Press Release
October 3, 2017

Transcript of Bulong Pulungan with Sen. Cynthia Villar, October 3, 2017

Q: Maybe we can begin by asking Sen. Cynthia what she's up to in the Senate...

Villar: My committee in the Senate are the Committee on Agriculture and Food and Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. I thought they are interrelated, I like them. I believe that sustainable agriculture is sustainable environment. Sinasabi nila ngayon especially in the advent of natural farming na malaki ang magagawa natin if we take care of the environment because that will make our agriculture sustainable especially that according to statistics, 38 percent of our lands in the Philippines is degraded. We asked the UN FAO. How do you solve degradation of the soil and they said compost all your waste and bring them back to the soil. This is a relationship between environmental practices and sustainable agriculture. Right now according to study, the main problem is the presence of plastic in our ocean. According to a study made by the University of Georgia, the biggest contributor of plastic into the ocean would be China, next is Indonesia and the third is Philippines. So if we allow our plastic to go into the ocean, then if the fishes eat them they die. In a way, by throwing your plastic into the ocean, you are destroying our fishes. That is also a relationship between environmental practices and sustainable agriculture. So they are interrelated.

I remember I visited France and I went to a natural farm. They said they are promoting natural farming in France because they found out that the amount of money they earn from the export of agricultural products will just be enough to rehabilitate the water ways destroyed by chemical fertilizer and chemical pesticide. Why will you plant pa if your earnings from agriculture will only be enough to cure environmental degradation that it is causing. So they said they want to promote natural farming so that this will not happen even if their production will decrease. They said they noticed that for those who are using a lot of chemical fertlizer and pesticide, iyong mga farmer daw nila, nakaka-develop ng cancer. Kaya ayaw na nila.

I didn't mind that, except that when I came back to the Philippines and I was a speaker of the association of nurses iyong Philippine Nurses Association and the president came from the Cordillera. She told me without me telling her about the comment of the French, sabi niya alam n'yo ho ba ang daming nagkaka-cancer ngayon sa Cordillera dahil sa paggamit ng pesticide at chemical fertilizer.

So there are interrelationship that we can see between the environment and agriculture. So I felt that taking care of the environment is the key towards sustainable agriculture. So I am very happy in my two committees.

Q: For a while there, we thought that you will be abandoning agriculture?

Villar: I was removed as chairman of the Committee on Agriculture for 8 months. It was given to Kiko Pangilinan because of the politics in the Senate. But when they reorganized the Senate, they gave me back the agriculture.

Q: But Kiko has a farm also.

Villar: Yes, in Cavite.

Q: Although it's a personal thing, he just takes care of the farm.

Villar: My farm is a farm school. I have two farm schools. One in the boundary of Las Pinas and Bacoor for Souther Luzon and NCR ; and one in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan for Region 3, 1, 2 and CAR. The students from these northern regions come to my farm in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

Q: Can you tell us how you started your farm?

Villar: Actually it started with a knowledge. There was a study by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies that the barriers why farmers are not earning are four reasons; lack of technology; lack of mechanization; lack of financial literacy; and inability to access cheap credit. So I thought that these barriers can be learned in the farm school. That's when I encourage farm owners with minimum of one hectare, because that's the requirement of TESDA, to teach. They accredit themselves with TESDA because TESDA will pay for the tuition of the students who will come to their farm school to learn. I thought that a farm school in every town in the Philippine should be ideal because the average age of farmers in the Philippines is 57. So if we are not able to encourage the young people to continue the farms of their parents, then and sabi po ng UN FAO, we will have food shortage 33 years from now or 2050. So I thought that we should encourage the building of farm schools. It came with a legislation of the Farm Tourism bill. Under the bill, you turn your farm into a tourist farm and at the same time a learning center so that is the farm school. I thought that would be a good model for people so that they will earn from their farms. They become a tourist farm catering to tourists and at the same a farm school where they will earn money from teaching. Kasi ang isang teacher pwedeng magturo ng 25 students, TESDA will pay them P12,000 for a 3-month course. So you will be earning something like P300,000 a month per quarter for 25 students so you will be earning P100,000 a month. Not bad isn't it, for a part time work of teaching 25 students.

