Environment

Tech Industry Can Fight Climate Change

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The Internet can help fight climate change, says eco-group Greenpeace leader Kumi Naidoo. The current technology we are using have made high speed communication between continents possible. It has definitely made the delivery of breaking much faster than traditional media. It has helped advocacy groups pressure government to be more transparent. It has enabled countries like Egypt to facilitate social revolutions. Therefore, says Naidoo, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it can help solve the problem of climate change.

Each time someone posts a Facebook status, streams a favorite video on YouTube, and types a Twitter message, the information is contained in massive data centers which uses up a lot of electricity. Data centers are a major part of the online cloud system, and one can consume as much electricity as a medium-sized city.

If cloud computing were a country, according to Naidoo,who hails from South Africa and has been the group’s International Executive Director since 2009, it would rank sixth in the world on based on how much power it consumes.The amount of data going to and fro around the world is forecasted by experts to triple in the next few years, as more and more people use the Internet to connect with the rest of the world.

Naidoo, who is also known as a human rights activist, acknowledges that the internet has changed the world for the better. It has mobilized groups of people toask for more freedom, transparency & democracy from their governments. The Greenpeace director says it is only natural that it moves the world to a clean energy revolution that will last for generations to come.

Naidoo reminds people that the Internet that everyone finds useful, and the companies that run it, are at a crossroads in terms of where their energy comes from.  Several online-based companies are nowaiming for a green Internet and a sustainable future. Companies like Facebook, Apple and Google have committed to 100 percent renewable energy.They did this in response to advocates around the world who have asked them for a greener Internet. Other fast-growing technology companies, like Salesforce, Rackspace and Box, have joined the rest in making the same commitment, proving that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible for any company that has the will to implement it.

Naidoo adds, “In contrast, some popular online companies, including social media sites that people use every day like Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, still power their platforms with fossil fuels and nuclear energy.” At the moment, the largest cloud-based company is Amazon Web Services, a division of Amazon.com. It is the data host for some of the most popular Internet brands in the world. Unlike major online brands like Google and Apple, Amazon’s main source of power for its servers comes frompollution-causing sources of energy that threaten nearby communities and the climate. “Of course, Amazon doesn’t have to remain stuck in the energy sources of the 1800s. Energy sources like wind and solar made up for more than half of all the new electricity in the United States in 2012,” says Naidoo.

The Greenpeace director assures the public, though, that digital pioneers are making moves toward eco-friendly measures, both online and offline. For one, Apple is now operating the largest privately-owned solar installation in the U.S. at one of its data centers. Facebook persuaded a U.S. power company to supply its data center with 100 percent wind energy. Google followed suit by pioneering the use of clean power purchases, buying wind energy to provide electricity for its services like Gmail and YouTube, as well as the rest of the power grid.

Naidoo further comments, “If Amazon and others want to stay innovative and relevant, it’s high time they made the switch to the abundant, sustainable, renewable energy of today.Simply put, we need a greener online to preserve a greener offline.”

Indeed, the Internet has helped influence world policies in the direction of freedom, transparency and democracy. Naidoo is optimistic that the world’s move to a clean energy revolution will last for generations to come. He advises, “These companies can make that happen, but only if they hear from you.” Naidoo is actively inviting the public to join him in convincing Internet companies to commit to 100 percent renewable energy for their data centers.

Plans, Funds Needed For Disaster Management

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Senator Loren Legarda recently emphasized on the need to allocate sufficient funds and prioritize the implementation of action plans for disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM).

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said climate experts have already warned of the grim scenario that nations, especially in Southeast Asia, could face due to the warming climate.

“The newest IPCC Report states that seas will rise by 26-82 centimeters by 2100. Sea level rise is a great threat to small island nations, and for an archipelago like the Philippines, it would mean more floods. We have already seen and experienced the wrath of Yolanda, how the surge of seawater engulfed communities. We cannot prevent a storm, but we can save our communities from devastation if we actually fund and implement our disaster and climate resilience plans without delay,” said Legarda.

