An agri museum, the first in Southeast Asia, will rise at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños.

It will not just be a regular museum, but also a science museum with an interactive learning facility, according to the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

The agri museum will showcase history, science-based knowledge and innovations in agriculture, cross-cultural and cross-ecosystem comparisons, current issues and challenges, and envisioned futures of agricultural and food systems in Southeast Asia, SEARCA said.

“This may well be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia and is not a museum in the traditional sense, but a learning Center that will educate people on the importance of agriculture and the challenges it is currently facing,” said SEARCA director Dr. Gil Saguiguit, Jr.

The facility aims “to advance the science and practice of agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia and stimulate discussions, learning, innovation, and collaboration for inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia.”

The museum will have a main exhibition and gallery space, library, reading and conference rooms, and bookstore and shop.

It will also have a food service section that will showcase the diverse Southeast Asian cuisine, “further providing an opportunity to complete the experience of the journey of food from “farm to market to fork”.

Saguiguit said the museum is seen to benefit a wide spectrum of users — including young people, in and outside of school, development practitioners, policy and decision-makers, researchers, and media professionals — who need to know and appreciate more deeply the role of agriculture in their own lives and in national development.

He said SEARCA sees the learning center as a viable approach to deal with the declining interest among young people who are much needed by the sector to supplant aging farmers.

French Ambassador Thierry Mathou and Australian Ambassador Amanda Louise Gorely have already expressed their support for the learning center as it will promote the importance of agriculture, its centrality to people’s lives, and its attendant challenges, particularly among the youth.

The French Embassy in Manila, for instance, expressed interest in engaging French museum experts for making elaborate the structure’s layout and design.

France and Australia are both associate members of SEARCA’s mother association SEAMEO, which now comprises 11 Southeast Asian countries.

SEARCA is one of the 21 regional centers of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), an inter-government treaty body founded in 1965 to promote cooperation among Southeast Asian nations in the fields of education, science, and culture.

SEARCA has raised about a third of the total estimated cost of the building and is actively seeking sponsorships and similar support for the museum.

Inquiries may be addressed to Maria Celeste Cadiz, who heads SEARCA’s knowledge management department. (With reports from The Philippine Star / OpinYon, Rosemarie Señora)

More restrictions are set to be implemented in order to protect and conserve the Mount Pulag National Park’s natural habitat and its vegetation.

Mount Pulag – the 3rd highest mountain in the Philippines – is famous for its majestic “sea of clouds” and the view of the Milky Way Galaxy at dawn, which attracts a lot of mountain climbers who wish to see extraordinary scenery.

The Luzon’s highest peak at 2,922 meters above sea level, it is also the third highest mountain in the Philippines, next to Mount Apo and Mount Dulang-Dulang, both located in Mindanao.

Highlights of the climb include the diverse forests and the grassland summit with its "sea of clouds" phenomenon.

Trekkers and mountain climbers may choose any of the four major trails up the summit: the Ambangeg, Akiki, and Tawangan trails from Benguet and the Ambaguio trail from Nueva Vizcaya.

These trails are managed by the Mount Pulag National Park, under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Because of its popularity, tourists who want to experience its mystic beauty flock the ‘sacred mountain’, especially during weekends thus, overcrowding the camp sites and the summit.

Mount Pulag National Park Superintendent Emerita Albas in a kapihan forum said that there is a need to decongest people coming to the national park to protect it from further harm.

“At the moment, we do not allow camping from Fridays to Sundays at the park," Albas said.

She added that instead of Mount Pulag, the tourists are encouraged or diverted to visit other areas such as the mystical lakes of Kabayan and the Mount Purgatory in Bokod. Tourists are allowed to camp at the other tourist sites.

She said that recently several tourists mostly those who are walk-ins or have no reservation were not allowed climbing Mount Pulag during the weekends due to the overcrowding at the camp sites and the summit.

They have also started marking the hands of the mountain trekkers who complied with reservations with indelible ink to know if they are the right persons to be accommodated in the park.

Albas said that they are looking to close the park during weekends by next year.

“We will no longer allow camping activities during the weekends where tourists coming from all over the country gather and overcrowd the area,” she said.

She also added that by next year they will encourage organizers to have only ten participants per team to decongest the National Park. Climb organizers have been accommodating more and more climbers and this will be regulated as well.

This is to limit the visitors to only 200 which is the ideal capacity of Mt. Pulag. At present, the Mt. Pulag Park Management allow 300 to 400 guests.

Albas explained that although they wanted to close all activities of the Mount Pulag, this could not be done since lives of people will be affected especially the locals. (With reports from Philippine Information Agency / OpinYon, Rosemarie Señora)

Dogs – man’s best friend or next meal?

It is lamentable that half a million dogs are slaughtered annually in the country, according to the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).

The deplorable dog meat trade in the Philippines is primarily centered in Baguio City, Province of Benguet, where dog meat is popularly prepared in various dishes like “asocena” and “kilawen.”

Government investigators have documented the existence of at least 25 dog meat restaurants and four slaughterhouses in Baguio, seven dog meat traders in Laguna and Batangas, and two slaughterhouses in Pangasinan. Unfortunately, there are many more underground entities involved in the industry in other provinces in Northern Luzon.

To effectively put a stop to the illegal dog meat trade, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso J. Alcala recently signed a new DA Administrative Circular No. 1 s. of 2016, prescribing a national plan of action to eliminate the said trade in the Philippines.

The policy aims to ensure that only “food animals” like cattle, swine and poultry and not dogs will be made available for human consumption. It will also ensure the effective enforcement of the laws that prevent the trade of dog meat in the country.

Dog meat is not among the food animals under Republic Act No. 9296 or the “Meat Inspection Code in the Philippines” as amended by RA 10536.

