Succession minus the drama

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 storag e 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 prog ress 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 cr ops. 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.

The US, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, vetoed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The war continues until the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) sweeps through every nook and cranny of this crowded territory.

The human toll is piling. According to aid agencies, nine out of 10 of the population of Gaza are starving. Over 17,000 Palestinians have been killed and many thousands more injured since the IDF incursion began. The health system has all but collapsed. Over 80 percent of the population has been displaced.

Already a humanitarian disaster of great proportion, the bloody toll will continue to rise. The IDF has shifted its offensive to Gaza’s second city of Khan Younis, said to be Hamas’ stronghold. Intense, close-quarter fighting has been reported by eyewitnesses. The IDF has the city encircled.

Last month, the IDF asked the population of Gaza to move to the southern half of the strip to avoid bombardment. Khan Younis is well south of the territory. There is now truly nowhere safe for the civilians caught in the fighting.

Hamas earlier discouraged people from abandoning their homes. This was to conserve the human shields the terrorists were using them for. There were several incidents reported of Hamas fighters firing on civilian convoys moving south.

With intense fighting in Khan Younis and missile strikes at the town of Rafah on the border with Egypt, Palestinians have nowhere to go to. International aid, already a trickle passing through the border post at Rafah, is now difficult to distribute to the population. Foreign aid volunteers, including UN workers, have taken casualties.

Military analysts estimate it might take several more weeks to complete the military operation ag ainst Hamas. IDF reported it has uncovered and neutralized about 800 tunnel entrances, many located within homes and near hospitals.

About 130 hostages taken during the murderous Hamas strike on Oct. 7 are still held by the terrorists. At least some of them could be killed or injured with the IDF offensive shifting south. That will be part of the cost of dismantling Hamas.

An increasing number of countries have called on Tel Aviv to halt the offensive and spare the civilians. The US, Israel’s staunchest ally, asked the Israeli government to ensure the least civilian cost. But that seems unlikely considering that the terrorists operate within crowded communities.

While many countries and international organizations have called for a ceasefire, no one seems to have a plan for what happens to this territory the day after the IDF withdraws.

Some countries are suggesting that an international force take control over Gaza. Tel Aviv rejected that, insisting that the IDF will have to assert itself in the tattered strip of land to ensure no resurgence of the terrorist threat happens.

Gaza’s over two million inhabitants will be reliant on foreign aid for many years to come. With about a fifth of all structures in the strip destroyed by bombing, it will require billions of dollars to rebuild shelters for those displaced. In the meantime, the inhabitants of Gaza will have to depend on international charity to be fed and clothed.

Whoever inherits control of Gaza should be ready to shell out the vast amounts needed to repair this territory. At the moment, no country has stepped forward to volunteer to underwrite the costs of rebuilding.

The Palestinian Authority which governs the West Bank of what is left of Palestinian territory cannot afford to take Gaza under its care the day after the war ends.

Because of what has happened the past few weeks, we might expect people from Gaza to relocate to the West Bank. That will force up tensions in the area even more. At the moment, right-wing Israeli settlers have begun encroaching on Palestinian land. Israeli troops have become even more heavy-handed in dealing with protests in the West Bank. Clashes have become more frequent and more violent. A new Intifada could break out.

Meanwhile, Tel Aviv signals a possible escalation of fighting with the Hezbollah, the much larger and better armed Palestinian formation based in Southern Lebanon. The Hezbollah, like the Hamas, is supported by Iran. It is aligned with the flagging Assad dictatorship in Syria.

The Hezbollah poses the same threat to Israeli security as Hamas did, except with more advanced firepower. Over the past few weeks, artillery and missile exchanges broke out between Hezbollah fighters and the IDF.

Israel attacked militia bases in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. US forces, for their part, attacked militia bases that served as launching pads for attacks on American troops.

It is clear that Iran is goading its allies to join in the fighting against Israel. The Tehran-sponsored Houthi rebels in Yemen have tried to fire longer-range missiles at Israel to no avail. They recently shifted to attacking and capturing commercial shipping in the Red Sea – a development that forced other countries to deploy warships in the area.

Even if the IDF sweeps Gaza clean, there will be no let-up in the tensions. A wider war still remains a possibility.

The world anxiously watches developments in this tempestuous region. We might wish civilian casualties do not happen or populations displaced. But there is little we might actually do.

That murderous Hamas attack on Israeli settlements upset an uncomfortable arrangement and opened up a Pandora’s Box. The terrorists did not imagine the horrors their brutality would unleash.

Now we are carried by the momentum of war.