“For instance, under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, every province, city and municipality should have a Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (LDRRMO), and every barangay should establish a Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee. Do our LGUs have these local DRRM offices? Are local DRRM officers equipped and trained to carry out their tasks? These local DRRM offices should be created to institutionalize arrangements and measures for reducing disaster risks, and enhance disaster preparedness and response capabilities at all levels,” she added.

The Senator added that with the threat of rising sea levels, LGUs must be ready to confront the worsening floods. To do this, LGUs must update their data on flood hazards and vulnerabilities, invest in flood protection and mitigation, identify safe land for families to live in and implement the solid waste management law at full speed.

“We have seen enough tragedy. Studies that warn us of our vulnerabilities have been coming in every year. Nobody can say we have not been warned. It is time disaster risk reduction and resilience efforts as well as climate adaptation and mitigation measures are given a fair share of the national budget and serious attention by our government and by every citizen,” Legarda concluded.

Paje – Reduce Water Use In Summer

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With the onslaught of hot summer weather, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is urging the public to be particularly mindful of their water consumption not only to save money on water bills, but more importantly, to protect this precious resource.

DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said that although water service providers have already assured that there will be a steady and ample supply of water during the dry months, usually from March to May, “it would still be advisable for us to use our water supply prudently.”

“We would have to consider that water is not only for domestic or household use,” Paje pointed out. “We have to share our supply with the agricultural sector to irrigate our farmlands, which are vulnerable during the dry season; and with the power sector to generate electricity that is more in demand now for cooling purposes.”

The environment chief said that while it is true that with the sweltering summer heat comes added pressure on water consumption, it would help if everyone will take some time to watch on a daily basis and limit water usage as much as possible.

He advised people to apply to water usage the same principles used in solid waste management.

“Reduce water wastage by using only the amount you need. Reuse what you can for other purposes such as using laundry water to clean your cars or floors or in flushing toilets,” Paje said.

He added: “Make water conservation a habit, no matter what the season, and adopt a lifestyle that would have less negative impact on our precious water supply.”

Paje also called on the public to avoid throwing their trash everywhere as it could end up clogging waterways and contaminating the water supply.

He warned that since very little rainfalls are expected during summer, waterways could end up clogged or stagnant and become breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects, as well as cause flooding in the ensuing rainy season.

The DENR head likewise appealed to visitors of ecotourism sites to respect nature by keeping it all in a natural and pristine state as possible.

“With the Holy Week just around the corner, let us not only reflect on our purpose in life, but also on what we can proactively do for our Mother Earth especially in light of climate change,” Paje said.

Monumenting, Arb Installation In Luisita

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 The Department of Agrarian Reform today expressed confidence that it will be able to meet its targets of monumenting the lots and installing the beneficiaries of the Hacienda Luisita estate in the next few weeks. Monumenting involves the physical delineation on the ground of the beneficiaries’ CARP-awarded land by placing boundary markers or mujons.DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Paruñgao said as of the April 7 report from the DAR provincial office 5,947 farmlots, or 86.32 percent, have already been monumented. He added that out of these monumented lots, 4,478 or 65 percent have farmer beneficiaries already installed.

The DAR is confident that its self-imposed deadline for monumenting the lots and installing the farmer beneficiaries, which it has set for May, will be met unless outside forces obstruct its activities. Paruñgao also said that the DAR has been encouraging and assisting beneficiaries build organizations so that DAR would be more effective and efficient in channelling support service programs and resources of the department. “We are assisting the farmers beneficiaries in making their transition into owner-cultivators”, Paruñgao said, “We are helping them to organize themselves so that they are able to better organize farm production and marketing of their produce.”

