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YES, why can’t the government help to industrialize, or modernize our farming methods and strategies in the countryside? Focus and political will are needed in this effort to raise our people’s opportunities for profitable labor and productivity. Mr. Diego Oconer, himself a successful entrepreneur who cares not only of his own profit but trains hard with new skills and right work attitudes the people working in his shop so that someday they may become more productive by themelves, is one laudable citizen who doesn’t stop thinking about what we can do best to help lift our country from the quagmire that it is already in. As an active member of the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Oconer always engages himself in fruitful dialogues with his fellow members and other officers in the chamber on important issues that need to be given attention by every civic-minded citizen. He offers one simple idea of turning our agricultural provinces or barangays into food factories by first identifying what crops could best be planted in those areas while the government provides the equipment and infrastructures, like putting up factories and mills for the crops that are grown there, where they would be processed or canned into food such as grains, flour, syrup, herbal medicines, or even animal feeds and delivered into the open market. The factory will be maintained by its local engineers and factory workers, truck drivers, mechanics and just outside of it there in the fields are the farmers who have been taught with modern farming methods, assisted by technicians and armed with modern farm tools, equipment, and other gadgets, including even bicycles or mini trucks for easy access from their homes to the farms and little luxuries like refrigerators and colored TV that may be purchased on easy installment plan. Camarines Sur, for instance, will have its own factories for pineapple, sweet potato, cassava, cacao, ginger tea (instant salabat), pili tarts, canned laing, wine made of tropical fruits, and many more. Mr. Oconer argues there are already mechanisms to mobilize into reality these ideas or concepts, such as cooperatives (a successful one, for example, is in Calabanga, Camarines Sur), rural banks, and other government- and private-sector- sponsored windows to provide capital and technical knowledge. He added that in other areas, especi lly in those towns with plains and vast rice fields, the people there can be turned into a Food Army, with some of them functioning as agriculturists, engineers and the rest as farmers who would plant rice in all the lands available. These farmers will be provided with heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, payloaders, farm tractors, irrigation pumps, palay harvesters, dryers, rice mills and warehouses, and trucks to deliver both the farm inputs and products from the farm to the market place. Mr. Oconer asks: “If we have an Armed Force that can be provided with similar equipment at even higher cost because of their firearms and uniform and food rations to kill their foes, then why can’t we put up a Food Army whose task is to produce food so that more people will live?” At the same time, the government must strengthen free technical vocation (techvoc) education to our youth and the unskilled and the jobless in every barangay for future manpower needs. Think about it. Mr. Oconer’s idea is about decent and systematic work that is productive and delivers fair income for everybody, as well as security and social protection for their families. Creation of work for more people leads to the realization of shared prosperity, improved quality of life and inclusive growth, and the reduction of poverty that for many centuries have been staring us in the face because of a government concerned with nothing but politics.

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