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Work hard, work smart

March 15, 2010


By Ernesto Ordoñez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:53:00 02/29/2008

To achieve success, it is important not only to work hard, but also to work smart.

Senate President Manuel Villar has achieved great success not only because he practiced what he preached: “sipag at tiyaga—ST” (diligence and perseverance). He also did this with “talino at galing—TG” (intelligence and skill).

Had he been diligent and persevered only in selling fish in a wet market, and not combined these traits with intelligently and skillfully taking advantage of the opportunities in mass housing, he would not be the success he is today.

The main insight I gained when I did my doctoral dissertation on the successful transfer of technology was this: Working smart can best be done by having a well formulated and well implemented master plan.

We shall see how this can be applied in two areas related to agricultural development: climate change and product growth.

Climate change

When the Philippine Energy Summit agenda was advertised last Jan. 25 in the dailies, I noted that not even one of the more than 100 topics focused on agriculture. Working hard on the agenda was evident; working smart, not really.

I attributed this to the fact that agriculture, despite its employing one-third of our workforce (and two-thirds, if indirect employment is included), does not have the resources and connections that industry has.

Consequently, agriculture gets less exposure, less attention, and less support. It was only five years ago that all the agricultural producing sectors joined together to form the Alyansa Agrikultura [Agricultural Alliance], which today has 42 national and local federations and organizations.

A day after the advertisement came out, the Alyansa called up the Energy Summit secretariat to request that agriculture be included in the agenda. To the secretariat’s credit, an agenda item regarding the impact on agriculture of energy and climate change was included on the last day of the summit.

Two days ago, at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) forum on “Fighting Climate Change,” UN Resident Coordinator Nileema Noble said: “We know that the poorest countries and most vulnerable citizens will be disproportionately affected by climate change and suffer the earliest and most damaging setback, even though they have contributed least to the problem.”

At the same forum, the distributed UNDP Human Development Report 2007-2008 highlighted how this reality applies to agriculture: “In broad terms, climate change will increase the risks to and reduce the productivity of developing country agriculture. In contrast, production could be boosted in developed countries, so that the distribution of world food production may shift. Developing countries are likely to become more dependent on imports from the rich world, with their farmers losing market shares in agricultural trade.”

In view of this, Arsenio Balisacan, director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Studies and Research in Agriculture and the country’s foremost poverty expert, recommended at the forum that government agencies should formulate not only macro (national), but also meso (provincial), and micro (municipal/local) climate change plans.

We hope this will be done immediately under LGU leadership, specially at the meso and micro levels. Today, provincial agricultural plans are generally not well-formulated. Recognizing the need to have a climate change plan for agriculture in each province may be the catalyst needed to improve the generally inadequate provincial agricultural plans.

Product growth

Consistent with Balisacan’s recommendation of planning also at the micro level and applying this to product growth, is the Seaweed Master Plan for Sitangkai town in the southern province of Tawi-tawi. The Tawi-tawi provincial government and the Sitangkai local government unit (LGU) have joined forces with the private sector in formulating and implementing a master plan that will increase the seaweed production area from 2,500 hectares to 10,000 hectares by 2010.

According to data from Philippine Development Assistance Programme (PDAP) Executive Director Jerry Pacturan (+63918 9044457), Sitangkai seaweed production will increase from 3,000 to 27,000 metric tons a month, while average farm income will increase five-fold from P60,000 to P300,000 a year.

Last Feb. 12, foreign donors spearheaded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) committed to support this effort. More importantly, the growth cluster approach initiated by former secretary of science and technology Ceferino Follosco involving all stakeholders from grower to trader to retailer, including LGUs and associated industries, will be used as the paradigm for the formulation and implementation of this plan.

Today, Sitangkai is the country’s seaweed capital, where the seaweed growers already work hard. But it is only by working smart through this master plan, with the right technology transfer and growth cluster arrangements, that farm income can increase fivefold.


This working smart philosophy should be applied specially to areas important for agricultural development, such as climate change and product growth. “Sipag at tiyaga—ST” should be complemented with “talino at galing—TG”.

For it is only with the combined STTG that we can achieve our long awaited success in Philippine agriculture.

The author is the chairman of Alyansa Agrikultura, former secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, former undersecretary of agriculture and former undersecretary of trade and industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email or call or fax +632 8522112.

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