POSTSCRIPT / January 13, 2011 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Doles no substitute for food-job strategy

POOR PINOYS: The latest survey said that 18.1 percent of Filipinos who were polled claimed to have experienced hunger in the past three months and that 49 percent considered themselves poor.

And, as sure as day follows night, the survey was followed by Malacañang crowing that those numbers will go down once the government doles out P21 billion to the poor.

From their small sample, the pollsters leaped to the conclusion that 3.4 million families had gone hungry and 9.2 million families claimed to be poor. Multiply that by five per family to get the number of Filipinos who are supposedly poor and hungry.

The scary statistics were broadcast to lay the psychological basis and justify the Aquino administration’s P21-billion doleout?

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GRAND DOLES: The answer to widespread hunger and poverty is NOT in the handing out of billions in the grand showbiz style of TV money machine Willie Revillame.

The answer is in a wholistic Food and Job Strategy that will create more jobs and make Filipinos productive. We can make our country, which is blessed with natural and human resources, self-sufficient in food, particularly rice.

A likely rice shortage looms, and yet the administration still has not bothered to put together a food self-sufficiency program.

There was an ongoing program for self-sufficiency in rice by 2013, but this was discarded because it was prepared by the previous administration.

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TRY HYBRID: Instead of helping Filipino farmers boost their unit yield and market their harvest, the administration’s reflex answer to the impending rice shortage is massive importation.

A source of dirty millions, importation was the instant option despite the fact that the new National Food Authority managers had proclaimed that we have an oversupply and ruled out importation.

The agriculture department has announced preference for organic rice, whose production does not use chemical fertilizers. But do we  have organic farms that have zero traces of chemical fertilizers? Is President Aquino planning to open vast tracts of virgin land?

I understand the rice that the NFA intends to import is not organic anyway, so what happens to the pro-organic policy announced in haste?

We have a bountiful supply of seeds for hybrid rice that can immediately boost yield of existing farms. Is the administration allergic to hybrid rice because it is not its invention?

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SUPPLY TIGHTENS: Former presidential adviser on food security Peping Cojuangco said that less than 4 percent of global rice production is traded internationally. If for some reason, he said, China and India experience a shortage, there might not be any rice to import.

The big news is that China, for the first time, has decided to import rice for its population of 1.3 billion!

The world’s rice supply is tightening and here we are insisting on importation (because there is money in it?) rather than boosting the yield and self-esteem of Filipino farmers.

Malacañang better go cracking on this basic problem, because it takes time to put together a comprehensive rice-sufficiency program — and we cannot rush palay to grow faster than what nature has ordained.

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WEB SECURITY: As I was saying to the consternation of propagandists and blogging brigades hiding behind aliases while hitting their hate objects, there is a need to enhance web security, protect Internet users and make sure people are really who they claim to be.

A number of disturbing incidents have highlighted the need for legislation to keep up with the advances in cyber communication and its accompanying malpractices.

Security leaks and laggard laws are some of the reasons why electronic marketing here has been stunted, Internet debates on burning issues have not risen from the level of heckling, identity theft continues, and why cybercrimes proliferate despite police action.

Yet we see no sense of urgency in legislating safeguards. Proponents of tighter cyber management are flogged by bloggers clinging on to their masks.

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WEB ID’S: A reader forwarded a news item from the online Daily Mail that US President Obama has told the Commerce Department to study how web security can be enhanced, possibly by issuing Internet IDs to American computer users.

The Mail said in a story by David Gardner that the Obama administration is drafting a paper called the National Strategy for Trusted Identities, which explores ways that web users can protect their online identities.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke reassured users that it was not a Big Brother move: “We are talking about enhancing online security and privacy and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through use of more trusted digital identities.”

One possibility is the issuance of “smart cards” or digital certificates that would prove that online users are who they say they are. These could then be used to buy goods and carry out financial transactions on the Internet.

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VITRIOL, VIOLENCE: In the wake of the recent shooting in Arizona that killed six persons and wounded 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, not a few analysts noted that venomous rhetoric may have contributed to the climate of hate fomenting such violence.

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County said, “The vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government may have triggered the rampage of Jared Loughner. This individual may have a mental issue and I think that people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol.”

“The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” the sheriff said.

Dupnik could have been referring to the Philippines where politics is nothing but the fight of dominant families for power and wealth, where hate for the enemy is whipped up to divert attention from one’s own shortcomings.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 13, 2011)

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