Agriculture - - Eye-opener -

DID YOU KNOW that there is a big area in Palawan that is typhoon-free and which could be de­vel­oped into a food bowl of rice and high­value crops? The har­vests could be for ex­port as well as for lo­cal con­sump­tion.

This is the area in south­ern Palawan which boasts of 730,000 hectares of land that can be cul­ti­vated. Would you be­lieve that by de­vel­op­ing the ar­eas, it is pos­si­ble the Philip­pines could as well for­get about im­port­ing rice from Viet­nam and Thai­land?

We got this tid­bit of in­for­ma­tion when we met Ar­leen Varela at the re­cent Agrilink trade show at the World Trade Cen­ter in Pasay City. We have known Ar­leen, a Los Baños agri­cul­ture grad­u­ate, who was into large-scale pro­duc­tion of sweet corn sev­eral years back. He was so suc­cess­ful that he was even fea­tured in the pages of the Reader’s Digest.

That was sev­eral years back. Not so long ago, he gave up his sweet corn agribusi­ness al­to­gether and de­cided to re­lo­cate to Palawan. He claimed he was a vic­tim of cli­mate change. For five years in a row, strong ty­phoons had dev­as­tated his sweet corn plan­ta­tions. So, why did he go to Palawan?

Well, he said, not many peo­ple know that a big por­tion of the prov­ince, from Puerto Princesa down to the south, is not vis­ited by ty­phoons at all. Ar­leen was so up­beat in telling us about the many ex­cel­lent agri­cul­tural pos­si­bil­i­ties of the south­ern towns that in­clude Batarasa, Es­pañola, Rizal, Que­zon, Narra and Brooke’s Point.

Aside from rice, the typhoon-free ar­eas could be de­vel­oped for large-scale pro­duc­tion of ba­nanas for ex­port, ca­cao, cof­fee, pineap­ple, man­gos­teen, durian, and so many oth­ers. The good thing about it is that the gov­ern­ment has started de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture in the area. As of now, there are ex­cel­lent roads go­ing to the south.

One im­por­tant or­der of the day is to map the fer­til­ity si­t­u­a­tion of the soil in the dif­fer­ent ar­eas so that those with prob­lem soils can be re­ha­bil­i­tated. And speak­ing of prob­lem soils, these could be re­ha­bil­i­tated to be suit­able even for or­ganic crop pro­duc­tion ar­eas within a short pe­riod. Ar­leen was up­beat in telling us about Bioy­o­dal, a soil from the Acatama desert in Chile, which is full of nu­tri­ents and mi­cronu­tri­ents. He said that the or­ganic fer­til­izer has been tried in the Philip­pines and the re­sults are said to be fan­tas­tic, although the prod­uct is not yet com­mer­cially re­leased in the mar­ket.

Ar­leen cites an or­ganic farm in In­dang, Cavite, which has tried ap­ply­ing Bioy­o­dal on let­tuce in com­bi­na­tion with a plant ex­tract called Per­fect Crop So­lu­tion or PCS. He said the let­tuce plants were har­vestable in just 21 days from plant­ing and they were big­ger than the 30-day-old plants not given the Bioy­o­dal and PCS treat­ment. He also re­ported that cala­mansi trees treated with the same so­lu­tion pro­duced fruits con­tin­u­ously for eight months. It has also worked won­ders in tri­als on rice and sug­ar­cane.

There you are: the in­for­ma­tion that Ar­leen re­vealed to us could help open the eyes of peo­ple in gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor re­gard­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment in the typhoon-free ar­eas in south­ern Palawan.— ZAC B. SARIAN

Ar­lene Valera (left) ad­dress­ing a group that in­cluded Ricky Sun at the Agrilink trade expo.

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