The recent program of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) through its so-called Mindanao Organic Rice Council exposes the outright bankruptcy of this government in terms of rice sufficiency.

Late last year, MinDa chief and former agriculture secretary Manny Piñol, proudly shared this program as a support mechanism on the impacts of rice liberalization law. Earlier this week, MinDa is finalizing the trial shipment of around 500 bags of organic rice to the US.

This move by the government is a confirmation of the neo-liberal agricultural economy dominant to Philippine society, an affirmation to its export-oriented and import-dependent orientation.

It is crazy in so many levels, sending our prime organic rice to other parts of the world, while we import and eat the bukbok rice (weevil-infested rice), which former Agri Secretary Piñol shamelessly taught us how to cook.

On a more serious note, exporting organic rice will not solve the problems brought by Rice Liberalization Law (RLL) which this government ratified last year. Our rice industry already incurred, at least P100 Billion losses as of last year, affecting at least 2.5 million Filipino rice farmers. RLL also resulted to the closure of at least 4,000 rice mills nationwide affecting the livelihood of rice millers, operators and laborers.

While some grouplet representing the civil-society organizations (CSOs) of this so-called Mindanao Organic Rice Council claim that they are in “critical engagement” with the government, the truth is that they are uncritical at all. The truth is that they are in cahoots with this government in making shallow programs as they veer away with the devastation brought by rice liberalization to Filipino rice farmers.

The critical way to engage this administration is to become critical in these superficial and PR-circus type of programs. To critically engage this government is to stand against the dominant export-oriented and import-dependent agricultural economy. To stand for the repeal of Rice Liberalization Law and to stand for the interest of Filipino farmers. That is critical engagement!

While we agree on the promotion of organic rice, we must also carefully draw the line that is grounded on basic tenets of sustainable agriculture- we give premium to local food sufficiency. As we in MASIPAG describe it – PEOPLE FIRST BEFORE PROFIT!

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