The DA Circular No. 1 also calls for a six-year (2015-2020) “Philippine Action Plan on Dog Meat Elimination” to address policies and legal basis deficiencies, lack of awareness, and promote education and capability-building among concerned industry stakeholders.

It also aims to facilitate the implementation, identification of budgetary requirements and other logistical support towards plan implementation and program sustainability.

The plan will also address the perceived inaction of the government regarding the illegal slaughter of dogs, consumption of dog meat, and health and sanitation issues accompanied in eating non-food animals.

According to the One Green Planet, there are three major health concerns in eating dog meat, namely: rabies; other diseases caused by parasites such as E. Coli 107 and salmonella; and bacterial infections like anthrax, brucellosis, hepatitis, and leptospirosis. These can be spread through the meat to people.

In the Philippines, approximately 10,000 dogs and 300 people are killed by rabies each year. Despite efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) to mass-vaccinate dogs to prevent the spread of rabies through the processes of sourcing, slaughter, and sale of dogs, the dog meat trade moves tens of thousands of dogs across international borders, making rabies prevention enormously difficult.

The DA action plan is seen to paving the way in realizing a dog meat trade-free in the Philippines, and supporting its vision of a rabies-free country by the year 2020.

The Circular authorizes several DA agencies like the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) to use their annual appropriations to implement the action plan for animal welfare and anti-rabies campaign, and eliminate dog meat trade.

The DA said it will also monitor the strict implementation of a related law, Republic Act No. 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 that allows the killing of any animal other than cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabao, horse, deer and crocodiles –exclusively for cultural, medicinal and research purposes. (By Rosemarie Señora, OpinYon)

 

Smuggling of agricultural commodities is not new for the Philippines.

In the 1980s, it had evolved into a big-time illegal trade, with the value of such products estimated at $6 billion a year.

As the volume of imported agricultural commodities increased in the 1990s, the magnitude of technical smuggling in the sector also expanded correspondingly.

By 2008, the value of smuggled agricultural items had ballooned to more than $10 billion annually – giving us the impression that the government’s efforts to fight smuggling in the agricultural sector have been ineffective.

This resulted to have dragged down growth in the sector, which is already facing other hurdles including El Niño and weak infrastructure.

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said the entry of contraband agricultural products remains a major problem, affecting the local farm industry and causing unfair competition.

According to the industry group, the value of agricultural goods smuggled into the Philippines has jumped to nearly P200 billion under the Aquino administration mainly due to the onslaught of smugglers who are thriving on cheap imports from neighboring countries.

This is equivalent to P182 billion from 2010 to 2014, almost double the contraband that flooded the local market valued at P95 billion from 2005 to 2009, during the previous administration.

About P94 billion of which accounts to smuggled milled rice. On the other hand, the value of smuggled pork and sugar amounted to P40 billion and P25 billion, respectively.

SINAG, the umbrella group of farmers, agribusiness operators and party-list groups, placed the foregone revenue at around P60-80 billion on the importation of rice, pork, sugar, chicken, onion, carrots and garlic—considering that tariffs on these items were set at 30 percent to 40 percent.

“Since day one of his administration, we have urged President Aquino to look into this smuggling pestilence. After five years and four Customs’ chief, there is no doubt that this administration has failed the agriculture sector in this regard,” SINAG chairman Rosendo So said.

The latest case of smuggling is the seizure of over a hundred containers of rice from Thailand amounting to P118 million.

SINAG has long been proposing that the National Food Authority should be the lone importer of rice. It also asked to reconsider the implementation of government-to-government (G2G) scheme as the only mode of importing rice.

“Though permits are supposedly allocated to farmer cooperatives, the reality is that these permits are being bought by unscrupulous traders,” So said.

According to SINAG, smuggling also exposes the country to unsafe and high risk agriculture and food products as smuggled goods do not pass quarantine and food safety inspection.

“Instead of taking care and helping the local agricultural industry which is the livelihood of millions of Filipinos, it seems that the government has no intention of addressing smuggling cases,” So said.

The agriculture sector employs about a third of the country’s workforce. (With reports from The Philippine Star / OpinYon, Rosemarie Señora)

The Philippine Carabao Center of the Department of Agriculture (DA-PCC) and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) are jointly implementing five projects worth P64 million to improve the country’s carabao (water buffalo) milk production.

The joint initiative, called “Enhancing Milk Production of Water Buffaloes through Science and Technology Interventions,” aims to improve the carabao dairy industry through the development and application of practical technologies and innovations. It is funded by the DOST-PCAARRD.

“This PCC-PCAARRD collaboration ultimately aims to increase the annual milk production of purebred dairy buffaloes in the PCC National Impact Zone from 500,000 kilograms (kg) to 2,000,000 kg, and of crossbred buffaloes, in San Agustin, Isabela, from 17,000 kg to 190,000 kg in the duration of three-year program implementation,” the PCC said.

Concerned PCC and PCAARD officials met on February 10, 2016, in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, where the PCC is based, to discuss the objectives, methodology, expected outputs and deliverables, and budgetary requirements of the project components.

PCC executive director Arnel N. del Barrio said the agency will move its target to produce two million liters of carabao milk in Nueva Ecija, from 2016 to 2017. He said the province may only be able to produce 1.8 million liters of carabao milk for 2016, or 200,000 liters short of its target.

Data from another DA agency, the National Dairy Authority (NDA), showed that the country’s total dairy production for the first half of 2015 amounted to 10.29 million liters, which is 3.8 percent higher than in 2014 for the same six-month period.

The NDA said local milk production during the period came from the country’s dairy animal inventory of 47,967 head, of which one-third or 7,299 are carabaos. (With reports from Business Mirror / OpinYon, Rosemarie Señora)

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