He added that these organizations will also make it easier for the farmer beneficiary to access credit because the financial institutions are more inclined to provide loans and financial support to organizations than to individual farmers The provincial office of the DAR has been able to assist farmer beneficiaries create organizations in 8 of the 10 barangays in Hacienda Luisita. Paruñgao likewise said that in addition to helping the famer beneficiaries organize themselves, the DAR has encouraged the voluntary physical grouping of contiguous lots so that scheduling of use of farming machinery such as tractors would be more rational.

Meantime, Paruñgao said that the monumenting of the lots would have gone faster and therefore would have resulted in more farmer beneficiaries being installed had there been no instances of harassment of survey teams and ‘mujons’ being destroyed. He said that 5 persons were apprehended last April 3 while harassing a survey team that was plotting out a lot in the area. These perpetrators, allegedly members of AMBALA, were subsequently released pending the filing of appropriate charges. Paruñgao added that their act of harassment could constitute obstruction of agrarian reform. DAR has speeded up the monumenting of the lots in Hacienda Luisita. They have added survey teams to so that they will be able to install all the beneficiaries before the deadline and in time for the rainy season when farmers usually plant crops. He said that the act of obstructing the implementation of agrarian reform prescribes a penalty of 6 to 12 years imprisonment.

Agri Dep Ready For El Niño

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The Department of Agriculture is ready to carry out cloud seeding operations to induce rain over areas that have not received a rainfall for at least one week as part of its proactive strategy against a feared protracted dry spell, even as the country’s weather bureau said it’s too early to tell the occurrence of El Niño phenomenon this year.

With the country now within the summer season, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he has instructed all the Department’s regional field offices nationwide to monitor and immediately coordinate with the Bureau of Soils and Management (BSWM) any lack of rainfall for seven to ten days in areas under their respective jurisdiction so the Bureau could mobilize its cloud seeding team in a timely manner.

In fact, as early as mid-March, BSWM has completed 15 sorties equivalent to 17 flying hours across the rain-deprived municipalities of Aglipay, Maddela and Nagtipunan, as well as over Magat Watershed areas. The DA Regional Field Unit II reported said sorties helped induce rain showers and prevented damage on some 4,155 hectares of corn farms around the province, of which 3,490 hectares are in reproductive stage and 665 hectares in vegetative stage.

BSWM is an attached agency of DA tasked to undertake cloud seeding sorties to induce rain above drought-affected farming communities.

“We are taking a proactive stance against the threat of a long dry spell even as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) is saying El Niño is not yet in sight,” said Secretary Alcala in an interview on a local television program in General Santos City on Friday.

Apart from cloud seeding operations, the Department also readies other interventions such as the provision of with shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties to farmers in any part of the country that will be affected by dry spell episodes.

As part of long-term measures, DA has likewise increased its investments in the repair, rehabilitation and construction of new irrigation systems, as well as in the establishment of small water impounding facilities, to help guarantee agricultural water even during dry months. From 2011 to end-December 2013, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said it has generated 128,242 hectares of new areas, restored 90,851 hectares and rehabilitated 453,636 hectares. NIA aims to expand total irrigated lands to 1.9 million hectares by 2016, from current 1.67 million hectares.

PAGASA has yet to issue a formal advisory on the occurrence of El Niño except for precautionary verbal warnings, as quoted in several media reports.

Global weather authorities are likewise cautious at this point in time to declare such a phenomenon happening this year. In its latest monthly advisory released in March, the National Prediction Service of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NPS-NOAA) said there is “50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall (July, August, and September).” NPS-NOAA is expected to issue its April update anytime soon. “ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall,” the agency said in its website.

ENSO-neutral refers to those periods when neither El Niño nor La Niña or the “cold” equivalent of El Niño is present. El Niño is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years.The worst El Niño episode the country ever experienced was in 1997-1998, when more than P8 billion worth of crops was destroyed.

