By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday blamed the government’s poor dairy program for supposedly making Filipino school children “dull”.
Villar, in a hearing of the Senate agriculture and food committee, was questioning the Department of Education (DepEd) on its “failed” implementation of the “Gulayan sa Paaralan” program (GPP) when she raised the declining performance of children in schools due to malnutrition.
“Kaya ‘yong mga estudyante niyo naging bobo na, kasi hindi niyo tinulungan sa proper nutrition (That’s why your students are becoming dumb, because you are not helping them with proper nutrition). Hindi naman reason ‘yong quality of teachers alone (The quality of teachers is not the reason alone), but the proper nutrition of school children. Especially the poor children,” she told the DepEd representative in the public hearing.
The committee was then discussing measures about urban agriculture, including Villar’s proposal to require the establishment of instructional gardens in public and private elementary and high schools.
The senator then shifted her attention to the Department of Agriculture (DA) and its attached agencies Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) and National Dairy Authority (NDA).
Villar said the two agencies have been existing for more than 20 years but the total dairy production makes up only one percent of the country’s total demand, while “99 percent are all imported.”
“S’yempre ‘pag mahirap ang bata, kaya bang bumili ng imported? ‘De hindi. So wala nang nagdi-drink ng milk na mahihirap na mga bata. Kaya partly to blame kayo sa kabobohan ng mga bata (Of course if children are poor, how will they be able to buy imported milk? So poor children no longer drink milk. That’s why you are partly to blame for the dullness of the children),” she said, recalling the recent international study finding the Philippines at the bottom in terms of reading, math, and science proficiency.
“You are partly to blame kasi talaga ang mga bata pinapainom ng milk para tumalino (because children should be drinking milk so they will they get smart). Ang dairy program niyo ay partly to blame doon (Your dairy program is partly to blame for that). Kaya hindi lang kasalanan ng DA, kasalanan din ninyo (It is not only the DA’s fault, but it’s also yours),” she added, addressing the PCC and NDA.
Villar also claimed the PCC planned to purchase a vehicle to be used for inspections, rather than building dairy processing centers.
In the same hearing, she also chided agriculture officials for supposedly relying on other government agencies to teach farmers about business agriculture. This, she said, would encourage people to venture into agriculture and help farmers earn more.
“‘Pag ‘di nyo tinuruan silang magbusiness at pakitain yong farm nila, iwanan nila farm nila kasi sino magtitiyaga sa farm na hindi kumikita? Aalis ‘yan d’yan (Because if you don’t teach them about business and how to make their farms profitable, they will leave their farms, because, who would want to stay on a farm where they are not earning? They will leave),” Villar said.
Villar said the DA has focused on its regulatory functions and failed to properly implement developmental programs for the agriculture sector.
DA officials were not able to respond to the senator’s statements in the hearing.
The DepEd, meanwhile, said it continues to implement the GPP and part of it is to recognize the “outstanding implementors” of the program.