Breathe deeply, it isn’t a viable project

By Anthony A. Araos

“Utilizing the people’s money for a dubious project is not faithful to what legislators are supposed to do.”

Before you eat that tomato, think about this first.
An inquiry, in aid of legislation, has long been an important form of action by legislators. There is a plan to put up a tomato processing facility at a still unidentified site in Ifugao. Some quarters already formed a “technical working group” last June 15 at a meeting of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) committee on agriculture, food, fisheries and aquatic resources. Curiously, the attendees were not even asked if they want to be a part of it. This columnist included. Additionally, the list of attendance shall be attached to the project proposal to be submitted to Agriculture Secretary William Dar for funding of the eyed facility. Where’s the inquiry or public hearing?
Holding one is an extension of that line of thinking.
There is a need to give the proposed tomato processing plant a compelling reason to be pursued. There is none.
One way of understanding the problem lies on the revelations of IGEMCO (Ifugao Global Entrepreneurs Multipurpose Cooperative) general manager and chief executive officer Godfrey Dominong who said that “vegetables planted by farmers at fields in Hingyon are sprayed with pesticides for easy, fast cash profits, while the ones at their backyards are pesticides-free since these vegetables are for family consumption.” Most of Ifugao’s tomatoes are from Tinoc, a town long linked with the problem on pesticide usage.
There is no timeline for the project proposal completion and submission. Proponents are planning to affix the signatures of the top brass in the provincial government. Of course, this was something that could make an impact. Hold it, guys! Not too fast.
At the four-hour meeting at the SP Session Hall, the name of Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao was never mentioned and they obviously forgot him. Intentionally, I hope not. A major project as this one has to be funded by the national government. It has to be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the national budget. Capital outlay comprises the bulk of the national budget because it includes funds for infrastructure projects spread out across the country. Pet projects of lawmakers in their respective legislators are funded through line item allocation included in the budget of the implementing department, in this case the Department of Agriculture. Indeed, something is grossly wrong somewhere in this case.
The preparations for the 2021 GAA shall commence soon. If legislated action- meaning a House Bill is to be sponsored by Rep. Chungalao and subsequently enacted, among others) is realized, the project shall only be implemented by next year. Probably it shall take place in the second or third quarter of 2021- to pass through public bidding process. And you don’t construct the facility in a month or two. Remember, 2022 is an election year and there’s an election ban on construction works of government projects. At this pace, it will not be realized- not by a long shot. I call it snail-paced thinking and planning. It doesn’t work that way.
Utilizing the people’s money for a dubious project is not faithful to what legislators are supposed to do.
The mountain of odds the proponents are trying to clear is indeed high.
A review of the committee (chaired by Board Member Noli Maguiwe) on the plan to put up the tomato processing plant should then be first initiated.
Board Member Maguiwe is a brilliant and articulate lawmaker. He is the epitome of enlightened public service. I don’t have doubts that he is not one of the incapable and insensitive leaders sitting at the helm. He has tools necessary to safeguard the people from pesticides and other related toxic substances.
The SP should be a partner in promoting the people’s health. Obviously, I stand on the side of the people. The right to be protected from pesticides-free tomatoes and other veggies should be considered inviolable and sacrosanct.
Health should not be compromised by the SP. To do it under the pressure of politics or entities with vested interests magnifies the difficulty factor.
Economic considerations (profit motives just one of them), therefore, are the primary reasons why the project is being pushed. How did they arrive at this clearly ill-advised project?
While staying true to your aim of helping farmers, SP members should realize that the project is not viable in the first place. Discarding it is a step in the right direction on easing the uncertainty that came with it such as processing tomato sauce from a contaminated produce. When the tomato is really good, you won’t need to worry at all.
Pesticides are cancer-causing agents. Allow me to cite one of these chemical pesticides. Methyl bromide is toxic to humans and is a known carcinogen. Knowing the treatment process of cancer is a good start. Understanding the merry-go-round of emotions that are experienced on the long upward climb, this will be all worth it. A cancer patient spends hours thinking on what is still store for him or her. Each day, the patient faces countless emotional, physical and spiritual trials never faced before. At the most desperate and weakest moment of life, you are showing one photograph of a pesticides-laced tomato. Treatment is very expensive. Medical bills of cancer patients, usually of low-income people, are more difficult to settle. So until then, deep breathly, be patient and take it one day at a time.
These are just some facts you may not know surrounding the pesticides-laced tomatoes. Again: Before eating that tomato, think about it first!
What you probably didn’t know is the fact that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) crafted the classification “near poor” in the implementation of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. It occurred during the tenure of then Secretary Corazon Soliman. She said “near poor” will be classified as families that fall 10 percent above the poverty line. Got it, there are “poor” and “near poor” families. Both are still in dire straits.
Which led me to wonder if there are “rich” families and “near rich” families too. Both are still enjoying comfortable lives. These people experience the fulfillment of meaning and purpose of wealth and influence. They have mansions, cars, businesses and money.
What are my other thoughts on this matter? There is really no such thing as “near poor” and “near rich.” There is only “real poor” and “real rich.” What’s wrong with a little of subtraction on number in the poverty incidence rate by bloating the figure in the “near poor” category? Quite right and it pulls down the rate.
Perhaps the difference between the poor and rich reflects a desire for something that is genuinely missing from the lives of the former- the desire to feel better.
A poor man marries a poor woman. They have poor children. It doesn’t happen in the world of rich Filipinos. Only in the make-believe confines of the theater this is possible. In the real-world, there is no such thing as the son of tycoon marrying poor lovely lass in the province. In reality, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. Reality check shows that by looking behind this most shocking and frightening faces of statures, Filipinos find a better perspective of themselves.
For our food delights corner: This lunch treat is not just delicious, but also looks very good. Bring out the best of chicken honey at the table for your loved ones or friends. Home-cooked chicken fried to golden brown and glazed with honey. Make sure it is tender and juicy for a surely yummy meal. Excellent with java sauce and pair it with lechon kawali, one of my all-time favorites. This awesome meal is best served with steamed rice and sotanghon soap. For appetizers and dessert: ube cake, bananas and chilled guyabano juice. As always, say a prayer for the blessings.
Finally, here are some thoughts for our dear readers: “Insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us and sometimes, they win.” Stephen King
“God has set eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11**

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