PPP in agricultureBy Ernesto M. Ordoñez
In the last SONA, P-Noy said: “Nothing is impossible to a united nation.” This includes uniting the public and private sectors following P-Noy’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) paradigm. We describe here an admirable PPP model for agriculture that others can follow.
After a two-year stint in China, Louie Tabing (09189302118), host of the popular dzMM radio program “Sa Kabukiran,” returned to see his seven coconut trees infested with deadly Coconut Scale Insects (CSI). Upon mentioning this in his radio program, many sent him text messages saying they had been encountering the same problem, and it was spreading fast.
He subsequently contacted two of his fellow University of the Philippines Los Baños alumni: Dr. Bert Malium and Capt. Manny Barandas.
The three of them succeeded in convincing Rep. Angelo Palmones to conduct a hearing on this issue in February.
By that time, there were 100,000 coconut trees in Batangas infested with CSI.
After the hearing, the Philippine Coconut Authority immediately released P1.5 million to address this issue. Tabing believed, however, that this was not enough to solve the problem that threatened the Batangas coconut industry.
True enough, by the start of this month, the CSI-infested coconut trees almost doubled to 170,000. On July 16, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala responded to Tabing’s invitation to visit Barangay Balele in Tanauan, Batangas. In this town alone, farmers had cut down 2,000 coconut trees because of CSI infestation.
Alcala immediately committed to provide all the support necessary and to increase the PCA budget to address this issue. Already, the CSI has penetrated parts of Laguna and Quezon.
In the meantime, the three-person group of Tabing, Malium and Barandas expanded their group to include other UPLB alumni. They now number 15. They call themselves the UPLB Volunteers to Combat Coconut Scale Insects (UPLB-VCCSI). Their chair is Dr. Candida Adalla, the former dean of the UPLB College of Agriculture.
What happened was indeed heartwarming, said Tabing. This is because each of the group members went out of his or her way to help solve this problem.
For example, Adalla wrote letters seeking support. She got as little as P100 from UPLB students and as much as $1,000 from UPLB alumni abroad. Other UPLB alumni responded to the call for help.
Francis Laurel of Tanauan, a recipient of a distinguished award from the Japanese government, gave P100,000 and other donations in kind, such as sprayers and organic pesticides.
Pablito Villegas, who was my predecessor as Philippine Agriculture Economics and Development Association president, did not even know his coconut trees were already CSI-infested until Tabing visited his farm in Malvar, Batangas. Villegas immediately donated P50,000.
Jess Aranza, president of the government’s Philippine Coconut Industries Investment Fund (CIIF), gave P2 million from CIIF when he personally saw the extent of the CSI infestation.
PPP in action
The most important feature of this private-sector involvement was its wise decision to team up with the government’s PCA to produce the synergy needed for maximum impact.
They made recommendations for more effective use of PCA resources.
Examples are using the best pesticides and other bio-control interventions, such as the timely release and location of beetles that eat CSI.
The combined use of public-private sector expertise and funds would add immeasurably to the success of this effort, compared to the limited gains if each sector acted independently.
Of course, much is to be gained from dramatizing calls for action through mechanisms such as rallies and media releases.
But there is also much complimentary benefit in the private sector’s working quietly and in close collaboration with the government following P-Noy’s PPP paradigm.
In this specific case of combating CSI, there is now an agreement that PCA and UPLB-VCCSI will work jointly in eliminating this scourge that threatens the coconut industry.
It is a model that should be emulated and replicated in other agricultural sub-sectors in all parts of the country.
Then, the very difficult task of getting back our top position in Asia in terms of agricultural development will be achieved through PPP.
For as P-Noy said: “Nothing is impossible to a united nation.”
(The author is chairman of Agriwatch and former undersecretary of agriculture and trade. For inquiries, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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