GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

In 1945, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) declared October 16 as “World Food Day.” Seventy-two years from such declaration, food remains elusive for millions of people worldwide, especially in countries that are colonies and neo-colonies like the Philippines.

Around 370 million indigenous people (IP) suffered hunger globally in 2016, while around 15 million IPs in the Philippines live in dire poverty in the same year. Also in the country, 7 million children suffered from hunger and malnutrition. In Mindanao, the supposed food basket of this country, during the last quarter of 2016 there were 515,000 families who experienced hunger.

In 2016 then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised to ensure food being available to Filipinos across classes. During a February 2016 campaign sorties, he said, “I must see to it that for the billionaires and the poorest, there is food on the table and it is affordable…” Such promises of Duterte became his ticket to a landslide victory in his presidential bid. Duterte reiterated this declaration a few weeks ago in his speech at the agri-trade link in Pasay City, where he himself recognized that food crops must be prioritized than cash crops.

More than a year after Duterte took office, improvement in policies for food and agriculture were not significant. Duterte’s trusted Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol was stuck in his PR circus while lacking substantial agricultural policy reforms. The absence of concrete grounding in agriculture, especially to small farmers, resulted to this administration’s move to revive the failed Marcosian MASAGANA and Biyayang Dagat programs in agriculture and fisheries. This, while continuing to implement Aquino’s faulty industry roadmap.

As I mentioned earlier, Duterte himself recognized the need for food crops over cash crops but it was again another lip-service and empty rhetoric. Despite his blabbering of food security, the oligarchs which he “despised” in his speeches, are also the same oligarchs he is rubbing elbows with: the owners of big plantations maintaining an export-oriented and import-dependent food system.

For example, the banana plantations that are ever-expanding in Southern Mindanao region, particularly in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley provinces are owned by one of Duterte’s biggest financier Congressman Antonio Floirendo. Now thousands of farmers that has been deceived by the onerous agri-ventures agreement (AVA) are ready to take back their land and plant food crops.

Despite Duterte’s perpetual cursing against the “Delawaans”, in terms of agricultural policies Duterte administration did not depart from their policies and continue to implement these programs. For example the Palm-Oil Industry Road Map that targets to expand 1,000,000 hectares of land to palm-oil plantation by 2025. 98 percent of which will be in Mindanao, the supposed food basket. While 100,000 hectares will be in the ancestral domains of the IPs in Palawan.

Aside from expansion of plantations, IPs and farmers were displaced by development aggression projects like mining and logging. Also mindless wars in Mindanao resulted massive dislocations, just recently the war in Marawi resulted to the displacement of around half a million individuals, most of them are suffering hunger and discomfort in various evacuation camps.

Moreover, the counter-insurgency program of Oplan Kapayapaan resulted to wanton killings of farmers that stand against these development aggression projects in defense for their land. Under the Duterte administration, one farmer were being killed in every 4.5 days, while hundreds were imprisoned.

If Duterte is sincere enough to fulfill his promises it is high time now for him and his administration to listen to the farmers that feed this nation.

We have no reason to celebrate World Food Day, as millions are being hungry because of the prevalent system of corporate control and plunder in our agriculture sector. We have no reason to celebrate if our government continues to neglect the people’s right to food. It is more fitting to commemorate October 16 as World Day of Hunger. (davaotoday.com)

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