A Healthy Risk? Ancient Answers

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By Philipp Gassner

ONE hot summer day in ancient Sicily thousands of years ago, Noble Damocles is guest at a banquet of his tyrant king Dionysius. Surrounded by magnificence, power and authority, Damocles envies the ruler and exclaims: ‘My king, you are truly extremely fortunate’. Promptly, Dionysius offers to switch chairs with Damocles, so that Damocles can taste that very fortune. When Damocles accepts the proposal and sits down in the throne surrounded by every extravagance, Dionysius had arranged a huge, razor-sharp sword hanging above the throne, held only by a single hair of a horse’s tail.

Whereas the ‘Sword of Damocles’ has become a byword for a happy situation overshadowed by danger, risks to our health don’t always have to be as extreme. Of course, there might always be a meteorite on its way to – very improbably – wipe all the life from our green Earth. Yet, everyday life health risks are much more tangible.

Pollution from Pandora’s Box

And air pollution ‘is the single biggest environmental health risk’ with around seven million deaths a year, according to a report the World Health Organization (WHO) issued last month. However, much worse affected than New York is Southeast Asia – now the most polluted region in the world with more than five million deaths from air pollution. Does this pollution stink from Pandora’s box we have opened?

As such evil, the health risk of air pollution can be seen: once freed, it can have persistent and ubiquitous consequences.

Climate Change Oracles

Thousands of years after their creation, people in Greece are often in doubt about important questions in their lives. On such hesitations, the blind seeress Pythia can shed light. She is the most famous oracle and lives in the city of Delphi. One day, a weary king comes to the temple and asks the oracle if he would win the battle. She smiles and tells him a great king would win the battle. That was exactly what he had wanted to hear and he goes away happily. However, when he leads his men into battle, they lose and he is killed by the other king – the great king.

Pythia’s prophecies are enigmatic and ambiguous. They might reveal that a major danger is impending, but they won’t tell how high its probability, severity or distribution might be. The oracle is characteristic for many environmental health risks nowadays, which have high uncertainty with regard to both risk dimensions. Take climate change, already causing an estimated 150,000 deaths annually. These occur, for instance, from more frequent extreme weather conditions, like Typhoon Haiyan, or from affected patterns of food production, impacting on malnutrition.

The same is true for biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystems: for many of the world’s poor, one of the greatest environmental threats to health remains lack of access to safe water and sanitation, says the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. Water resources are replenished and purified by water ecosystems. When they are lost, human health and well-being is undoubtedly put at risk, while exact probabilities, the severity or distribution remain yet unclear.

Cyclops Diseases

While sailing home from the Trojan War, the hero Odysseus and his men come ashore to restock their food and water. They are thrilled to find a cave full of sheep, build a fire in the cave, and cook some sheep on a sharpened stick. ‘Uaaagh’, suddenly echoes through the cave and a one-eyed giant appears at the mouth of the cave, swinging a club. Swiftly, Odysseus grabs a sharpened stick and blinds the Cyclops, who is restricted by his one eye. Odysseus and his men get safely away by pretending to be sheep making bah-bah sounds until they crawled to safety.

The Cyclops’ limitation to perceive only one part of reality with his one eye describes also many health risks. When viewing them, only one side can be ascertained while the other remains unsure. It is often the case that risks are greatly underestimated whose magnitude can be grasped but whose probability of occurrence is uncertain or continuously changes.

Prominent examples are vector-borne diseases. Mankind has always co-habited with innumerable other living forms. While many of them support us, some few can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans. Such vectors are, for instance, mosquitoes, ticks, flies, or fleas. These benefit from tropical climate, inefficient water management, low priority for health impact in development activities, unplanned urbanization and widespread poverty, but also factors of a changing environment.‘Vector-borne diseases have significant impact on socioeconomic status of communities, and they vigorously fuel the vicious circle of poverty,’ says Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of the WHO Southeast Asia, indicating the severe effects of such environmental health risks. Nevertheless, cyclops-like, we can’t fully grasp the probabilities of environmental impact. But there is no need to turn to stone.