Akala ko aayawan nila or they will be not that enthusiastic, but they are so happy. The farm owners, they like it. Last year we made a directory. We have 382 farm schools. Now we have 920. We are printing our next edition which is listing 920 farm schools. My dream is 1 for every town which is 1,600 but 920 is not so bad. It's a farm school for every two towns in the Philippines so it's accessible. I am so glad that TESDA is so happy. Noong una hindi sila masyadong enthusiastic but after visiting many farm schools and they are so nice, TESDA decided that they will give 30 percent of their training budget to farm schools, which is P750 million a year.Kung 300,000 every quarter, mga 1 million a month ang isang farm school meron na iyong masu-support na 750 farm schools in the country. Sabi ko sa kanya kung kulang ang budget, I will see to it na we will give more in the next budget season.

Q: Is this tied up with sustainable farm tourism of Mina Gabor?

Villar: Mina Gabor is from the private sector, she is teaching them how to make tourist farms. At the same time, they can do both, a tourist farm and a farm school because according to the provision of the Farm Tourism Development Act, they really wanted that tourist farms should become a learning site also.

Q: Are you or Manny Villar running for Mayor of Manila?

Villar: No. Manny was really born in Manila in Tondo. Ito palang inupahan nilang bahay sa Tondo was owned by the wife of a Sandiganbayan justice who was our friend. The wife died and the family wanted to divide the properties. He forced Manny to buy. Since doon naman siya pinanganak, binili niya. When we bought it, it's really a condemned building so we decided to build a 3-storey building. The two stories I asked McDonald's to rent. We used the third storey whenever we are there if we don't have any place to go in Tondo. Iyon ang story nun.

Kaya lang namin gustong may McDonald's para hindi na kami magbabayd ng security, palaging may bantay ang building isasara mo lang and then you just open it when you want to open it. So they thought that we are establishing residence. But really, he was born there. Somebody sold him the property, a good friend si Justice Victoriano so hindi siya nakatanggi.

Then nag-chairman ako ng Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, and so I have oversight on the continuing mandamus of the Supreme Court sa Manila Bay. Under that mandamus, they required 13 government agencies. The main agency would be DENR, and I am chairman of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Naturally, I have oversight. So I decided to do Baseco. Kasi noong si Manny nangangampanya, doon siya nagpi-film ng kanyang ads sa Baseco. So I thought that I should be helping Baseco just to say thank you. Kasi taon-taon dinadala namin ang Baseco kids sa Tagaytay, may Christmas party kami doon. Actually iyong mga Baseco kids na kumanta para sa kanya malalaki na kaya iyong mga younger brothers and sisters ang dinadala namin doon.

When I came back to Baseco, naawa naman ako so now I am practicing iyong mandamus sa Manila Bay. Like for example, it's a convergence, DENR together with Cavitex are planting mangroves; DA-BFAR is building aquaculture; the Bureau of Soils and Water Management of DA is building a vegetable garden. May fish na sila at vegetables. Wala silang toilet doon. 10,000 residents, 5,000 walang toilet so DOH is building toilets kasi under the Millennium Development Goals, they are aiming for zero open defecation. They said they need P2.5 billion to solve open defecation. Sabi ko, hindi mo naman kayang gawin in one year kaya every year we will build something. I think right now they are allocating P75 million to build. Villar SIPAG is building livelihood projects. We are trying to slowly cement the roads. Merong environmental, may food security, may livelihood, may infrastructure, may waste management. This is really a convergence. Tumutulong ang DPWH at MMDA. Iyon ang aming project sa Baseco. It's not meant for us to run in Manila. Ang laki ng problema ng Manila, you wouldn't want to solve the problem of Manila.

Q: Is Baseco a city property?

Villar: It's a government property. Sila iyong informal settlers. They are 10,000 families, 5,000 have no toilet. They have a school there, an elementary school, a high school. May barangay captain, may public market. Kumpleto as a community but medyo magulo. We are trying to improve the place. How can you clean Manila Bay if there is no proper waste management and there is no toilet? Kasi I remember maraming nag-float na water lily sa Manila Bay, tuwang-tuwa naman ako tumawag ako sa Las Pinas sabi ko kunin ang mga water lily, magagamit natin as raw materials. Pagdating ko sa gabi sabi ng aking assistant, nakakaawa po iyong kumuha ng water lily, maraming flying saucer sa ibabaw ng water lily. That means open defecation. That's one of our problems.

