ROUGH CUTS| A liberating project for farmers

LAST THURSDAY we had a chance meeting with our friend councilor Marissa Salvador Abella of the second district of Davao City. She is now the City Council chair of the Committee on Agriculture. Before being given the position in the local lawmaking body she was the chair of the council committee on environment and natural resources. The lady councilor told us that she opted to let go of her former committee to avoid suspicion that she might be put in a situation where she could be suspected to be in conflict of interest. The reason is that her family has long been in the business of quarrying. And definitely, the second district councilor told us, her family’s quarry business cannot just be abandoned because it is their bread and butter. Besides, the councilor explained, her family has long-term contract with some industrial and agricultural establishments that could not just be negated without legal impediments.

     It was during that conversation with councilor Abella that we learned that the proposed farmers’ trading center to be constructed in a vacant property of the National Development Corp. (NDC) in Daliao, Toril is her SP committee’s “baby”.

     Yes, as chair of the SP Agriculture Committee Abella did some study tours in provinces with existing farmers’ trading center for farm products. She cited the successful center in the Province of Quezon where she had visited and studied on how it is operated.

     After her study tour the second district councilor prepared her report and a recommendation to put up one in Davao City. She said she was lucky because she was able to convince Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to agree to her proposal. Now, the project is on its initial stages of implementation, specifically the planning and documentation processes.

     We are elated with what we learned from Councilor Abella. Remember that some columns back we tackled the same plan as one of our subjects? We welcome the idea of a farmers’ trading center or “bagsakan” because we believe that having such would mean better income for the farmers as the prices of their produce will not anymore be under the “dictates” of big time “compradors” and their scheming middlemen.

   However, we recommended that there should not only be one “bagsakan” but three. These centers are to be located in strategic areas in the second and third districts. Our argument is that if the center is to be constructed in Daliao only, then only farmers from the highlands of Toril and perhaps Tugbok all of the third districts, will likely bring their produce to the “bagsakan” because they are nearer to the location and there is not much haggling for transportation fares.

     And how about farmers from Marilog and Paquibato areas, will they come down to sell their products to the center so far away from where their farms are? Yes, they may be able to escape the middlemen-imposed prices of their products, but what they can supposedly re-coup from a better price at the center will just be eaten up by the high transportation cost and meal expenses they will surely incur when bringing their farm produce in Daliao.

     Our concept was almost similar to what the lady dad calls as her final “module” of the “bagsakan” project. According to her, what she has in mind is to have “pick-up” sites in each of the districts in the city so that farmers will only have to bring their produce to the said site and a “bagsakan” vehicle will be waiting for them so the farmer-sellers and their harvest will be transported to the Daliao center. Well, that idea, if finally implemented when the “bagsakan” is already operational, is fair enough but for some fine-tuning.

     We are also in accord with the chair of the SP Agriculture Committee’s plan to isolate the management of the farmers’ trading center from the clutches of politics and vested interest groups. She said she is thinking of recommending to the mayor the creation of a foundation to run and manage the center. The foundation shall consist of a Board to be composed of individuals known to have unwavering concerns for the farmers, and one or two representatives from the farmers’ sector.

     We agree with the second district councilor on that. However, it is likely to be confronted with some legal barriers considering that a foundation is private in nature, and the center is to be funded by government money.

     Our recommended option is to replicate the management structure of the Davao City Water District (DCWD) or the Davao City Overland Transport Terminal. Both are managed by a Board of Directors who formulates policies to serve as their over-all operational bible.

     We are certain this scheme will only have very minimal hurdles. Yes, this may not totally isolate the center from politics but it can minimize. This strategy however, can totally prevent vested interest groups’ intervention is those appointed to the board are persons with integrity and have the will to serve the interest of the farmers and no other.

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