Establishment of Bicol carabao center in Ligao City makes headway

December 8, 2015 7:52 am 

By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, Dec. 7 (PNA) — The House committee on agriculture and food has approved a bill seeking to establish in Ligao City in Albay a carabao center for Bicol, Fernando Gonzalez, the province’s 3rd congressional district representative, on Monday said here.

Principally authored by Gonzalez, the recently approved House Bill No. 5522 wants to amend Republic Act (RA) 7307 or the “Act Creating the Philippine Carabao Center to Propagate and Promote the Philippine Cababao and for Other Purposes”.

Enacted in 1992, RA 7370 created 13 carabao centers throughout the country — Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan and La Union for Luzon; Negros Occidental, Bohol, Leyte and Iloilo for the Visayas; and Bukidnon, Cotabato, Marawi City and Zamboanga del Norte for Mindanao.

Gonzalez’s Bill seeks the amendment to pave the way for the establishment of a similar facility in this city in addition to those existing ones across the country.

“The existing law created 13 carabao centers throughout the country but not one of them is located in Bicol. It is hoped that with the enactment of this amendatory law, the region shall be assured of the continued conservation, propagation and promotion of the carabao or water buffalo as a source of milk and meat as well as draft animal power and hide to benefit its rural farmers,” Gonzalez explained.

These facilities, being run by the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), specialize in the development of technology on reproduction, breeding, nutrition, animal health and processing of meat and milk.

They also serve as facilities for the conservation of existing genetic materials in regions where the animals exist, which is a significant contribution in ensuring long-term and sustainable buffalo genetic improvement program.

The PCC’s efforts to conserve existing local germplasm are complemented with the judicious introduction of riverine buffalo germplasm into pre-identified population of swamp buffaloes intended to improve the genetic potentials for milk and meat production.

These efforts are geared toward maximizing the benefits from this animal species to meet the immediate and medium-term requirements of the rural poor and the growing human population.

Apart from this function, the carabao centers also serve as the PCC’s implementing arm in the carrying out of its task of encouraging farmers to establish strong associations or cooperatives to serve as focal point for government assistance in the propagation and dispersal of carabaos and dissemination of technology on the animal.

Beneficiaries of this assistance are recipients of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and other smallholder farmers.

“We want these benefits also to be within the immediate reach of our local farmers and CARP beneficiaries to the fact that the carabao and local agriculture will remain synonymous for many years to come since the industrial sector cannot yet absorb the role of this animal in farm works," Gonzalez said.

There is more to carabao than just being a beast of burden as, he said, carabao manure is also of economic importance as organic fertilizer — containing 18.5 percent nitrogen, 43.7 percent phosphoric acid, and 9.6 percent potash and a good source of fuel either as dried dung, or in generating biogas or methane.

It is also an established fact based on numerous studies that this huge farm animal produces milk which contains mineral considered the “most complete food” owing to its protein, fat, lactose, vitamins and minerals, and water, according to Gonzalez.

Citing a PCC report, Gonzalez told the Philippines News Agency that carabao's milk is considered the finest among dairy animal milk, being richer and creamier than that of cow or goat owing to its high percentage of milk fat, which is a good source of energy.

The carabao also offers big opportunities for the meat industry as based on recent studies that show buffaloes as better source of quality meat than cattle—triggering the current consumers’ demand for carabeef.

Gonzalez also cited data released by the United States Department of Agriculture which says carabeef has 41 percent less cholesterol, 92 percent less fat and 56 percent fewer calories than beef.

Recent studies regarding the chemical composition of carabeef also show that higher crude protein can be obtained from fresh carabeef than from pork and beef.

Carabao is equally important for its hide since Filipinos consume a lot of "chicharon" made of carabao hide, "kare-kare," which is partly skin of the animal, and a favorite "pulutan” (appetizer) of softened thin slices of hide spiced heavily with ginger, onion and chili.

He also noted that while there is an existing Regional Carabao Breeding Center in Mandaon, Masbate which is part of Bicol, its functions are limited only to the propagation and genetically upgrading of native carabaos.

This facility, which is credited for the production of 148 heads of genetically upgraded carabao species as of last year, is located within a 187-hectare property being maintained by the DA regional office for Bicol based in Pili, Camarines Sur.

According to the PCC, the carabao population growth remains in the tapering off situation and the dramatic decline in its number as of years between 1991 and 2011 could be attributed to low productivity and high extraction and mortality rates.

The agency said that on the average, 220,432 heads of carbao are slaughtered annually, representing eight percent of its population and unless something is aggressively done, this country might wake up one day without a carabao to speak of.

With the recent committee level approval of HB 5522, Gonzalez said he is optimistic that this legislative measure will become a law to give birth to the Ligao City Carabao Center before the end of the term of President Benigno Aquino III in June next year to the benefit of Bicolano farmers and livestock raisers. (PNA)

LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

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