How to Kill the Beast

In ancient Greece, the world was full of dangers. Some novel phenomena affect people today with the same fear and dread. Instead of turning into stone, however, there are solutions at hand. Remember, Medusa was defeated in the myth with a smart strategy, using a mirror, rather than looking directly in her eyes. Such strategies are emphasized by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is reinforcing the linkages between health and environment. An example is ‘Integrated Vector Management’, promoting greatest disease control benefit, while minimizing negative impacts on ecosystems, e.g., from the excessive use of chemicals.

The WHO works with partners to provide education and improve awareness so that people know how to protect themselves and their communities. But even more important are the conservation of a healthy environment and the mitigation of climate change to minimize the environmental health risks in the first place. On this focuses the ‘Health and Environment Linkages Initiative’ by the WHO and the UN Environment Programme, as does the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity in the region.The Philippine-based Center, supported by the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) since 2010, coordinating sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity. After all, the best risk management is prevention: Healthy ecosystems for healthy people. Let’s take this wakeup call seriously and avoid Cassandras’ destiny:

Cassandra was a beautiful young priestess at Apollo’s temple, with great ambition. One day, the mighty god Apollo swings by and is delighted by Cassandra. He is fond of making a deal. If Cassandra kisses him, he would give her the gift of prophecy so she could see into the future. Cassandra does not hesitate. As soon as she is able, she looks eagerly into the future. But she does not like what she sees: Apollo is helping to destroy her beloved city of Troy. She spits in his face. Apollo is furious, and since he could not take away his gift, he adds to it. From that time on, Cassandra could see the future, but no one believed a thing she said. Later, when Cassandra warned her people that the Trojan horse was a trap, nobody paid the slightest attention. They laughed at her and widely opened the doors …

 Philipp Gassner is a consultant for science and sustainability communication at the GIZ-assisted Biodiversity and Climate Change Project, implemented by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, Philippines.

A Lifeline to the Future

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Water is life, and without water, all life forms would be dead. Without water, we could not grow food, and without food, all life forms would be dead too. Since we grew up with water around us, we have perhaps assumed all along that water will always be there, in the same way that air will always be there. These two assumptions may be correct, but what if both the water and the air would become polluted? And what if the supply of clean water would dry up, and no more water would come out of our faucets?

In a manner of speaking, air is a renewable resource in our country because every day, the winds would sweep away the dirty air into the oceans around us. This might be true for now, but what if the time will come when the density of the air pollution would be too much for the winds to sweep away? The fact is, we are no longer measuring the levels of air pollution in our country, so much so that we may not even know whether the levels are still normal or not.

In theory, water is a renewable resource everywhere, provided that the natural sources of water are preserved, and provided further that the natural process of water collection is also preserved. As God and nature has provided for, the natural sources of water are our watersheds, and it does not take a genius to understand that. While it may have taken a whole bunch of fools over the generations to destroy our watersheds, it will not take a genius to reclaim and restore our watersheds, even if it would again take many generations to do that.

We might actually have many geniuses around us, but we do not need them to tell us that if we bring back the trees around our watersheds, it will bring back the water in the short run, and it will eventually ensure the continuing supply of water in the long run. And if that is not enough incentive for us to do that, let us ask these geniuses to explain to us that if we bring back the trees, these trees would also hold the water in their roots, a scientific fact that would prevent floods in the lowlands.

For those who could not chew gum and walk at the same time, we would perhaps need the geniuses to explain that producing water and preventing floods are not the only benefits of bringing back the trees to the areas around our watersheds. It might be too complicated to explain, but these trees would not only produce food in the form of fruits and leaves, these would also produce oxygen that would clean the air, and counter the carbon pollution in the air. Again it might be too complex to explain, but the trees would actually absorb the carbon in the air, a natural process that also weakens or slows down global warming.