Q: On Manila Bay clean up

Villar: The Manila Bay Sunset Partnership, which is led by Landbank of teh Philippines together with DZRH, I told them we cannot do it twice a year. They are doing it once a month but they are trying to do it every week dahil hindi talaga kaya. So we have to be serious about it. Pero marami namang nagpa-participate. Baka sakali by assigning , let's say, one school ganitong araw. Kasi kasama sa mandamus ang DepEd, DILG. Kapag ayaw nilang mag-cooperate, nire-remind ko, gusto n'yo isumbong ko kayo sa Supreme Court? Like DA-BFAR, wala naman sila sa NCR, Region 4-A sila. Nandito sila sa mandamus, very specific. Gumagawa sila ngayon ng aquaculture even in NCR. That's their responsibility, they are in the mandamus. Nakalista what you are supposed to do. Iyon ngang PhilRice sabi nila research daw sila, hinanap ko nga iyong law na iyong seed development law, nakalagay doon you have to bring the seeds that you have researched on at the farm level. So that is extension Huwag mong sabihin sa akin na hindi ka mage-extension, nakalagay diyan. Minsan kasi hindi na nila binabasa, they just presume.

Q: Iyong PhilRice our impression is doon lang sila nagde-develop..

Villar: IRRI kasi is not ours, it's an international organization. It is being financed, ang pinakalamaki, ng Bill Gates Foundation. We cannot say that it's the Philippines. Ours is the Philippine Rice Institute. Sila ang mandated to do extension. Now they will do extension.

Q: On bird sanctuary in Manila Bay

Villar: From October 21 to October 28, there will be a convention, UN Convention for the Protection of Migratory Animals here in Manila. We don't call it the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area anymore kasi ang hirap sabihin. We just call it Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park. That will be their destination kasi that's the only wetland park here in Manila. I don't think you can classify Ninoy Aquino as wetland park but it's a protected area. Ngayon I am building a visitors' center there courtesy of our family so that they will see something when they get there. I am building toilet facilities kasi wala. But there is a budget from the Department of Tourism to build a wetland museum, a training center and the office of DENR and a restaurant there. Medyo ayaw kaming payagan ng PRA pero talagang lalakarin ko na payagan kami doon. The Pangilinan Group has committed to build the pier. Because we intend to do river cruise from Las Pinas to that area. Kapag nagkaroon na kami ng pier saka iyong wetland center at visitor's center, then we're in business. People can go there now with the right facilities. The training center will be used to train us on environmental protection especially for students. DENR will have an extension office there so they can watch over the wetland park plus Manila Bay. Kasi ang opisina nila sa Quezon City ang layo naman. Dapat may mag-stay dito near Manila Bay. There will be a restaurant so people can go there and eat and see the place. We are finishing our visitor's center by October 20. We have to have it before. I am asking the Paranaque government to restore their bulungan. There's a fish port there where they sell fish. I am asking them to restore and we are paving the road from the wetland park to the bulungan. Next year we have a budget to make the bridge to connect it to Macapagal Avenue so it will be easy for you to go there and to come back to Macapagal Avenue. It will become an eco- tourism destination. It will be good for us because this will be the first time that we will have something like that in Metro Manila.

That place has 35 hectares of mangrove forest, two lagoons, and 84 species of birds; 3 of them endangered--the black stilt, the Philippine duck and the Chinese egret. The black stilt, we have 1,000 of the remaining 100,000 in the world. If you have 1 % of an endangered specie, you automatically join the Ramsar List as one of the most important wetlands in the world. The Ramsar List is based on a treaty in Iran, Ramsar is in Iran, that treaty was signed in 1970s and the government of the Philippines is a signatory to that treaty. It's the responsibility of the government of the Philippines to protect that wetland.

It's there. We are buidling facilities to make it attractive to tourists. If you go to Hongkong, they have the Hong Kong Wetland Park nasa Ramsar List din iyon, 60 hectares. It's near the Honkong airport. It's very developed. All the buildings built around the wetland they tax and they give the tax to the wetland to develop it.

