GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

2019 is a deadly year for Filipino farmers and catastrophic to Philippine agriculture. In a recent study by international advocacy group Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PAN-AP), Philippines ranked as the top country dangerous to land rights advocates especially farmers and Indigenous People.

PH KILLING FIELDS OF FARMERS

A few days ago, December 12, 2019 an elderly farmer Paterno Caso Sr. and his disabled son Dino on their way to their farm were murdered in Laak, Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley Province) by suspected state forces. Since the Duterte administration took office in 2016, out of the 98 political killings in Southern Mindanao Region, 76 were farmers.

Paterno is already 71 year-old, a senior citizen, a typical ageing Filipino farmer, trying his best to feed our country. Having a state-policy of killing civilians and farmers, no doubt we have an ageing farmer population and majority of our youth is not interested in pursuing farming as a profession.

RICE LIBERALIZATION

Government policies also placed our agricultural economy in a catastrophic state. In February 14 this year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11203 or infamously known as Rice Liberalization Law as a knee-jerk reaction to minimize the unparalleled inflation rates after he imposed the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law back in 2018.

The Duterte administration, that includes Cynthia Villar and the Department of Agriculture along with their troll armies are hell-bent in justifying and misleading the public on the real impacts of rice liberalization, and even villified us critics.

In their parallel universe Agriculture Secretary William Dar claimed that Rice Liberalization is beneficial to Filipino farmers. While data from Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) shows that Filipino farmers lost P61.77 billion due to rice liberalization.

Assuming but of course not conceding that DA fully implemented the P11 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fun (RCEF) from tariffs, simple subtraction said that Filipino farmers still lost a ballooning P50 billion.

This losses affected at least 2.5 million Filipino Rice farmers as well resulted to the closure of at least 4,000 Rice Mills.

GALUNGGONG IMPORTATION

Not just rice, even our poor man’s fish galunggong or moro-moro here in Mindanao is still confronted by liberalization and import dependence. It is quite ironic for an archipelagic country like the Philippines with one of the longest coastline becomes import dependent on fish.

While we are sending the best quality tuna and seafoods to the world, yet we are left importing galunggong that is fortified with formalin. Incompetence reeks in this administration that maintains an agricultural economy that is export-oriented and import-dependent.

AFRICAN SWINE FEVER

Speaking of incompetence, this administration this year is in full-display of it especially in handling the African Swine Fever (ASF). Philippine has one of the most lenient if not incompetent port quarantine along with corrupt-ridden bureaucracy such as the Bureau Customs, thus resulting to the entry of ASF. Hundreds of thousands Filipino hog raisers is at risk with ASF.

While there are efforts in awareness and stricter measure to prevent the spread of ASF, footpaths in TF Davao checkpoints reflect such incompetence.

As we witnessed how this administration failed the Filipino farmers this 2019, let us join their struggle in 2020. Let us welcome the year 2020, as a year of farmers and peoples resistance against agricultural liberalization as we pave the way for a sustainable agricultural system.(davaotoday.com)

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