Villar calls out Philippine Carabao Center chief for failing to implement project meant to help coconut farmers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 1) — Senator Cynthia Villar took aim at the chief of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) for failing to construct milk processing centers which would help coconut farmers increase their monthly earnings and augment the supply of affordable milk for children.

At a hearing on Monday, Villar, who is chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, repeatedly admonished PCC executive director Dr. Arnel del Barrio for failing to implement some of the projects she pushed to help coconut farmers despite having been provided with funds for their implementation.

"I gave it to you para tulungan mo ang mga farmers na magkaron ng hanapbuhay at coop, magkaron sila ng processing center. Bakit 'di mo ginagawa?" an irked Villar asked del Barrio at the hearing on Tuesday.

[Translation: I gave it to you to help farmers get a livelihood and a cooperative, to give them a processing center. Why are you not doing it?]

"At bakit hindi mo ginawang priorty?" Villar continued. "Ikaw nagsabi na ₱10 million ang kailangan pero ayaw mo ipagawa ang building. Saan mo dinadala ang pera? Sumagot ka, sumagot ka. Ewan ko kung anong explanation ang sasabihin mo."

[Translation: And why didn't you make it a priority? You said you needed ₱10 million for the building. Where did you take the money? Answer me, answer me. I don't know what explanation you will give.]

A release posted on the Senate website said Villar allocated ₱10 million each to 28 locations or a total of ₱280 million for the project aside from the budget of PCC.

Villar also questioned the center's P28 million milk feeding program, saying this was not part of the commission's responsibilities.

She stressed it was the agency's job to raise the production of carabao's milk, and that it had been doing it poorly.

The senator compared the country to Israel, where carabaos could each produce 40 liters of milk. She said the Philippines only produces up to 0.6 percent of its milk demand.

This means, 99.4 percent of the milk Filipinos consume is imported.

"Kung ako head niyan at 'yan ang performance ko, magsu-suicide ako," Villar said during the hearing. "Nakakahiya. Kaya maraming mahirap na bata sa Pilipinas ang walang pag-asa na uminom ng milk kasi lahat imported, eh. The only way na makainom sila is maka-produce tayo ng milk sa bayan natin para kung ipagbibili ay mura para sa kanila."

[Translation: If I were the head, I would have committed suicide with that kind of performance. It's embarrassing. This why a lot of poor children in the country will not have a chance to drink milk because they are all imported. The only way they will get to drink milk is if we produce it in our country so we could sell it to them at a cheap price.]

Villar authored proposed Senate Resolution No. 504 directing an inquiry on the state of the dairy industry as implemented by the National Dairy Authority and the PCC.

"The NDA and the PCC have been in existence for 25 years and 28 years, respectively, and we continue to import more than 99 percent of our demand for dairy," Villar said. "This means we have been missing the opportunity to make our kababayans, especially the farmers, benefit from the dairy industry as a source of additional income and for our children to have access to affordable milk."

During the hearing, the PCC said it would make sure Villar's proposed projects would be implemented, but did not elaborate on how it would be done.

The commission has not released a statement on the matter.

This is not the first time Villar took issue with the PCC.

In January this year, she blamed the PCC, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, for the poor performance of children in school.

Villa said teachers were not solely to blame for Filipino children’s inferior performance in school, but also the lack of proper nutrition.

She explained many poor children are not able to drink milk because of the country’s minuscule dairy production. She also noted the country's farmers can only produce one percent of the demand for dairy through carabao milk.

Ninety-nine percent of the dairy Filipinos consume are imported, mostly from New Zealand, United States, and Australia.