NO BETTER DRAMATIC STATISTICSÂ Â indicating that the Â people has enjoyed “inclusive growth” than whether their Â personal budget can be stretched to feed their families.
Before shelter, clothing, education and health – man has to “survive” first before he can enjoy the rest. And from time immemorial, Boholanos have relied on a rice and fish Â as a staple combine.
The first Â is a major source of carbohydrates; the second of protein. Can the common man afford?
Prices of food is a political issue since the late Diosdado Macapagal lost to Ferdinand Marcos in 1965 because he was “MakaMahal” , the cause of high food prices. Â It remains a serious issue today.
Let’s talk Economics 101. There are 1.3 million Boholanos-that is one’s demand.
If the supply of rice and fish is not abundant- it is price that gives because the demand remains the same.What is the state of the rice and fish industry in Bohol?
Statistics are not the same as reality, we found out.
For instance, the Central Visayas is dubbed as a “rice granary” with Bohol Â as one of its major suppliers due to its many dams.Over the years, we were canonized as Â “self-sufficient” in rice. But that is only as far as simple mathematical ratios will carry.
Which Â only theoretically means that Â if one computes the total rice output of our rice fields versus the total demand for Â rice – Bohol has more than enough. Should rice prices, therefore, be cheaper? No. Why?
We are not a communist country who can Â force or even legislate that Bohol farmers sell Â their rice produce here in the province. Where he makes the most profits, the farmers dispose their goods to them. Elementary, Watson?
Not when one realizes -that in reality- Bohol “imports” 30% of its rice consumed from places like Â Iloilo, Mindoro and from some Luzon provinces via Manila.
The conclusion one can make -assuming government statistics indicating a more than “self sufficiency” ratio of rice in Bohol is true – is that we would not have been Â buying rice from elsewhere Â if the Bohol farmers had sold their rice inside the province.
The economic impact of buying rice (especially ) based from faraway Manila- is that the cost of the rice one buys in the market or grocery includes the cost of transporting them from their source (Manila).
Rice prices here would have been Â cheaper if we bought Bohol-produced rice. That is the reason why Â the informmercials on the radio asking farmers to sell rice in Bohol Â lately- makes sense.
But does it make sense to the farmers or the middle men to do so? Informmercials are of persuasive than coercive in nature. Water-like prices of goods- seek their own levels.
Maybe , we are oversimplifying this as there is still the NFA (National Food Authority) , a government agency that is supposed to stabilize prices and not make profits.
But just the same if NFA Bohol sources from NFA Manila- there is still the transport cost.
What about fish? The protein intake of all Filipinos coming from fish has been halved over two decades. Â Just look around and realize that Â your meat products- also a protein source- cost almost at par with the elusive fish in Bohol.
My, grassroots news tell us our fish here is more expensive than elsewhere in the Â neighboring Visayas area. Want proof? A seafood restaurant operator in the city has to access their fish supply from Cebu- gets?
We are not idiots. We have known for years why Bohol sea-fish catch go to Cebu buyers than here. The Cebu capitalists advance payment for the catch, provide working capital to fisher folks and the fisher folks , therefore , do not suffer bad debts and “low periods”.
We also knew that those lucky to escape the Cebu fish dragnet -suffer from usurious interest rates from capital suppliers, are at the mercy of middle men and cannot store their goods because almost all towns do not have ice storage facilities.
The solutions would have been – cheap working capital loans to fisher folks by government institutions , intervention in the purchase of fish catch by government , provision of ice vans to bring the produce to strategically located ice storage centers in the city and towns ( jointly or fully owned and operated by government).
After summits, tons of paper and blue ink on white boards -what have we got to show?
We got Â last year a refrigerated van from the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) to bring fish to so-called bagsakans (sic) in the city and Panglao. But the present prices of fish proves that one van does not a price cut make.
How far in the long-term and integrated should the plans be to solve the fish problem? We heard that piece before. In fairness, there has been distribution of seedlings, energy boosters and fish cages to coastal towns by the government to lessen the reliance on open sea fishing. That is one laudable move.
But there Â is also the problem of over fishing on the shallower waters of Bohol by illegal big-time Â fishers from other provinces -depleting the catch per square kilometer in those areas.
The old heroes like the late Mayor Camacho of Getafe who himself Â rode on the speedboats with guns blazing against illegal fishers and the old initiative in Ubay (through the late Governor Rico Aumentado) to patrol their seawaters and say no to bribery from poachers Â now seem to be forgotten footnotes in our maritime fishing history.
We precisely encouraged the then presidential candidate senator Grace Poe that should she win – to consider installing back the old PCIB Â Moneyshop concept in fish ports and markets (by Landbank or DBP) to finance the fisher folks, install the ice storage shops in most towns and robustly Â fund the Coastal Guard to run after these big-time fishers.
But, alas, perhaps in another time in history.
The point is -Tourism is good and Bohol has gotten enough attention from local and national governments on this , we should give more focus now also to agriculture particularly rice and fish- they form an important daily gut issues in the dreary life of Juan de la Cruz.
Let us not forget there are still 20 million or so Filipinos Â straddling the pointed edges of the poverty line. They suffer from hunger and thirst every day away from our sight and ribbon cuttings.
We understand that perhaps the Chatto government is not now aligned politically to the Palace (unlike the GMA and Aquino years) Â and for the three congressmen -they have been stripped of their access to the PDAF for two years now.
But maybe, we should not self-limit ourselves. There is a P3.3 Trillion budget getting approval soon and we have two pivotal Boholanos in the Duterte sailboat : the powerful Â Secretary to the Cabinet Jun Evasco and the NEDA chief Ernie Pernia. They have to spend those trillions somewhere sometime.
Some “careful whispers” (not careless) to them will help.
Short of that -none of us can be like the Holy Man in the Mountain- who multiplied the few pieces of fish and bread into thousands of Â fiesta proportion- Â that their cup runneth over.
For now- Â let us all do all practical moves to reduce the daily ordeal of the teeming Â Boholano masses- who “may not Â live by rice alone”- but who will certainly die- without it. Shalom!
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