It is a scientific fact that global warming is the cause of climate change. That is generally speaking, but to be more specific, it is deforestation that is the cause of flooding in the lowlands. Since these correlations are so obvious, we should also do what is also obvious, and that is to reforest our mountains by planting and growing trees. Mind you, I am not just talking about planting some trees here and there; I am talking about growing trees in all parts of the mountains. Call it any other name you like, but I am talking about reforestation, back to the density of trees that was existing before the uncontrolled logging began.

Mga Anak ng Inang Daigdig (MAID), an organization of young people founded by Fr. Ben Beltran in what used to be the Smokey Mountain dumpsite was awarded about 120 hectares of land in the Montalban mountain area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), under a Forest Management Agreement (FMA) scheme. These young people have already planted fruit bearing trees in the area, along with cash crop vegetables. As fate would have it, MAID is also helping the members of the Dumagat tribe in the area, who are now also planting their own trees and vegetables. As it is now, the harvests of MAID and the Dumagat tribe are already being sold within the Diocese of Cubao, with the support of the good bishop there. As it also happened, slash and burn farming, locally known as kainginhas slowed down in the area, because the local kaingineros have now found an alternative source of income.

As long as the people in Cubao will keep buying the organic products coming from the farms of MAID and the Dumagat tribe, they will be able to keep as supply chain going that will not only assure their customers of healthy food, they will also assure the entire metropolis with a sustainable source of water forever, aside from preventing floods in the lowlands, hopefully also forever. This is the reason why I am calling it a lifeline to the future, a lifeline of food and water forever.

Indigenous Communities Conservation Areas (ICCA) is an international framework that recognizes the ancient role of the indigenous peoples in conserving their own ancestral domains. They have been doing that forever, and it would make sense to provide them the resources that could make them do that forever. Whether or not the indigenous tribes in the Philippines have been granted their Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), they could be tapped to implement reforestation programs in their own areas, following the pattern of the program that MAID started. Where there is a mountain, there is always a watershed. And where there is a watershed, there is always a sustainable source of water that could be tapped for now and for the generations to come. Let’s do this.

For feedback, email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639083159262

D.A. to Unveil Livelihood, Infra Programs in Support of MILF Peace Pact

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The Department of Agriculture is fully supportive of the ongoing peace efforts for Mindanao, a major highlight of which is the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Malacañang, on March 27, 2014.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he is set to present to President Aquino the Department’s proposed initial interventions – including livelihood and infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads and small-scale irrigation – under the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro is President Aquino’s concrete, socio-economic initiative aimed to uplift the health, education, and livelihood conditions of MILF communities.

“May mga programa po kaming nakalaan para sa mga mangingisda at gayundin sa mga magsasaka,” said Secretary Alcala. “Sa pagsuko nila ng kanilang mga armas, kailangan po silang matulungan na isaayos ang kanilang kabuhayan.”

Amounting to P212.9 million, the initial support will cover four regions (Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao and SOCCSKSARGEN) and 10 provinces (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, South Cotabato, Maguindanao, Davao Oriental and North Cotabato).

The date of the presentation to President Aquino has yet to be finalized by the Office of the President, Secretary Alcala said.

The Secretary said he trusts that CAB will help put closure to one of Asia’s bloodiest and longest-running armed conflicts and bring enduring peace in Southern Philippines. In fact, he is encouraged more than ever by the strong commitment of support and cooperation from beneficiaries themselves whom he was able to meet in several engagements leading to today’s signing ceremony.

“Dati ay pinakaka-abalahan nila ay pakikipaglaban, ngayon ang sabi ng mga [nakapulong ko na dating mga MILF commanders]: “Kung gaano kami kasigla sa pakikipaglaban dati ay mas masigla kaming mag-araro ngayon sa aming mga bukirin,” Secretary Alcala said. (Mac Garcia, DA OSEC)

Farmers, Fisherfolk to Get Full Subsidies for SSS Contributions From DA

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In its continuing campaign to extend social protection to informal sector workers, the Social Security System (SSS) has formalized a key partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the latter to fully subsidize farmers’ monthly SSS contributions as self-employed members.