It might have been a scene straight out of the gripping HBO series Succession because it was about the retirement of a media empire’s big boss and the announcement of his successor. But the comparison ended there; there was neither a cunning plot to steal the throne or a dark denouement as what happened to the Roy family in the television series.

Indeed, for this real life media empire GMA Network, it’s all’s well that ends well when its CEO Felipe L. Gozon or FLG announced his retirement on Saturday night.

“The GMA Board of Directors has approved my retirement as Chief Executive Officer effective Dec. 31, 2023. But I will continue as Chairman/Adviser and Chairman of the Programming Committee,” FLG said during the celebration of his 84th birthday at the glittering Isla Ballroom of Edsa Shangri-La.

Of course, the next big news was revealing his successor, GMA president and COO Gilberto “Jimmy” Duavit, Jr. who will be CEO effective Jan. 1, 2024.

No surprise there indeed as Duavit is the eldest son of Gilberto Duavit Sr., co-founder of GMA. The younger Duavit is also FLG’s second in command as president and COO of the Network since 2000. As I said, there was no drama, no violent reaction, no unexpected succession plot twist.

It was indeed a star-studded night filled with glitz and fun and lots of love.

There were celebrities from showbiz, business and politics with First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, House Speaker Martin Romualdez and tycoon Tessie Sy-Coson among the esteemed guests.

Senators were present, too. I spotted Sen. Chiz Escudero with his celebrity wife, Heart Evanglista; and Senators Sonny Angara and Mark Villar. From the business chambers, there’s George Barcelon and Sergio Ortiz-Luis and Philippine Airlines president Capt. Stanley Ng.

It was also interesting to see top honchos from the rival network, ABS-CBN. I met president and CEO Carlo Katigbak that night for the first time but of course as a journalist, I follow the network’s travails closely. I was especially proud to stand together with my colleagues from ABS-CBN when the network was under attack by the Duterte administration.

That night, I told him that considering the challenges his network faced, he did not seem to age at all. That gave him a good laugh. It’s all good now, I told him. ABS-CBN, it seems, has successfully adapted to the changed environment.

Now what’s a media boss’s celebration without the celebrities? There’s Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera; Julie Anne San Jose and Rayver Cruz; Bea Alonzo, Miss Universe Philippines Michelle Dee and many other big stars.

I was especially happy to meet John Lloyd Cruz or JLC, thanks to Carlo Katigbak who made the introduction. I became a fan of JLC ever since I saw Honor Thy Father, which was about an issue close to my heart – Ponzi scams. He is admirable not just for his acting skills but for using his influence to raise awareness on society’s woes.

But the biggest star that night of course is the man of the hour, Gozon himself who was dapper and dashing in a Barong Tagalog and who was visibly happy to be surrounded by his family and friends from the entertainment industry and beyond.

In his speech, he said even President Marcos Jr. would have been there except he was not allowed by his doctor to go out after testing positive for COVID-19.

It was a fun-filled night nonetheless especially for FLG who celebrated not just another orbit around the sun but but his network’s huge accomplishment.

Not surprisingly, there were loads of entertainment including a short skit by Michael V. impersonating FLG with his trademark line to employees, “I may not always be right but I’m never wrong!” Michael V. capped this by banging his fist on the table, drawing laughter from the crowd.

GMA Network employees attest to FLG’s stern leadership. Meetings of the Program Committee, which FLG chairs, for instance, resemble a doctoral defense where employees “must give sharp, concise answers supported by hard data and analysis,” insiders say.

Guests were also treated with a short Family Feud episode hosted by Dingdong Dantes between the families of the Gozon daughters, Annette and Maritess which was all about bits of trivia about their father.

FLG has certainly come a long way. ln 1975, Gozon, along with Duavit Sr. and Menardo Jimenez, revived the struggling Republic Broadcasting System Inc. (RBS), the precursor of GMA. The triumvirate made various initiatives to make the company financially viable—restructured debt, upgraded equipment, and produced local shows.

But for many years, GMA was a very distant No. 2 TV station. This changed when FLG took the helm of the Network in 2000. GMA rose to become the top broadcast network in the Philippines.

With Duavit now in charge, GMA will strive to be an even better media giant. There would be challenges for sure including AI and fake news. Still, there’s nowhere to go but to greater heights.

Moving forward, I also hope that the broadcasting giant will do more to help educate generations and generations of viewers and help them sift through the dizzying avalanche of information that bombards us everyday.

But for now, I join the GMA team in popping the champagne. There’s more than enough reasons to celebrate – FLG’s success story, growth of the Network he helped build, his well-deserved retirement and his worthy successor.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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