IT WAS an idea a long time coming for the government.
Recently, agrarian reform beneficiaries of Negro Occidental received 1,495 cellphones on top of the 1,000 units given them a month.
Our NGO (non-government unit), the Broad Initiatives for Negros Development (BIND) pioneered the use of cellphones for ARBs in La Castellana and mountain farmers under community forestry programs, the easier to communicate with them.
We started with ICOM hand-held and base radios. It worked—up to a point. The base radio in Calatrava and La Castellana can connect with the BIND office. That sure beats the travel expenses and time of taking the bus and delivering messages written on paper.
But limitations restricted the use of electronic communication. The field staff has to trek from the hinterlands to the barangay proper. Then too for forest protection activities, remote communications cannot do the job. Speed was essential in intercepting timber poachers.
We realized that the office had to provide mountain-based farmers with cellphones to build a network of remote handheld communication. The test for effectivity on the use of cellphones came when the BIND field staff texted me on threats from a barangay captain in Salvador Benedicto.
I forwarded their texts to SunStar Bacolod and other media colleagues. Then I forwarded the text to then Task Force Ilahas commander William Señoron. The system provided the staff with protection, and at one point, led to the arrest of timber poachers in Barangay Bagong Silang, in Salvador Benedicto.
Years before the advent of social media, the cell network linked the friends of friends to forest conservation and economic activities linking remote communities to the Bacolod green market.
Now remote communication takes a step forward. Agrarian Reform regional director Stephen Leonidas, along with Provincial Agrarian Reform Officers Teresita Mabunay and Carlos Padilla, led the distribution of 702 cellphone units to ARBs of Escalante, Murcia, San Carlos City, Calatrava and Toboso on Wednesday and another 793 units to LGUs of Bago, Kabankalan, Binalbagan, Hinigaran, Isabela, La Castellana, Moises Padilla and Pontevedra.
He said that with the strengthened partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation and other national and local government offices, the beneficiaries’ crops will be insured without any cost. The phones can be used to raise concerns to the different government agencies.
So what’s next? From GSM to social media internet connectivity in narrowing the gap between remote mountain communications with more developed urban areas.