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‘We need a full-time, hardworking, and sincere agriculture secretary’

Malinaw ang panawagan ng mga magsasaka mula sa Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) na magbitaw na sa pwesto si Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. bilang secretary ng Department of Agriculture (DA), at sa halip ay magtalaga na ng isang full-time secretary para sa kagawaran.

Binatikos din ng KMP ang pakikipag-usap ni Marcos Jr. sa Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) noong Oktubre 21 upang hingin ang kanilang payo para tugunan ang krisis sa pagkain.

“He snubbed the farmer-proposed Doables in Agriculture and chose to listen only to business executives,” ani ni KMP Chairperson Danilo Ramos sa kanilang inilabas na pahayag. Binanggit din ni Ramos na ang isa sa lead convenor ng PSAC ay mula sa Aboitiz Group na isa rin sa nangunang contributor ni Marcos Jr. noong eleksyon.

“Marcos’s group of advisers obviously have business and profit as their top priorities. Farmers and food producers on the other hand, are proposing concrete and actionable measures on how to boost local food production, how to genuinely develop the agriculture sector, and protect farmers and consumers alike from inflation shocks. [We need] to genuinely strengthen agriculture and fight hunger, Marcos Jr. should heed the demands of farmers, fisherfolk and food producers,” pagtatapos ng KMP sa kanilang pahayag.

Farmers tell Villar: ‘Be sincere and repeal rice tarrification law’

The country’s biggest peasants’ organization challenged Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chairperson Senator Villar to act against her own rice tarrification law to prove sincerity in recent pro-farmers pronouncements.

Reacting to the senator’s directives at last Monday’s budget hearing to the Department of Agriculture to realign its 2023 proposed budget to help farmers produce high-quality seeds, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Villar should instead take a look at her pet rice importation liberalization law.

“Senator Villar can rather show her sincerity by supporting demands to review and repeal RA (Republic Act) 11203 or the rice tariffication law,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement Wednesday.  

In last Monday’s hearing, Villar castigated DA for its preference for imported hybrid rice seeds over inbred and organic rice seeds, spending P7.9 billion for hybrid seeds distributed to 1.7 million farmers while only spending P3.7 billion for inbred seeds.

Villar also directed the agency to support the use of compost and organic fertilizer over expensive chemical-based fertilizers.

Fertilizer prices increased by up to 22% since 2020, severely affecting rice production and farmers’ incomes, the KMP said.

‘Hypocritical’

The group said that along with the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s Masagana 99 program, the Villar-sponsored rice liberalization program have further made rice farmers’ lives difficult.

“These two programs, implemented more than 40 years apart, have destroyed the lives and livelihood of rice farmers, and further ruined the local rice industry,” the group added.

KMP said hybrid rice propagation was the central component of Martial Law-era Masagana 99 that heavily relied on expensive imported seeds and farm inputs, which left farmers in debt.

“Up to this day, the majority of Filipino rice farmers remain dependent on the practices set by the Green Revolution and Masagana 99,” Ramos said.

Ramos added that the rice liberalization law that Villar principally authored and enacted in 2019 led to heavy income losses for rice farmers amounting to P206 billion in the past three years.  

“The failure of RA 11203 is undisputed, the influx of imported rice caused massive bankruptcies among rice farmers, due to depressed farm gate prices,” Ramos said. 

Legislators should support the genuine protection and development of the domestic rice industry. Senator Villar will remain hypocritical if she continues to support rice liberalization while espousing to advance local seeds and fertilizer production, Ramos said.

The KMP also challenged Villar to sponsor the Senate version of House Bill 405 Rice Industry Development Act or the Food Self-Sufficiency Act of 2022.

KMP said that an estimated 96% of Filipinos are rice consumers while production involves around 3.8 million rice farmers who cultivate 4.7 million hectares. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers question budget cuts on irrigation and rice program equipment

Marcos bailiwicks to get more road projects in 2023, KMP reveals

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) questioned proposed fund cuts for irrigation and equipment procurement for the country’s national rice program in next year’s proposed national budget.

