Hunting good news in the heat | Inquirer Opinion

Hunting good news in the heat

It’s so hot.

The problem with heat is that you do not suffer from just the temperature, it makes you touchy and irritable. With so much going on that you do not exactly like, or exactly what you resent, the heat makes everything worse.

I am trying to deal with the heat. I open all the electric fans. I open the air-conditioning unit – until it cries out to rest for a few hours. Or I brave the traffic to get to the mall; sometimes, the traffic makes driving to the mall not worth it. Lucky me – at least I have these options when more Filipinos do not.

The problems out there, beginning with the way politicians and senior bureaucrats can be so insensitive to the severe challenges to ordinary Filipinos, keep swirling around our attention. These raise the temperature a few more degrees from the frustration and resentment that follow.


I want to see the silver linings out there. In the effort to do so, I stretch to find positive news, the kind that impacts on the collective. I saw the news about the World Bank’s positive outlook on our near future growth rate. I read statements that the Philippines will soon, as in next year, become an upper middle-income country.

The news, though, is a repeat of previous projections. They did not happen, of course, and that is why the prognosis is still prospective. Considering what has been happening, the odds are against the Philippines making it to upper-middle income by next year. Still, I am continuously wishing for it to happen. There is that part of me that chooses the unlikely over total despair.

Economic growth rate last year was 5.7%, not bad when many other countries bigger than us had lower growth. Except that our target growth rate was 7%, and we performed 18.5% lower. Never mind. Even at that lower growth rate, Filipino billionaires grew their net worth by about 16%. That should be good news, especially in a nation still using trickle-down economics. After all, these billionaires employ hundreds of thousands of Filipino employees.

Sadly, that growth of net worth of the billionaires did not mostly trickle down to majority of their employees. Whatever percentage did reach the ordinary employee was eaten up by increases of cost food that was higher that any salary increase – if at all. In other words, if we are to listen to street talk, life is harder today than last year, and last year was worse than the year before.


Let’s not talk about the billionaires anymore, and even the millionaires. Let’s just focus on the balance of the population and subdivide it by two – the poor and the non-poor (but not rich). Let’s look for our good news.

I read one report about the growth of urban farming spots in Quezon City, increasing about 50% in one year. In the macro sense of food, urban farming or gardening produces very little. But because they are usually in areas where urban poor communities are also located, they have strategic value. One, they arrest or prevent hunger. Two, they increase the health of the communities by greening the environment.


They have another potential benefit. By showing how easily it can be done with the least of financial requirements, they can spark a nationwide interest and trend. All towns and municipalities have their empty lots just as they also have their food-poor residents. There is a beautiful match. I already read that Quezon City is easing the process of idle land tax exemption to encourage urban farming – another practice that other LGUs can emulate.

I was shocked, though, to read a short news report from an official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) again raising the possibility of a 20-peso-per-kilo rice. Either to raise hopes or to pander to an insidious electoral promise. But regardless of his reason for saying that it is still possible though not now, I believe he has no qualification to be working at the DA because his understanding of agriculture, of the rice industry specifically, is ludicrous.

Rice prices globally over the last 10 years have been going up and down, less down and more up. For example, in strong producer Thailand, what was less than $400/ton in 2014 is now over $600/ton today. How can any sane DA official project that 20 pesos per kilo for rice is possible when it can hardly control its current market price of 50 pesos per kilo? Does he think that DA is managed by political propaganda or by climate, science, and economics?

Besides, and worst of all, by selling rice at 20 pesos per kilo, how many millions of small rice farmers and their families will go bankrupt and hungry? Instead of feeding fake news, all who work in DA should just create new ideas and programs to grow more food – and help their new Secretary to purge the organization of endemic corruption.

But, hey, from a gathering of friends and relatives to observe the 40th day of the passing of one of us, I chanced upon a conversation that the Philippine General Hospital is being upgraded – again. That is good news. Health has emerged as a concern that competes with employment and income. I see the drift towards more socialized medical treatment from the government, and I applaud and encourage it.

I wish the same from the Department of Education, though, and keep monitoring for any intelligent counter response to a deepening learning poverty. This focus on ROTC is a distraction because it will not make our students more learned or patriotic – until our leaders are more learned and patriotic. Education is so dependent on role models, and we have a poverty of role models.

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Meanwhile, the heat continues to punish us, and rising food costs, among other essentials, is pushing hunger from the fields and the streets to rise as well. Let us stay safe, stay hydrated, and most of all, feed a hungry Filipino every day.

TAGS: hot weather, opinion

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