are becoming congested.

Not having self-sufficiency on rice, thus, the imperative need to  import, what if the Philippines will not be able to import because of the coronavirus pandemic?  There will be too much pressure on making our land productive that has become too dependent on conventional agriculture. Be it on planting rice or raising livestock, it will take some time, from land preparation, planting and harvesting. What must be done as farming has not become economically viable anymore?

When hunger strikes, the only remedy is to rely on our fishery resources. Unlike farming or raising livestock that is time bounded, fishing can be done and on that very day, you can eat fish. All that is to be done is to make sure that our bays are still oozing with fish and marine life. But that is not the case anymore.  Based on the Studies, of the 13 major bays in the country, 10 are already biologically dead; of the 25 major rivers, 15 are already dried-up or polluted.

It is against this backdrop that there is this eagerness in the coastal communities to regain back the lost ecological integrity of the marine ecosystem.  But how?  In my sorties around Macajalar Bay, the coastal communities are now appealing that they be organized into cooperatives so that they can harness their collective power to stop the ecological degradation of the bay against illegal fishing, massive siltation from illegal mining and illegal logging and industrial pollution as industries are just treating the bay as their waste pit.

We will now mobilize the thousands members of Task Force Macajalar to manifest our love and strong advocacy to save the dying bay.  In the 90’s for ten years we had conducted  nightly sea-borne patrol and had established coastal guard houses to protect the bay from illegal fishing and to stop industrial pollution. Then we would stage human barricades against the passage of some 50 logging trucks every night carrying illegally-cut logs passing the thorough fares of Cagayan de Oro from 1:00 to 5:00 o’çlock in the morning while the Cagay-anons were fast asleep.  Thru the people’s direct action, illegal logging had been stopped,  The task now is to protect Macajalar Bay so that when hunger strikes soon, the Cagay-anons will have something to eat.  As our tribute, we composed this poem:

Will the bay which reign to give life

Be now devoid of breath? The bay has always been like a mother to us,

As we bountifully reaped its blessings.

Fishing lies at the heart of our culture, the fisherfolk its careful guardians

The bay is now facing a crisis, representing a danger to coastal people.

Soon we will see a time when the unavoidable reality of hunger

Will stalk the earth again.

Then how heavily will the meaning of a single fish

Weigh in our human heart!

Pray sons and daughters of the Earth

That the bay be restored to health! Join us!