Q: On Manila Bay reclamation

Villar: I think they want more cruise terminal rather than reclamation. Parang mas mape-preserve mo ang Manila Bay. I think they want it infront of Solaire. Kami naman, basta hindi sasarhan ang Manila Bay okay lang. Kasi kapag sinarhan ang Manila Bay, nireclaim, magpa-flooding kami ng 8 meters. That's the prediction of the Department of Public Works under Babes Singson sa Las Pinas, Paranaque, Bacoor. Because all the water from Silang, Dasmarinas pumupunta iyan sa Bacoor, pumupunta sa Las Pinas at lumalabas sa Zapote River to Manila Bay. Kapag sinarhan mo ang Manila Bay, hindi naman babalik sa Cavite kasi ang taas-taas noon so sa amin magi-stay. Ang prediction is 8 meters of baha. Can you imagine 8 meters of baha, that's 3 storeys. Kawawa naman kami kasi if I look at the houses in Las Pinas they are all one and two storeys. Wala ngang 3-storey doon. Tsaka ang mga bahay doon, we are a middle class community. Ang mga bahay namin hinulugan iyan sa SSS and Pagibig for 25 years and that's their most expensive investment. Can you imagine iyong pinag-ipunan mo ng 25 years babahain? Medyo pangit naman para sa mga tao. So talagang pinaglalaban namin iyon. It's really the survival of our communities.

Q: On EJK resolution, you said it never reached you.

Villar: We were not asked to sign. We did not refuse to sign. Because the one you will sign is so ordinary. We know the juvenile justice law na you cannot punish young people below 18. They cannot be prosecuted for any crime. They can only be brought to a rehabilitation center or given to their fa milies so their families will try to change them. So we know that they cannot be responsible for what they are doing. Except nowadays, iyong matatanda alam nila iyong juvenile justice system law. Ngayon matatalino sila, ginagamit nila ang mga bata below 18 para utusang gumawa ng crime para kahit mahuli hindi mapo-prosecute. Unfortunately, even parents do that to their children. I remember in one of our offices in Alabang, a child went around opening cabinets and stealing the money of our employees. Syempre nahuli siya at tinanong siya taga saan ka bang bata ka. Sabi niya eh utos po ito ng tatay ko naghihintay sa baba. And then one day, I was in C-5, may mga 2-year-old babies nasa kalye. Alm mo yung C-5, major road iyon. Sabi ko, bakit naman itong mga parents na ito iyon bang 2-year-old alam niya na masasagasaan siya? No, no definite knowledge of what's happening in the world. Merong nakatayo doon, sabi sa akin, eh ma'am gusto nga nila iyang masagasaan para bayaran sila ng P50,000. Right then and there, pinabakuran ko lahat iyong dinadaanan nila doon para tigilan nila yung practice na iyon.

Ibig sabihin, maganda iyong juvenile justice system, it's fair for the children. But when parents, old people are using it to ask their children to commit crimes, that's really something. Kaya siguro dapat i-amend iyon. Kapag nag-commit ng crime ang bata, iyong magulang ang dapat iprosecute para tigilan nila iyan. Napakapangit niyan.

For me, I will sign it anytime. We were not asked to sign. Okay lang iyon na we were not asked to sign kasi marami namang resolution sa Senate na hindi naman lahat pumipirma. Normal iyon. Kasi kaya ka lang naman pumipirma para ma-bring mo sa Senate para maka-start whatever you want to do. You cannot do anything without a resolution. So you do that. But when you use that resolution to say bad things about your colleagues, that's a different story. Doon kami nagagalit. Bakit mo naman gagawin sa amin iyon, hindi mo naman kami pina-sign tapos sasabihin mo we refused to sign. Tapos ngayon ine-name names mo kami. Eh kung kami ang magsalita ng ganyan kasasakit din sa inyo, masasaktan din kayo... But you know, our principle is we do not build our happiness on the unhappiness of others. Bad karma iyan. Baka sineswerte ka na, malasin ka pa. Ako naman, sinabi ko lang iyon kasi talagang sinabi sa akin. In fact. Dalawang tao ang nagsabi sa akin na bantayan ko daw. So when I saw that blog, I thought na ito na ba ang beginning. Iyon lang naman ang sinabi ko. Mabuti na rin na sinasabi ko para alam nila so that they will be careful and that we should be careful. Pero I truly believe that a senator hindi dapat sinisiraan ang kapwa senador. We are colelagues there. We are always together, everyday. Hindi maganda iyon. Iyon ang aking belife. I hope that we will practice that.

