CEBU City Councilor Joy Pesquera, who is running for the position of south district congressional representative in the May elections against the incumbent Rodrigo Abellanosa of the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan, recently came up with campaign ads aired over cable channel CCTN. In one of those ads I saw, she talked about agriculture in the city’s mountain barangays.
Indeed, Cebu City may be the province’s main urban center, but a big chunk of its land area is still agricultural. Slash-and-burn farmers plant crops ranging from corn to root crops to vegetables. The farming method is primitive and much too dependent on the rain cycle that unfortunately has gone haywire because of climate change. An irrigation system is difficult to build because of the lack of reliable water source and the terrain that features steep slopes.
There should be a way to go around these limitations though and find ways to help the farmers. But to solely focus on that is to miss the one source of income that has sustained the city’s farmers for decades and which has made them unique among the peasantry in Cebu. I am referring to the mango industry that successive governments in the city have neglected.
Before the mangoes in Guimaras became popular, there was the so-called Guadalupe mango. Guadalupe mangoes are of a different kind from those in Guimaras; they are even of better quality if tended well. But the mango industry has long been neglected by the Cebu City Government, unlike in Guimaras where leaders have realized the potentials of the industry especially for export.
Leaders usually talk about Cebu City agriculture in generic terms. But there are specifics. They probably do not know, for example, that Guadalupe mangoes do not come from Barangay Guadalupe but from a vast expanse embracing the upland barangays of Sapangdaku, Kalunasan, Bonbon, Buot-Taup, Babag, Sudlon, Sinsin, Taptap and virtually all of the city’s mountain villages.
By industry, I mean that this is not only about tending to the mango trees that are ubiquitous in the city’s mountains but also involves the trade in chemicals (insecticides and to induce flowering), middlemen (mamanggaay), even the sale of used paper etc. There is also an expertise that Cebu City farmers have mastered, from inducing the trees to flower, to the spraying of chemicals, wrapping of the fruits and construction of bamboo platforms for the purpose.
While mango farmers are a bit better off compared to ordinary tillers of the land, they are among the most exploited. Theirs are a backbreaking and dangerous work (spraying chemicals requires gallons of water pulled up the bamboo platforms and wrapping the fruits is difficult and falling from such height could kill, plus they are exposed to materials that are poisonous if inhaled). Yet mangoes are bought cheap from the farmers and are expensive in the market. Also, most farmers do not own the mango trees and share a third of their earnings to the land owners.
So why are candidates not talking about this?