GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

A recent study presented by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) concluded that the implementation of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law reduced rice farmers’ income by around 10%. I hate to say this on the risk of sounding arrogant but — we told you so!

When the Duterte administration pushed for TRAIN and subsequently its cohorts in Congress railroaded this legislation like thieves in the night, despite of the lack of quorum in Congress, progressive groups and think-tanks already predicted the spike in prices by carefully studying its provisions.

The ill-impacts of TRAIN Law to Filipino farmers was a tragedy waiting to happen, and it did! Thanks, Tatay Digong for your “Christmas gift for Filipinos” (see sarcasm). The reduction of rice farmers’ income due to TRAIN law further exposes more problems within the agriculture sector.

Until now, farmers still suffer exploitation from landlords, bourgeoisie-compradors and rice cartels because of their landlessness and lack of appropriate support. Despite promises to provide land to farmers the Duterte administration obviously failed. For the past two years in power Duterte and his minions like DA Secretary Piñol spent much time in PR circus of populist antics.

Another problem which impacts of TRAIN expose is the lack of sufficient irrigation in our country. In 2012, World Bank data shows that only 9.27% of the total agricultural land in the country are irrigated. Between, 2011-2015 Philippine Statistics Agency data shows that among these irrigated lands, only 44.28% are served by the National Irrigation System and, 33.85% belong to the communal irrigation system, while 11.70% are privately owned.

With such backwardness in the irrigation system of this agricultural country, it is unsurprising that farmers will carry the brunt of this TRAIN law.

Aside from fuel consumption for irrigation, the actual cost of chemical inputs is another burden to Filipino farmers. The dependence of the dominant agricultural system to petrochemicals through synthetic farming placed Filipino farmers in a more difficult situation. For example, the price of Urea increased by 6.05% compared to last year according to PSA.

Such increase in the cost of production also resulted in higher prices of rice, for example, the average price of the regular well-milled rice increased by 5% year in a PSA data.

While farmers are going bankrupt and consumers are suffering from surging prices the Duterte administration are too pre-occupied silencing dissenters. Lest this administration did not know that if such trend prevails, dissent and resistance will become the duty of every citizens. History taught us that economic crises will definitely result to social unrest. (davaotoday.com)

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