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GPS, media outfits and farmers

Over the years, GPS and media outfits have done much for farmers. And as long as they follow the law, they should expand, rather than shrink.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, a global navigation satellite system that provides location, velocity and time synchronization. It uses four satellites above the horizon. Any GPS receiver on the ground has a computer that triangulates its position by getting bearings from three of the four satellites.

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As an example of how it helps farmers, a GPS attached to a tractor will give the tractor owner knowledge of how, where and when it is used to monitor its efficiency. Alyansa Agrikultura has long recommended that GPS be made a requirement for all tractors bought by the government to give to farmers.

As a volunteer member of the legislated public-private Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries, I witnessed incompetence and corruption in monitoring tractor procurement. Many tractors were largely unused, or used more for the benefit of rich individuals rather than poor farmers. But since these tractors had no GPS, these discrepancies could not be discovered easily. This is a waste of money, and has been happening for years.

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With the recent P5-billion fund for mechanization from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, GPS is still not included as a required specification for the now massive government tractor procurement. The reason given was that this would favor only the few who offered the GPS, and would not follow the lowest cost guideline. The simple solution is that a bidding can be completed to provide enough time for the suppliers to get GPS (maximum of four months), with the additional GPS cost minimized (less than 5 percent of the tractor cost).

Through the GPS, misuse of the tractor can be detected immediately and the tractors will be delivered to where they can do the most good. Simple enough, so why not finally implement this? The reason is perhaps ignorance, incompetence or corruption.

Media outlets have also been greatly benefiting farmers. But some helpful agriculture programs, such as “Sa Kabukiran,” are now off the air. Media coverage has also been instrumental in providing the transparency for some government officials to move against corruption

For disclosure purposes, as chair of the Department of Trade and Industry-inspired but purely private sector Philippine Product Safety and Quality Foundation, I experienced media support as key to stopping substandard cement smuggling and bringing down the 40-percent violation rate in unsafe steel bars to less than 5 percent. This has potentially saved both urban and rural lives from abuse that became rampant at the onset of the “Build, Build, Build” program.

Though much good can come from media, violations of the law should be strictly penalized. However, the penalty must be commensurate to the gravity of the offense. It is not only sudden layoffs that should be considered, but also the tremendous harm this may cause all who no longer benefit from the terminated services.

Maximum media exposure and support is urgently needed today for three critical actions: imposition of import restrictions for endangered commodities like poultry, similar to the 26 import restrictions implemented by several countries during this pandemic to protect their own citizens; effective management of water resources through an executive order and legislation identified in the coming President’s Sona to finally address the water-related deaths of at least 55 a day (compared to COVID’s 11), and implementation of safeguards to prevent abuses from the anti-terror law, where wide media vigilance is imperative. I can speak of this danger because I was the subject of a nine-year warrant of arrest for alleged subversion with no specific charges or evidence.

During this time of pandemic, technology and information must be expanded, rather than reduced, specially for our farmers.

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TAGS: farmers, global positioning system, GPS, media outfits
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