Our wife Gina and we have been spending most of our time in our Dagupan City home by the Lingayen Gulf and the South China Sea since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic in February last year.
Before the global plague, we would fly to various countries in Asia and around the world, delivering speeches, presiding at meetings, and conferring with world leaders in our capacity as founding chairman of the Asia-wide International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) and co-chairman of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), among other organizations.
We take pride and joy in our work, gratis at emore, for we consider it a great honor and privilege to serve our country, even after retirement from public office, and to contribute our modest share in advancing the causes of peace and security, dialogue and understanding, as well as cooperation and development in Asia and the international community.
We were accompanied in these trips by our long-time special assistant Aldwin Requejo, who previously worked as executive in the secretariat of the Philippine House of Representatives for some 17 years.
The emergence of the virulent coronavirus plague has turned lives around in an instant.
Today, we conduct our modest foray in political party and parliamentary diplomacy through modern communications technology.
And so for more than a year now, our wife Gina and we have chosen to be under virtual “house arrest” in our Dagupan City home to try to protect ourselves from the raging COVID-19 especially since we are already 84-years- old and Gina, 71.
Amid the heated exchanges on national issues, especially on the West Philippine Sea, and the tensions and conflicts in the international community, particularly the Israeli-Palestine deadly confrontations (which we wrote about in our preceding column) that dominate the news stories on television and newspapers, here in our hometown Dagupan City we are missing our annual Bangus (milkfish) Festival which was cancelled for the second time this year due to the raging pandemic.
The Bangus Festival is a yearly celebration in Dagupan City which promotes our city’s Bangus (milkfish) industry. The festival is held for some two weeks from late April until early May, with the grilling of Bangus in the streets as the highlight of the occasion.
Our province of Pangasinan is the top producer of Bangus, our national fish, in the Philippines. A quick search in Google showed that in 2019, Pangasinan produced 109,893.50 metric tons of milkfish, or 27 percent of the country’s total production of 409,906.56 metric tons.
In our fervent desire to improve aquaculture and fisheries and help ensure food security in our country, we established in 2010 the Seafood Processing Plant in Barangay Bonuan Binloc, Dagupan City, through a grant from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
We consider the project as a symbol of economic and political partnership between the Philippines and South Korea.
We also built the bangus fisheries hatchery, the aquarium building showcasing different species of salt water fish, and the Asian Fisheries Academy inside the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center(NIFTDC) complex in Bonuan Binloc, Dagupan City.
The National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC) is the research arm of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). It used to be headed by the able scientist Dr. Wesley Rosario, who has since retired.
We are pleased that our son, Congressman Christopher de Venecia of the fourth district of Pangasinan has filed a bill in the House of Representatives seeking to convert the BFAR-NIFTDC in Dagupan City into the Philippine Center for Aquaculture and Fisheries and Development.
On another note, we were forced to suspend our daily afternoon walk to our Bangus pond inside our residential compound as Dagupan City experienced a record-breaking heat index of 53 degrees Celsius last May 14, the highest in the country, as reported by the PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration).
The country’s weather bureau also stated that Dagupan City recorded a heat index of 52 degrees Celsius on May 12 and 51 degrees Celsius on May 8. Dagupan City seemed to be the epicentre of the country’s heat index as of this writing.
The PAGASA defines heat index as “the temperature perceived by people, which is based on the actual air temperature combined with relative humidity.”
The country’s weather agency categorizes heat index in the 41°C to 54°C range as “Danger,” warning that heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are likely.
Our assistant told us that the “heat index” on the West Philippine Sea exchanges among our countrymen is on the “Danger” category.