The farmers’ group reported that the Department of Agriculture proposes a P211 million cut in the budget for the Irrigation Network Service from the current P932 million to P721 million in 2023.

The KMP added that the agency, led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself, proposes a 64% budget slash from the current P1.9 billion to P700 million for the Provision of Agricultural Equipment and Facilities of the ongoing National Rice Program.

Likewise, the Extension Support, Education, and Training Services budget for the National Livestock Program will be slashed by P82 million from P611 million to P529 million, the KMP said.

“These are crucial projects, activities, and programs related to the recovery of the slumped rice and livestock sectors. Why impose these budget cuts?” former agrarian reform secretary and KMP’s long-time leader Rafael Mariano asked.

Agri budget for counter-insurgency

In a statement, Mariano also said that the agency must explain why the DA’s proposed 2023 budget seem to prioritize programs that are being used for the government’s counter-insurgency project.

Among these include the budget for the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) program proposed to enjoy a P251 million budget increase from P923 million to P1.1 billion next year.

SAAD, however, is not a generic DA project but was created by former President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 that also created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

“Technically, this budget for SAAD is a budget for counterinsurgency under the guise of social and economic interventions such as social preparation, production and livelihood, marketing assistance and enterprise development. We want to know, how in reality, SAAD aids in poverty alleviation of farmers and fishers when the most basic issues in rural communities are not being addressed,” Mariano said.

More agri budget for Marcos’ home regions

KMP also noted that the DA’s proposed 2023 budget seems to favor Marcos’ home regions, Ilocos and Eastern Visayas. The president’s father, Ferdinand Sr. was from Ilocos Norte while his mother is from Leyte.

“[The KMP finds] it dubious that the DA gave funding preference for the construction, repair and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads (FMR) in key production areas in known ‘Marcos territories’ like in Regions 1 and 8,” the group said.

From P7.5 billion, the farm-to-market roads budget will increase to P13.1 billion, of which some P1.86 billion will go to Region 1 and P1.41 billion for Region 8, the group reported.

KMP said it identified more than 100 FMR projects in Ilocos Norte and Leyte provinces alone, mostly concreting of barangay roads. Each FMR project ranges from P12 million to P30 million.

KMP added that farm-to-market road projects easily become budget for “farm-to-pockets” operations.

“Sana, hindi tatambakan lang ng graba (gravel) ang isang kilometro ng kalsada tapos tatawagin nang farm-to-market road. Kailangan busisiin ang mga badyet para sa farm-to-market roads dahil dito laging may mga kumukubra,” Mariano said.

(We wish they will not just dump gravel on short stretches and already call them farm-to-market roads. There is a need to investigate the budget because corruption is rife in such projects.)

“Huge amounts are spent on roads that are repaired or rebuilt over and over, resulting in favored contractors and duplication of projects. Corruption is also a given in these projects,” the farmer-leader added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Will the UN Decade of Family Farming solve lack of land among poor Filipino farmers?

The Philippine government since 2019 has participated in global discussions for the crafting of national action plans for the support of family farming. Led by the Department of Agriculture and with the participation of multi-stakeholder partners, the Philippine National Action Plan for the support of family farming was announced by the agency in May and formally launched in July of 2021. The Philippines is one of the first three countries in the entire Asia-Pacific Region with an approved National Action Plan, along with Nepal and Indonesia.

Kodao Productions has been tasked by Communication Development Asia and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters-Asia Pacific in behalf of the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations to produce these two radio magazines (in Filipino and English) in line with this global program. It asks, “Will the Decade of Family Farming solve the most basic problem of Filipino farmers: lack of land?”

Filipino version
English version

Farmers demand food production aid under 2022 nat’l budget

Hit hard by government’s greater dependence on food importation during the coronavirus pandemic, farmers have demanded P15,000 production subsidy in next year’s national budget.

Reacting to Department of Agriculture (DA) statements at its ongoing budget deliberations at the House of Representatives, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also said it opposes secretary William Dar’s admission there will be no cash aid for farmers under their Php91 billion 2022 budget proposal.

