Mt. Pinatubo Coffee, Anyone?


san miguel

I’ve been nursing this cold for almost a week now.  I could not write with my stuffy nose bothering me.  I guess over-thinking is not good for my health, so I’ve decided that from now on I’ll write a new post every other day.  Maybe doing something such as reading these novels on my desk can break the monotony in my daily life.  I’ve also decided that I won’t get rid of my rhetorical style that appears in my writings once in a while.  I want my blog to have a heart.  I don’t want to bore my readers with straight technical stuff.  My writing is already dry; demonstrating my seriousness and intensity, maybe, can add some nuances.

Let’s use again the list from Prof. Roland Simbulan’s paper:

1)   Clark Air Base                                      –      4,400   hectares

2)   Subic Naval Base                                 –      6,658   hectares

3)   O’Donnel Transmitter Station              –      1,755   hectares

4)   San Miguel Communication Station     –     1,100   hectares

5)   Capas Naval Transmitter Station        –          356   hectares

6)   John Hay Air Station                            –          227   hectares

7)   Wallance Air Station                            –          202   hectares

For this post, I’ll talk about how the government can create an agriculture-based corporation in San Antonio, Zambales, where the abandoned San Miguel Communication Station of the U.S. Navy is located.  Our crop of choice this time is coffee, the widely traded commodity in the world after oil.  I’ll still follow the same model I used in my last post: a web of solutions to a problem or a network of enterprises of an agriculture-based corporation.  In my future post, I’ll try to explain this model, which I consider to be the application of my “Social Theory of Everything,” a theory I began thinking about while I was still in college living in a crazy dormitory called Narra Residence Hall.

The toughest thing in writing posts like this is the unavailability of data.  I don’t know the soil composition, formation, moisture, nutrients in the former naval base in San Miguel.  So I’ll compare locations again.  Did the previous volcanic eruptions around Java make the island suitable for planting coffee?  Is the island’s unique soil the reason why Java coffee is distinctly delicious?  A journal I read before, which I couldn’t find now, said something about the dominance of volcanic ash in the Javanese soil.  Is it safe to deduce that maybe the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 also enriched the affected areas of Zambales that included Barangay San Miguel?  I’ll leave that to the government’s soil scientists.

If San Miguel is suitable for coffee plantation, the government should create, again, a network of farming, manufacturing, and hospitality enterprises in the area.  Doing such project can formally integrate Aetas into commercial agriculture, a reliable source of income for them. The government has to address the economic problems of this poor ethnic group that can only be solved with permanent employment or livelihood.  It can also provide needed jobs in Central Luzon, whose unemployment rate in January 2013 was 9.1–yes, that’s high. I’m one of  those who believe that if we want to solve our unemployment problem we need to  develop the rural Philippines.  Lastly, the government can also fix the infrastructure and facilities abandoned by the Americans and turn them  into income-generating assets.  The land in San Miguel must make money in order to create jobs.

If a survey is conducted, I’m pretty sure coffee consumption in the Philippines is up.  Coffee shops are everywhere like they are the new “sari-sari” stores.  Call center workers rely on coffee to be able to work at night.  The young and chic hold tall coffee cups like they are trendy.  There’s a coffee culture that is going on in our country.  Obviously, there’s a domestic demand  that should  be targeted.  As the spending ability of the middle class improves, so does its wants and taste. Coffee of high quality that are usually reserved  for the rich should be made available for all.  Let’s move on from the generic coffee powder  and from the awful instant Nescafe.

How’s coffee for export?  Exporting so-so beans used as fillers for blends is not really a profitable idea.  Many countries are doing it already.  I hope the National Greening Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in which 86,000 hectares are allotted for coffee farming all over the Philippines, plans to cultivate high-quality varieties. I don’t know if the program involves the expertise of UP Los Banos agriculturists and scientists.  Let’s just cross our fingers and hope they plant good varieties of Arabica, the most in demand in the world.

The good option for the land in San Miguel is to cultivate two varieties of coffee–Arabica and Robusta–that should be rare and delicious and of high quality.  Most five-star international hotels I visited or stayed at served the rare kinds of coffee that tasted unbelievably good.  I know it’s not easy to penetrate the coffee global market because the Philippines is not yet a brand for coffee unlike Colombia, Ethiopia, and Jamaica.  In the future, we can rely on quality and pricing if we want our coffee products to be seen as good alternatives to the famous, expensive varieties.  For the sake of marketing, we must cultivate varieties of coffee in one area and attach their unique tastes and qualities to that same area where they grow.  Java coffee is grown in Java, Indonesia.  Does Mt. Pinatubo coffee sound good?  Maybe Zambales coffee?  Or San Miguel?

Again, let’s put the scientists of UP Los Banos to work.  Let them come up with the best Robusta and Arabica coffee varieties in terms of yield, taste, size, and immunity from leaf diseases.   Let’s make sense of these coffee varieties; Vietnamese coffee is mainly Robusta, and Colombian coffee is Arabica.   The Colombian is far more in demand and superior.  Our Barako coffee is Liberica,  which is not as globally popular as the other two.  Imagine if we cultivate high-quality varieties of Robusta and Arabica.  We cannot only market two products, but we can also mix the two and we’ll have a high-quality blend.  We need our scientists to help us achieve this dreamy goal.

Manufacturing facilities that make coffee drinks and sweets and pack and can coffee beans and powder can also generate jobs.  We have lots of internationally-trained chefs now who are into mixology (drinks) and confectionery (candies).  We should tap their talents before we lose them to other countries.  I may sound naive here.  Trust me; I’ve been all over, and being a coffee connoisseur I’ve tried many coffee products.  I believe we can produce marketable products.  Shipping green beans to coffee companies is the lazy way of doing it.  We can export some of our raw materials, but not everything.  Let’s be creative.

Hospitality is about hotel, restaurant, and other establishment for leisure.  The former naval base in San Miguel has a golf course, accommodation facilities, and other amenities the government can turn into a hotel resort.  It’s not that far from the beach.  Besides water sports and activities, hiking, trekking, and mountain-climbing are some of the adventures that can be included in the development of eco-tourism in the area.  We should maximize the value of the place and do it in a sustainable way to produce as many jobs as possible.

To recap, we have a make-believe coffee plantation with food manufacturing plants and a hotel resort, but we only have 1,100 hectares, of which 60 hectares are for the golf course.  My proposal is only for the conversion of the former naval base in San Miguel.  If the soil in the area produces varieties of coffee that are worth marketing globally, it’s not bad to encourage other farm owners to plant those same coffee varieties and make Zambales the coffee capital of the Philippines. Coffee brokers, traders, and buyers can come to the plantation in San Miguel, stay at the resort, play golf, check coffee products, try moutain-climbing, taste the Mt. Pinatubo coffee brew, and spend time at the beach.  They can do business while on a pleasurable vacation.

But first, let’s find those rarest and tastiest coffee beans.

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