GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

A couple of months ago I had a hiatus in writing in this column. The last quarter of 2018 was a terrible part of the year, forgive me I did not have enough courage to write the murders of farmers, farm-workers and a good friend farmer’s lawyer Ben Ramos. Grief and anger consumed me.

Silence will only reinforce the fascist Duterte regime, let us break such silence by looking back 2018 especially in the agriculture sector.

Rice Industry

Earlier this year we experienced surging prices of our staple rice, in Zamboanga and nearby provinces like Tawi-tawi a kilo of rice ballooned to P100 per kilo. In Luzon and Visayas long queues for cheap rice were observed.

Congress and Senate already approved the rice tarriffication bill, waiting for Duterte’s signature before the year ends. Rice tarriffication will essentially liberalize our rice industry through massive importation.

In a very shallow if not fake notion of “cheaper” rice, but our long history of subservience to trade-liberalization proved that import dependence will not result to a cheaper price of rice, it will only kill our local rice industry, the livelihood of millions of Filipino farmers.

Land Reform

Despite promises to distribute lands to the farmers, until now it remains to be a promise from the Duterte regime. Just this holiday season, Duterte again promised to distribute lands but did not substantiate as how to fulfill such promises, considering that there is no existing legislation on Land Reform after the failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

If there are few victories in land reform, like in the case of Hacienda Luisita which completed its distribution this year, it is still credited to the short-lived administration of former DAR Secretary and ANAKPAWIS Chair Rafael Mariano.

These few awarded lands will be reconcentrated to the landlords if the government will not provide sufficient and practical support to the farmers.

More of the victories in the land struggle is credited to the peasant movement who have this nationwide campaign of Bungkalan, which was later on demonized by the pro-landlord Duterte regime.

Land conversion

Under the Duterte regime, land and crop conversion continues and even at its worse. Imagine a subdivision magnate Cynthia Villar, infamous and notorious in land-conversion is the present chairperson of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

While vast plantations of rubber, palm oil, and banana continue to expand in Mindanao, being supported and advocated by no less than DA Secretary Manny Pinol himself.

Relentless land conversion is fuel to a brewing social volcano. Even medium and big livestock growers in Mindanao express their strong opposition on the continuing land conversion in key cities of Mindanao.

Wrong Priorities

The Department of Agriculture under Manny Pinol is doomed. Malacanang’s rating of 5 out of 10 to Pinol’s performance was actually a conservative and even a friendly remark. In 2018 we witnessed so much stupidity in DA.

Sending farmers to Papua New Guinea to plant rice, sending vegetables from Bukidnon to Manila which eventually rot in DA’s central office. These are all PR circus and does not solve the problem at all.

Duterte continues to militarize post in the agricultural sector. Just this month Duterte appointed Former Air Force Chief and Retired Gen. Galileo Kintanar to head the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

On the side note, we do hope that corruption has been reduced in DA. Though critics and even insiders within DA claimed that corruption is business as usual there. No doubt for it, since 2018 was a year where corrupt government officials were pampered by the Duterte regime.

Remember the Fertilizer Scam and the Quedancor Pig Scam under Arroyo? The Duterte regime placed Arroyo as the House Speaker, and now serving as an architect of a new charter that will further the export-oriented and import-dependent agriculture system.

Killings of Farmers

The worse part of 2018 is that we have a food problem and our food producers the farmers and farm-workers are being killed. In October this year, peasant organizations documented at least 172 cases of farmers killed under Duterte. Sagay Massacre happened this year.

Not just farmers and farm-workers even, even lawyers assisting cases of the farmers were not spared, Atty. Ben Ramos a champion of farmers’ rights was brutally murdered in Negros.

2018 was a bloody year for Philippine agriculture. However, history taught us well that legitimate demands of land and democratic rights cannot be answered by brute force, this will only fuel further resistance.

The feudal and colonial exploitation of Spanish prompted the 1896 Revolution of the Katipunan, the colonial and feudal exploitation of the Japanese produced HUKBALAHAP. Thus, this fascist rule of Duterte will only produce more Bonifacio, Jacintos and even battalions of anti-feudal and nationalist revolutionaries. (davaotoday.com)

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