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Shrooms and shorts

"If the people behind these poorly timed and hare brained charges based on a certified and certifiable liarís allegations think they are doing the President a favor, they are wrong."

A few days ago, we went up to Baguio City to inaugurate a button mushroom demonstration “greenhouse” project that was donated by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs with technical assistance from the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, a world-recognized center of excellence for agricultural research.

TARI sent experts to assess the climate conditions in Tagaytay, upland Rizal and Benguet, and suggested that Benguet was the best site to grow the high-value button mushrooms.  So after months of construction in the Bokawkan area of Baguio City, the sheds were ready for simple inauguration rites attended by Taiwan’s resident representative, Michael Pei-yung Hsu accompanied by his wife and key staff,  newly elected Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, and myself as MECO head, together with members of our board of directors.

The facility, located at the Department of Agriculture compound under the supervision of another world-recognized center of excellence for plant inspection and quarantine, the Bureau of Plant Industry, will now prepare the compost upon which Taiwan-developed spores will later be injected, and about 45 days afterwards, the ‘shrooms should “bloom” and be ready for harvest.

It is a project that could later be replicated in other highland communities in the Cordilleras, or even in other highlands of the Philippines with the requisite low temperatures.

We thank the Taiwan officials and particularly the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office under the dynamic Michael Hsu for its efforts to help Philippine farmers.

Meanwhile, MECO is also pursuing similar projects but with different plant varieties in several medium-rise highland areas for the Dumagats in Rizal, in Antipolo City, and Cebu.  Other projects using Taiwan’s agricultural technology are being programmed for Davao, Samar and even Metro Manila.  More on these later.

It was my first time to use the newly opened stretch of the TPLEX, which now ends in Pozorrubio, just a few kilometers before the Rosario, La Union junction that leads to the summer capital either through Marcos Highway or Kennon Road.

And it was a marvelous experience, driving for just two hours at regulation speed, and with a 15-minute rest stop at that, from the Balintawak entrance all the way to Pozorrubio, some 160 kilometers distant.  From there to Baguio, using the Marcos Highway, and despite heavy fog and intermittent rains, we got to Camp John Hay in less than two hours. In all, with clear weather, I estimate one could drive from Balintawak to the heart of Baguio City in three and a half hours.

But while we must congratulate the DPWH under young Mark Villar for the good work, the development of TPLEX brings headaches  to newly-installed Mayor Benjie Magalong, who worries about the carrying capacity of the once genteel summer capital.

I reminisced with my friend Benjie about those wonderful days from my early childhood, to adolescent teens, all the way to the present, where Baguio has always been a favorite destination to rest and relax.  And both of us rued how the city’s ambience has deteriorated through years of neglect and lack of any urban planning, like many others in the country, the capital no less, Manila, included.

But we see new hope for Baguio with a determined new leader in Benjie Magalong, a decorated SAF general, later CIDG head before his retirement in 2017.  

As the few campaign posters his supporters put up describe: “Magaling, Magalang, Magalong.”  And some volunteers added, to which I fully subscribe: “Marangal.”

Godspeed, Mayor Benjie!

Another pleasant thing happened on my way up to Baguio—listening to a long tele-radyo interview of Education Secretary Liling Briones by veteran broadcaster Ted Failon.

My professor being interviewed by my former student—classic!

Liling, who is the most senior member of President Duterte’s cabinet who still thinks like a youthful activist with very clear and forthright directions for the most important agency under  her leadership, never fails to amaze.

Secretary Briones never sounds like a mere populist  embracing popular causes.  On the issue of the demand for increased public school teachers’ salaries, hers was a word of caution.

“We have to think macro,” she said.  The additional cost is an astounding P150 billion a year, not including the other DECS personnel like guidance counsellors and non-teaching staff.  Further, public school teachers, even with their present salaries, are getting more than private school teachers.  Several tranches of the Salary Standardization Law [the first and original version of which I am proud to have worked at when I was a Senate consultant] have gradually increased the pay of our unsung heroes and stewards of  our children’s future.  

But the salaries demanded these days will hollow out our private school system, particularly on the elementary and secondary levels, and create a multiplicity of problems for our education sector.

It is so reassuring that we have a level-headed manager in charge of primary and secondary education who can balance compassion with proper financial management, and whose credentials in both, as former National Treasurer and budget expert is combined by a lifetime dedication to nationalism nurtured by utmost simplicity in life.

And even as we await the President’s address on the state of the nation, we are disturbed by the filing of sedition and other charges against opposition personalities by the PNP-CIDG.

Just as we are amazed by the latest SWS and Pulse Asia findings that reflect the continuing faith and trust our people repose on the president mid-way through his term, and on the eve of his fourth SONA at that, some pandering investigative dolts come up with what no less than Duterte’s friend, Archbishop Romulo Valles who heads the CBCP, decries as  “beyond belief.”  Indeed!

If the people behind these poorly-timed and hare-brained charges based on a certified and certifiable liar’s allegations think they are doing the President a favor, and that their incredible “sip-sip” will earn points with their commander-in-chief, they are sadly wrong.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute , Mushroom , Romulo Valles
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