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EDITORIAL – Dumping tomatoes, again

MANILA, Philippines — Our society is in need of more spaces that are safe and conducive for learning and social interaction of children—places li ke daycare centers.

Daycare centers are unique spaces as they help kids learn more and improve their social skills in a setting outside of home and school.

This is what the children of Therma Visayas Inc. (TVI) impact communities will now experience with the turnover of a newly refurbished one-story Daycare Center Facility in Toledo City, Cebu, a project of AboitizPower subsidiary TVI and the Aboitiz Foundation (AFI).

Representatives from TVI joined Cabitoonan Baranga y Chairman Jerry Lazarte in a short, yet festive turnover ceremony held on November 16.

The event also marked a milestone for Brgy. Cabitoonan because it is the first time for the community to have a dayca re center that’s truly conducive to learning.

“Education has always been something that we consider transformative. We at TVI recognize the importance of daycares in teaching children prerequisite skills before they enter formal learning institutions. To us, it’s important that we are able to st art things right,” TVI’s facility head Noel Cabahug said.

Lazarte expressed his gratitude for the daycare center, which he said is expected to benefit the young children of the community for many years.

“Genuine community power made this Daycare Center possible,” said Lazarte.

“We are thankful for our long partnership with AboitizPower and TVI in uplifting the quality of life for our barangay through various projects.”

The bright yellow facility is expected to cater to close to a hundred students a day, divided into morning and afternoon shifts.  

Day care teacher Mylyn Nacario Macapobre considers the new facility as one of her “greatest blessings.”

“This year brought me one of the greatest blessings I’ve received through AboitizPower Therma Visayas,” Macapobre said.

“This new daycare center is the best facility I’ve ever taught in throughout my 31 years of being a day care teacher.”

Macapobre was 19 when she first started teaching in daycare. Back then, she and her parents pooled together their resources to build a small hut to serve as the day care.

Over time, however, more children enrolled and they needed to grow the space. The children she once taught have grown up to become professionals, and now, she is teaching their children.

Studies have shown that good quality day care can positively impact a child’s socio-emotional and behavioral development, school achievement and long-term outcomes, such as increased employment.

National legislation supports early childhood care and development, but many day care centers across the country are burdened with inadequate resources and facilities, especially in low-income municipalities.

In 2004, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) set standards for day care centers to ensure children receive high-quality care and so they can develop their full potential.

“It is our goal to help our communities thrive and one way to do that is to help provide for the needs of children, so that they can grow up to become healthy, well-adjusted and productive individuals who can make a positive contribution to society,” TVI’s Cabahug added.

A good day care facility can serve as a second home to many young children in Brgy. Cabitoonan and strengthen community spirit. Early exposure to social settings allows children to hone diverse cognitive and social abilities, ranging from self-expression, conflict-resolution, problem-solving and collaboration.

TVI hopes the refurbished day care facility can adequately cater to the needs of these young children.

The Brgy. Cabitoonan day care center is only one of the many projects of the Aboitiz Foundation aiming to “co-create safe, empowered and sustainable communities.”

AFI partners with Aboitiz business units such as TVI through scalable initiatives that have long-term benefits and are aligned with the group’s core competencies.

If the government wants to entice people to engage in agriculture, it will have to show that it is a viable livelihood. What the nation is seeing instead are farmers lamenting their losses and tons of produce going to waste because of oversupply.

During harvest time in the past years, the nation has seen farmers dump their tomato produce as farmgate prices plummet. In April this year, the farmgate price of tomatoes dropped to P3 to P5 per kilo amid an oversupply, with farmers in Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon among the hardest hit, according to a Department of Agriculture official.

This has happened again in recent days as prices fell to as low as P5 per kilo, forcing farmers in the Cordillera Administrative Region and Nueva Vizcaya to dump their tomatoes. A report said even if the tomatoes are not yet overripe, market storage space is limited so the older stocks have to make way for fresher harvests, which middlemen naturally prefer.

The proposals of farmers’ groups to deal with such problems are not new. Apart from the obvious need for more cold storage facilities nationwide, they have been pushing for an accurate inventory of agricultural production for a wide range of crops. This shouldn’t prove to be mission impossible; affordable technology is now widely available for this. In countries such as Israel, drones have been used for years for farm production inventories.

Agriculture officials have also been talking for a long time about cutting the number of middlemen for speedier farm-to-market access and possibly greater earnings for producers. The dumping of tomatoes, however, indicates slow progress in this area. The government cannot even identify where overpricing is most likely happening along the value chain. Producers of sugarcane and upland vegetables, for example, have complained recently about low farmgate prices even as retail prices for refined sugar and vegetables such as cabbage have refused to go down.

Apart from improved access to markets, the government can assist marginal farmers in ensuring buyers for their crops. Tomatoes can be processed into a wide range of products starting with sauce and ketchup. Small-scale farmers can be assisted in growing the right varieties under specific environments that processed food manufacturers require for their product quality control.

Local government officials, who are supposed to know more about the economic activities and the needs of farmers in their areas, can take the lead in boosting small-scale agricultural production. Local government units can also help ensure a measure of accuracy in agricultural inventories, and assist the national government in promoting crop rotation. Better agricultural management will not only raise farmers’ income but also stabilize food supply and prices.

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