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EDITORIAL: Tighten Belts Further

The resurgence of cattle rustling in the Bicol region -- Camarines Sur province in particular, is indicative of a worsening law and order condition partly attributable to poor living conditions.

Although law enforcement operatives posted an impressive performance by engaging suspected thieves targeting cows and carabaos that left dead three suspected cattle rustlers in the remote areas of Goa town, the operation seems rather insignificant taking under consideration the rising cases of cattle rustling.

Theft of animals or cattle rustling is a recurring headache in Bicol. In Camarines Sur, it seems that the triangular syndicate of cattle rustlers is back. Information has it that they operate in a synchronized manner, victimizing and transporting large cattle within the Partido, Rinconada and Naga City areas. Remnants of this criminal group seem to be back in operation. The syndicate used to be very active during the height of the serious economic crisis that haunted farmers during the conjugal dictatorship regime.

It seems theft of large cattle intensifies during a worsening economic condition like where we are now in. The robust economic activities now might be short lived as they are actually just an offshoot of the current political contest, during which time money flows left and right courtesy of politicians.

In the midst of all this political frenzy, certain concerns have been temporarily disregarded: 1. Endless increasing cost of fuel products; 2. Poor agricultural yield; 3. Gargantuan government loans driven largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic; 4 Unmitigated cost of farm inputs particularly of fertilizers; and 5. Senseless urge of the government to import items which are otherwise locally available such as rice, corn as well as meat derived from cows, carabaos, hogs, chicken, fish, and animal feeds. To top it all, importation has not arrested the rising prices of basic commodities which adds more burden to the consumers.

On this point, the farmers cannot seek comfort from the rapid mechanization within the agricultural sector, given the uncontrolled cost of fuel. It is almost inevitable that farm mechanization can no longer be sustainable due to the high cost of fuel, which is indispensable in order to render the farm machineries functional.

Once this worrisome situation occurs, farmers would be left no other choice but go back to the carabaos and other large cattle-- commonly described as beasts of burden. By then carabao population will already be markedly depleted.

That is why the campaign against cattle rustling needs more vigor, teeth, encouragement and public support. Failure to do so may cause a serious blow to food production particularly when it comes to rice and corn production. Animal raising would also already be very discouraging.

The signs of recovery of the economy are very temporary if not artificial, influenced mainly by election activities. Once elections are over, the reality of a more serious living condition lurks.

Even granting that the hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is hopefully partly over, the region shall be in for a continuous worsening of living conditions, especially considering that once the elections are over, the lean months of July and August are just about to start.

It would be better to condition ourselves for more belt tightening practices. By that time a leadership that has a special concern for the Bicol Region is a must.

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