Gutom po ang mga Pilipino lalo na ngayong pandemya. Kailangan palakasin ang lokal na produksyon ng pagkain. Paano magagawa ito kung walang ayuda sa mga magsasaka at hindi nagagamit ng tama ang pondo sa agrikultura ayon sa pangangailan ng mga magbubukid? KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos in a statement said. 

(There are more hungry Filipinos during this pandemic. Local food production must be strengthened. How can this be achieved without cash aid to farmers and funds are not used properly to benefit farmers?)

Ramos said that they support a higher budget for DA, their group is not keen on the department’s fiscal directions as well as greater emphasis on import liberalization and private and foreign investments on agriculture.

Ramos said such policies have only primarily benefited local and foreign business interests and have further marginalized poor farmers.

“The perfect storm in agriculture is not only due to the african swine flu (ASF), climatic events, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Decades of neo-liberal policies have only worsened the state of agriculture and Filipino farmers,” Ramos said.  

The KMP revealed that DA’s “Matibay na Seguridad sa Pagkain, Maunlad at Masaganang Buhay ng mga Magsasaka at Mangingisda” program is in fact decreasing the budget for corn production, organic agriculture as well as the production of high-value crops.

“The P207M o 1.33% increase in the National Rice Program budget is also very meager to support rice production,” it added.

KMP said DA’s market and business-driven and profit-oriented programs remains its focus while failing to address the slump in pork production due to the ASF.

“The DA is already discussing technology and modernization under Digital Agriculture 4.0, while the dominant domestic farming perennially relies on carabao and manual plow. There is a significant disconnect between DA’s policies and the realities of poor Filipino farmers,” Ramos revealed.

The KMP said Dar must realize the actual condition of farmers and get out of his “alternate reality.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘DA is capitalizing on a personality for an issue’

“We have nothing against Mr. Reid. But the DA is capitalizing on a personality for an issue we are angry about. We expected the DA to beat the food security gap, not assign a poster boy that would less likely address the crisis that our agriculture and fisheries is facing.”

Fernando Hicap
National Chairman, PAMALAKAYA

Carlo Francisco

‘Farmers are seeking for urgent production subsidy’

“Farmers are seeking for urgent production subsidy to aid them in cropping and food production. However, DA chose to channel the budget to projects that are vulnerable to corruption.

The projects listed by DA under ALPAS-COVID all have lump sum budget without specific details on the actual implementation and target beneficiaries. We demand full transparency on the utilization of funds as well as the list of beneficiaries who have received cash aid, loans, and other assistance from DA and its agencies.”

Danilo Ramos
Chairperson,
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

Carlo Francisco

Farmers decry rice crisis

Farmers from the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), AMIHAN (National Federation of Peasant Women) and rice watchdog Bantay Bigas, trooped to the Department of Agriculture (DA) Office in Quezon City last September 5 to protest the prolonged rice crisis in the country.

The groups also decried National Food Authority (NFA)’s importation of weevil-infested rice on one hand and and essentially near zero ‘palay’ procurement on the other.

According to Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairperson, the DA and NFA are useless in solving the problem of rice shortage.

“There was enough ‘palay’ that were harvested by farmers and, in fact, the NFA is buying them at a lower price but still they keep the plan to import weevil-infested rice which is a big insult for farmers and consumers,” Canlas said.

He also belied NFA’s excuses that farmers intend not to sell their harvest due to its low buying price.

During dry season, private traders buy at P20 per kilo of palay, which declines during wet season.

The group scores the TRAIN law because of the triggered unabated oil price hikes that resulted to increases in the cost production of rice.

They cited from October to May planting season, the cost for fuel increased by P914 or 15 percent from the previous P6781 to P7195 per hectare.

Meanwhile Bantay Bigas challenged the government to immediately stop rice importation and procure majority of palay this coming harvest season.

They also warned Secretary Manny Piñol not to insist on feeding weevil-infested rice to consumers.

“If they don’t act on the crisis, they must resign,” Bantay Bigas ended.# (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)