PBBM: Good evening Ka Sonny. What's this I hear about farmers complaining on the comment of DA Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban blaming the farmers for producing what they cannot sell and blaming on him the failure of M99?
KA SONNY: Yes, Mr. President. I heard this in the news while visiting the Ramon Magsaysay Technical University to set up a demo farm using bio-organic fertilizers to substitute for urea which you are about to import (that will continue to poison our soils). The feedback I get is not really from the farmers but those who care about the farmers saying Panganiban added insult to injury. Prof. Ferdinand M. Domingo Regional Director of the Mango Regional Center adds that it should be individual farmers that should be given assistance and not their association. Both situation brings us to now question the DA policy of giving assistance only to associations.
PBBM: I am not aware of such policy yet. Can you educate me more on it? Looks like my new USEC needs some explaining to do, on this.
KA SONNY: There is more to it Mr. President. That's why you should really join me going around. Prof. F. M. Domingo is right. The assistance should be given to individual farmers and not their associations. If this is done the value adding facilities should be operated by the government as a common service facility (with Professional Management, not by state employees) for farmers to process their extra produce and not leave them at the mercy of their association. Then Usec. Panganiban can no longer comment the way he did. Instead of blaming them for producing more than what they can sell, he should instead encourage them to bring their produce to a common government processing facility (which is not done yet) to make them into more sellable item then assist the farmer in selling, then charge the farmer a common service fee. The extra garlic in Batanes would have reached Manila as Garlic Chips, a healthier product than junk snacks.
PBBM: in that case Ka Sonny I should apologize to the farmers as the DA Secretary for the comments of my officials.
KA SONNY: There is something you could do immediately Mr. President. Change the policy, provide the public investments needed to put up a garlic processing plant in Batanes, run after the smugglers then “fire” yourself as Secretary of Agriculture.
After doing this, get someone to replace yourself with a humble person like you who knows both production, marketing and economics 101. Then your new Secretary must be sensitive to the farmers’ needs and not blame them. Also, Mr. President, the Ilocano farmers that borrowed money now being blamed by Usec. Panganiban should not be blamed for stopping Masagana 99 at Phase 8. At least our Ilocano farmers wanted to pay for the fertilizers that they got but because those who asked them to sign for the loan and took the cash component to buy jeeps and build their houses, did not accept their payments (so now the farmers are being branded as defaulters in the record with past due since they were encourages to sign for the loan). Those who got the cash component of the loan did not accept the payments (For the fertilizer component). That's the real story..
PBBM; Oh! Nobody told me that.
KA SONNY: Well, Sir, because you did not ask about it as you were too busy with the affairs of the state and not the farmers. And you’re Usecs and Asecs cannot sit down with you to tell you about it since they seem to be small matters compared to the country’s problems. Hence, the more reason you must appoint a new Secretary of Agriculture. It must be true that you are just waiting for the one- year period for you to appoint a political ally to be the DA head. And I am told he is the son of an haciendero. If this is not true, then you must not wait for one year to appoint a DA Secretary since there are many who offered their services including me (but with the way Congress grills your appointees I am no longer interested). This is sad saga of our farmers is getting long. I can only pray that you will listen to their cry for help instead of telling them to "go find a market before you produce.