Q: May we know the status of the coco levy fund?

Villar: We are supposed to start na. I want the coco levy fund bill back to the Committee to make corrections. I am happy that it was not passed kasi magme-major correction kami. Kasi ang coco levy fund is P100-billion fund for the coconut farmers. Naipon iyon at nasa treasury iyon. We will pass a bill, the coconut industry development fund. There will be two budgets, one from the interest of the coco levy fund and another one from the budget of PCA. Dapat i-differentiate para saan ba ang budget ng PCA at para saan ba iyong interest ng coco levy fund. I would like to believe na iyong interest ng coco levy fund is for the personal benefit of the coconut farmers. Kasi sa kanila iyon. And then iyong budget ng PCA, should be used for the responsibility of government to the coconut industry. Like for example, we should enumerate ano ba ang responsibilidad ng government to the coconut industry. I think, one would be planting, replanting, fertlization, iyan ang mga responsibility ng government, maybe to create processing centers. Kasi kapag pinangbili mo ng coconut lang, maliit ang kita ng farmers. In fact ang kita ay P50 a day, or P1,500 a month. And it takes P6,300 a month to feed a family of 5. So malayong-malayo. Ngayon, from the studies, may kind of seedlings ng coconut that can produce 150 nuts a year. Iyong ating seedling ngayon is producing 40 nuts a year. So kung ang seedling na iyon ang gagamitin mo then you triple iyong P1,500 income to P4,500. And then kapag nag-intercropping ka, either coffee or cacao, you earn additional P10,000 a month. So that's P14,500 a month. That's the secret. That's the model that we want. This will be the responsibility of PCA.

Ngayon iyong sa coco levy fund, siguro depende sa gusto ng coconut farmers kunga no ang gusto nilang ibigay sa kanila. Maybe scholarships to their children, maybe livelihood, health benefits to the coconut farmers or processing equipment, kung ano ang gusto nilang makuha na hindi nila nakukuha ngayon. Kaya ako natuwa na hindi natin napasa. Tsaka how to invest the coco levy fund. Gusto nilang magkaroon ng fund manager. Ako po kasi hinid ako naniniwala sa fund manager, baka kung saan dalhin at maubos. I remember I had a fund manager also in my own investment, pinahamak ang investment ko. Nandoon pa ako nakabantay. Hindi naman tayo palaging nakabantay dito, baka mamaya kapag wala na tayo luko-luko rin iyong nagbantay, mababantay-salakay iyon.

Ang gusto ko, ililista na rin kung saan iinvest. Iyong safe investment at treasury na lang ang mag-invest. Huwag na fund manager para sigurado. Tsaka nakalista na, they cannot go against that. So iyon po ang gusto ko na ideal na coconut industry development law. Kaya ako natuwa rin kasi noong hindi namin mapasa, noong nag-hearing kami biglang kinat (cut) ang budget ng PCA from P4 billion to P1.5 billion. Kapag ganon, ang income ng coco levy iyon lang ang pamalit. It is not meant to be a pamalit, it is supposed to be additional. So dapat yata i-mandate natin na bigyan ang PCA ng ganitong budget at it should not be lower than this para ma-attain ang ating ideal na model na merong planting at intercropping to increase the income of farmers. At meron ding processing.

12 million ang ating farmers. 1.5 million sa fisheries; 2.5 million sa livestock, poultry and dairy; 8 million sa crops. Ang 3.5 million noon sa rice, another 3.5 million sa coconut tapos ang 1 million miscellaneous, nandoon ang banana, sugar, vegetables. You can see that if you really want to make a difference, you just have to solve the problem of the coconut farmers and the rice farmers because they are the majority. Kapag nagawa natin ang model na magpapayaman sa rice farmer, at coconut farmers, tapos na ang kahirapan sa Pilipinas. Itong model na ito gawin lang natin, rice sufficient na tayo, mura pa ang production cost natin. At iyong coconut farmers natin will have enough income to take care of themselves. Kasi P6,300 ang pagkain, kung kumita ka ng P14,000 meron kang another P8,000 para sa studies at saka sa health. Iyon lang naman ang importante, food, education and health. Kapag meron ka noon, okay na ang buhay.

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