PAF grows grapes in airport

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Monday, May 12, 2014


UNKNOWN to many, grapes can grow in the Philippines.

Philippine Air Force (PAF) personnel at the Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base proved this yesterday.

They harvested a few bunches of grapes four years after planting grape vines outside one of their administrative buildings.

“This shows that the air force is not only concerned about war fighting,” said Maj. Gen. Romeo Poquiz, commander of the PAF Second Air Base Division. “We also help in the area of national development and food security.”

Officials of 208th Tactical Helicopter Squadron came up with the idea to grow grapes during their flight training in Sibonga, Cebu in 2010.

Then squadron commander Maj. Justin Ramolite was inspired to grow grapes in the base after meeting grape grower Louis Augusto Caesar Mendez in one of their activities in Sibonga.

Mendez, owner of the Mendez Grapes and Multi-Farm, provided them with three seedlings and taught them how to grow these.

Only two seedlings survived. The vines, however, languished for two years after Ramolite was transferred to another base. Mendez lost communication with the squadron.

Small, sour

The vines bore fruits after two years but these were tiny and tasted sour, said Maj. Glen Mark Cabalquinto, who assumed as squadron commander in July 2013. He contacted Mendez through Facebook, seeing the poor condition of the vines.

In December, Mendez visited the base to check on the grapes. He pruned the vines and introduced a new variety through grafting in January. Four months later, the vines bore fruits ripe enough for harvest.

Brigadier Gen. Rolando Aquino, commander of the 205th Tactical Wing Helicopter, said two other squadrons, one in Mindanao and another in Luzon, will soon grow their own grapes.

For now, the fruits will be for the consumption of their personnel, Aquino said. But they are looking forward to expanding the vineyards and make a business venture out of it.

Poquiz said there are idle lots in the air base where they can plant more grape vines.

Aquino said they want to show to the people that grapes can be grown in the country, and that there are business opportunities in growing grapes.

“It’s a misconception that grapes can’t grow in a tropical country,” said Mendez, whose family has been growing grapes in Sibonga since the 1950s.

He said grape growers in the country can even harvest three times a year, more than in colder countries.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 13, 2014.

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