Oh, dairy. What did you do to draw the ire of a billionaire senator and repeat-offender of head-scratching comments?
Because, as the good Sen. Cynthia Villar pointed out yesterday in a hearing on agricultural issues, it’s not dated curriculum or a lack of teachers that’s responsible for young Filipinos’ poor academic performance. It’s cow’s milk.
That’s how she explained why, in December, Filipino students came in dead last in reading comprehension compared to 16 other countries on a standardized test. But it takes logic far beyond ours to understand why she’s once again blaming the agriculture department she famously accused back in October of doing “too much research.” And this time, she’s mad at the National Dairy Authority, too.
Villar, the chair of the agriculture committee, believes the authority is to blame for “dumb” Filipino children, because most milk on the market is imported and therefore unaffordable for poor families.
“That’s why your students have become dumb, because you did not help them with proper nutrition,” Villar said in Filipino, addressing the two agencies. “The quality of teachers alone is not the reason but the proper nutrition of children, especially the poor children, that’s why I’m blaming the Department of Agriculture.”
Villar, whose background is in business – not agriculture or nutrition – wasn’t done dropping hard, lactic truths.
“Of course, if a child is poor, can the child afford to buy imported? Of course not. So there are no poor kids drinking milk that’s why you are partly to blame for their stupidity,” she said.
She also wants bureaucrats to think outside the cow and milk more buffaloes. She called out the water buffalo resources agency, aka the Philippine Carabao Center, which she also blames for the lack of domestically produced dairy.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary William Dar today partially backed up Villar’s sentiments on paltry dairy production.
“We acknowledge the observation of Senator Cynthia Villar on the real situation of the country’s dairy industry, particularly the measly supply of locally-produced milk,” Dar wrote on Facebook, adding that the department appreciates her “passion for our local dairy industry to produce the needed milk to feed our children.”
Dar added that the department would increase the population of dairy cattle and carabaos and overhaul the programs at both agencies. The department, he said, wants to double domestic milk production within five years.
“We will expand our current herd of 7,573 head of purebred dairy buffaloes and 14,354 tropicalized dairy cattle,” Dar said.
Villar’s beef with the Agriculture Department first emerged in spectacular fashion three months ago. The 69-year-old former Las Piñas representative drew flak from the Filipino Twittersphere after she called it “crazy” for conducting too much research. Doubling down weeks later on her refusal to think before speaking, she urged the public to stop eating the lowly galunggong (round scad), if they can’t afford it, and just eat vegetables instead. No one was very impressed then, either.
This article, Expensive foreign milk to blame for ‘dumb’ Filipino children: Sen. Villar, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!