FACT CHECK: Claim that Masagana 99 is a notable achievement during Martial Law needs context

Oct. 08, 2022

CLAIM: A Facebook page named “Facts Not Feelings with Cocky Rocky” categorized as a news and media website posted on September 23 the “notable achievements during Martial Law”.

It cited the Green Revolution which produced Masagana 99, IR8 (Miracle Rice), and the entire country was considered as a land reform area where the harvests go directly to the farmers.

The same page produced a video on September 17 on the same claim. The page has over 4.4K followers and 2.2K likes as of October 7, 2022.



The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ land reform program may trace its roots to the Green Revolution. In the early 60s, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was established at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños campus in Laguna to undertake extensive research to produce new rice varieties.

While the Philippines hosted and supported the Institute, its funding came from oil and chemical companies like Shell and Chevron whose by-products are essential supplies in the production of fertilizers and pesticides. Soon, IRRI came up with so-called “miracle seeds” such as IR-8, IR-15, and IR-20.

The introduction of new rice varieties rapidly increased fertilizer production. From 101.2 million metric tons (MT) in 1956, total fertilizer consumption reached 563 million MT in 1972. This would reach almost 780,000 MT in 1978 when the Masagana 99 Program ended, up by 15% from the 1977 total of 636,590 MT. Foreign companies including Esso Atlas Fertilizers, Union-Hikari, and BASF entered into the flourishing market of fertilizers.

PD 27 covered only two types of agricultural lands (rice and corn) and lands that were tenanted and privately owned. The retention limit was set originally at seven hectares maximum which was later revised, the maximum area that a tenant can own is an economic family-size farm of three hectares if irrigated and five hectares if unirrigated.

PD 27 excluded farmlands and plantations devoted to traditional export crops such as sugar, copra, bananas, tobacco, pineapples, etc.

With the limit set, 55% of tenants in rice and corn were deprived to own the lands they have tilled according to a study by Tadem in 2014.

Corporate farming was launched when Marcos required all corporations under GO 47 that companies with over 500 employees should provide the rice and corn needs of their employees through import or direct production. This scheme has made cultivable lands not available to potential agrarian reform beneficiaries

By 1978, approximately 250 corporations that went into rice production were operating on 58,450 hectares of land. Other foreign firms like Caltex, Shell, Del Monte, Dole, and many others expanded production into soybeans, sorghum, mung beans, and by 1981, lands occupied by multinational corporations (MNCs) had reached 86,000 has. This makes the average size of a corporate farm at 402 has. For example, banana plantations expanded rapidly and rose from only 3,400 has. in 1969 to 19,600 has. by 1983. MNCs did not buy or own lands, they just leased them or had joint ventures with government corporations (Putzel 1992, 411).

Many corporations encroached on farms already cultivated by tenants, small farmer-settlers, and owner-cultivators. Rural poverty incidence rose from 55.6% in 1971 to 63.7% in 1985, while the number of landless rural workers rose from 47% of the total population in 1975 to 50% in 1985. At the same time, rice production diminished by 39% between 1970 and 1981 due to the high cost of production (Ibid., 412).

Masagana 99 was the agricultural rice production of Marcos Sr. launched in 1973. It attempted to boost rice production in the country through “modernized” agricultural inputs, which the farmers could avail through a credit scheme.

With the IRRI and its Green Revolution Program, Masagana 99 facilitated the introduction and adoption of high-yielding varieties of seeds and fertilizers, and the heavy use of chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Non-government organization MASIPAG in its statement last year during the commemoration of Martial Law said that Masagana 99 has reoriented the rice industry into a profit-based, corporate business venture.

After the program’s implementation, many of the small farmers were burdened with debt and poisoned by toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Although the program achieved short-lived success, rice production was still not sufficient for the Philippines to export rice, as initially intended.

A 1987 study from IRRI also concluded that availing loans from Masagana 99 made no difference in net returns for farmers. Former NEDA director-general Emmanuel Esguerra said Masagana 99 was more political than economic as it did not really address the root cause of inequality which is asset ownership.

Davao Today is part of #FactsFirstPH which brings together various sectors that are committed to promoting truth in the public space, and exacting accountability on those who harm it with lies. For those interested to join the initiative, email info@factsfirst.ph.

comments powered by Disqus