The agreement is expected to benefit up to 200,000 agricultural workers nationwide who may qualify for the subsidy as members of Rural Based Organizations (RBOs) or Community Extension Workers (CEWs) in good standing, with 100 farmers already selected as the first batch of beneficiaries.

Despite their invaluable role in our nation’s food security, farmers often struggle with seasonal incomes and their livelihood’s vulnerability against typhoons, floods and other whims of nature.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. and Agricultural Secretary Proseso Alcala signed the agreement during ceremonies at the DA Main Office in Diliman, Quezon City on March 14, with SSS Senior Vice President Judy Frances See and DA-Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Director Asterio Saliot in attendance as witnesses.

Apart from farmers, fisherfolk will also be added to the list of beneficiaries for the subsidized SSS contributions. At present, over 450,000 farmers and fisherfolk are covered by SSS as self-employed members.

The DA-ATI, with RBOs and CEWs as its partners, implements extension and training activities to promote state-initiated food sufficiency programs and other priority thrusts of the DA. The subsidy for SSS contributions forms part of DA-ATI’s compensation for the qualified members of RBOs and designated CEWs. Included in the list of RBOs are Rural Improvement Clubs (RIC); the youth-based 4H Clubs; Pambansang Mananalon, Mag-uuma, Magbabaul, Magsasaka (P4MP); Magsasaka Siyentista (MS); and Indigenous People (IP).

The subsidies will be based on P3,000 monthly salary credit, which is equivalent to a contribution of P330 per month. DA-ATI Regional Offices will remit the contributions to SSS quarterly via bank deposits as well as submit a regular payment list showing the beneficiaries of the monthly subsidies.

The chosen beneficiaries have the option to increase their monthly contribution, on top of the subisidized amount, to become entitled to higher SSS benefits and loans in the future.

Many farmers and fisherfolk lack social security coverage and face difficulties in remitting regular contributions. This is something that SSS aims to address through initiatives such as its new partnership with DA.

RP Posts Historic Rice Growth

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Despite strong typhoons during the last half of the year, Filipino farmers were able to produce a total of eighteen point forty four million metric tons (18.44 million MT) of palay in 2013.

“The highest ever recorded in Philippine history.”

This was according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala who led the recognition and awarding of top producers of palay via the National Rice Achievers (NRA) awards held at the Newport Performing Arts, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City, on March 14, 2014.

Although three percent short of the 100% rice production target, overall yield was posted at 97% based on a 20.04 million MT target.

Alcala commended the local chief executives of rice-producing provinces, municipalities and cities for continuing to partner with the government in its drive to attain food self-sufficiency. He also expressed his gratitude to farmers and irrigators associations, and agricultural technicians for their invaluable contribution in attaining the historic feat.

“We value your role in ensuring safe, nutritious, affordable, and sufficient supply of food for the Filipino people,” he said.

He also challenged the provincial governors to implement programs that will increase farmers’ production and income.

In addition, he campaigned for the integration of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in rice to improve the quality of palay in preparation for intense domestic and global competition, as well as the use of appropriate modern technologies to boost overall production.

Alcala reiterated President Aquino’s directive on his 2nd State of the Nation Address: “Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi na tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan. Ikalawa, ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-aangkat. Ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin.”

A total of P117.42 million (M) worth of project grants and cash prizes were given out to the 2013 NRA awardees consist of 12 provinces, 48 municipalities, 10 Irrigators’ Associations (IAs), three Small Water Impounding System Associations (SWISAs), and 496 Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs). Each province received P4 M worth of project grant, while municipalities received P1 M worth of project grants. The IAs and SWISAs each received P1 M and P500, 000 respectively, while AEWs were given P20, 000 cash prize each. (Marlo Asis/Oda Rodriguez, DA-AFID)