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SEAG cloaks land-grabbing and illegal deals, farmers claim

Beyond the series of embarrassing reports related to the ill-prepared hosting of South East Asian Games (SEAG) are possible cases of massive land-grabbing and illegal deals, a farmers’ group claimed.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) accused the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), led by House of Representatives Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano, of selling off vast tracks of agricultural land in Central Luzon to a Malaysian firm under the guise of hosting the biennial sports event.

“The Philippines government’s real intention in the hosting of the SEA Games is to pimp our land and resources, particularly the 9,450 hectare-New Clark City in Central Luzon,” KMP vice-chairperson Joseph Canlas said in a statement.

Canlas said that the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) inked a multi-billion deal with a Malaysian company MTD Capital Berhad for the development of New Clark City (NCC) as a SEAG venue for two events.

Canlas’ group, however, said the sports complex is a part of the Phase 1A Development of the NCC that also includes the construction of a national government center complex.

The group said the PHISGOC and the BCDA, chaired by Vivencio ‘Vince’ Dizon, “circumvented legal processes and entered into a Joint Venture Agreement with MTD Capital Berhad for the construction of world-class sports facilities inside the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.”

 “As a result of the deal, the [Philippine] government will have to pay the Malaysian firm the amount of Php11.1-billion for five years as repayment for the 20,000-seater athletics stadium, a 2,000-seater aquatic center, and an athletes’ village,” the KMP said.

The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) gave a green light to the deal that did not go through proper public bidding, the group added. 

As it turned out, the KMP noted, the project was a build-and-transfer and not a joint venture agreement.

“Dizon, who leads the BCDA, was recently appointed as Presidential Adviser for Flagship Projects. He is a known broker of Chinese investments in the Philippines, and a close ally of House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano who is also under fire because of the overpriced Php50-million Olympic cauldron and the despicable PHISGOC SEA Games hosting,” the KMP revealed.

By 2020, MTD will start Phase 1B of the project that will build two seven-story government buildings, an integrated operations center, government housing, parks, and recreation centers, among other infrastructure, the farmers added.

The group also revealed that at least 10 local and foreign firms are eyeing investments in NCC including the $2-billion China Industrial Park spanning 500-hectares to be constructed by the China Gezhouba Group. 

The Chinese industrial park will cater to light and medium industries such as those engaged in semiconductor and information technology, the group said, adding that farmers and indigenous peoples groups will finally be driven away from the area.

“Wala o kulang ang lupang sinasaka ng mga magsasaka pero ibinuyangyang sa mga dayuhan ang mga lupang agrikultural at lupang ninuno sa Tarlac at Pampanga,” Canlas said.  

“May kumikita ng bilyon-bilyon sa mga proyektong nakakabit sa SEA Games at isinasangkalan ang karapatan sa lupa ng mga magsasaka at katutubo,” he added.

P2.2 billion a year

KMP’s revelations echoed warnings repeatedly issued by Senator Franklin Drilon who earlier slammed the Rodrigo Duterte government’s decision to borrow a large sum of money to host the games.

“We are incurring a loan here. Inutang natin ito from a Malaysian firm payable in five years’ time at P2.2 billion a year,” Drilon said in a television interview on November 21.

The government will be paying a Malaysian bank a total of P11 billion for the next five years over its hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has claimed.

 While clarifying that he is not against the hosting of the SEA Games, Drilon said that borrowing money raises the question of propriety considering the government is already suffering from a P624-billion deficit this year.

Drilon and Cayetano also traded bards on the P50 million spent on the games cauldron to be lit on the formal SEAG on November 30 at NCC.

Cayetano has reportedly confirmed that P1.5 billion of the funds for the SEAG did not undergo bidding due to time constraints brought about by delays in the Senate’s approval of their requested budget.

Cayetano blamed Drilon for the delay. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Senate unanimously opposes sugar liberalization

By Visayas Today

The Senate has unanimously opposed the executive branch’s plan to liberalize the sugar industry and will conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the matter.

Senate Resolution 213, introduced by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, said the planned inquiry is aimed at “safeguarding the welfare of 84,000 sugar farmers and 720,000 industry workers in 20 provinces of the country.”

It noted that liberalizing the sugar industry would be “irrelevant and very untimely” since the Sugar Industry Development Act of 2015 “is barely four years in effect, and much of the programs and projects it envisions to implement for the development of the sugar industry are not yet fully realized.”

In a statement, Zubiri acknowledged the role of the industry alliance Tatak Kalamay for raising the issue and prodding him to rally his fellow senators against the plan.

“They (the senators) heard Tatak Kalamay’s plea and for as long as we are in the Senate, we assure you of our support and protection and we also urge the economic managers to conduct proper consultation before announcing such plans,” he said.

Zubiri urged government economic managers to abandon plans to liberalize sugar and instead “help us by ensuring the restoration of the full SIDA budget in order to make our industry competitive globally.” #

Mga inaresto sa Bacolod, lalo pang pinahirapan matapos dakpin

Isinalaysay ni Jefer Alipo-on, 23 anyos, ang kanilang naging karanasan nang sila ay inaresto noong Oktubre 31 sa ginawang raid ng mga pulis sa opisina ng Bayan Muna sa Bacolod City. Isiniwalat ni Alipo-on sa bidyo na ito ang karagdagang tortyur sa kanila ng mga pulis matapos silang dakpin.

Matapos ang halos isang linggo, isa si Jefer sa nakalayang 11 miyembro ng Teatro Obrero, kasama ang 21 na mga manggagawa ng Ceres Bus Line noong Nobyembre 6. Subalit mayroon pang siyam na nakakulong at sinampahan ng anila’y gawa-gawang kaso na iligal na pag-iingat ng baril at granada. (Music: Tangerine Dream Valley of Sun Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

World biggest rice importer? Peasant group renews call to junk liberalization law

By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A peasant group has reiterated its call for the repeal of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law as the country is set to be the world’s biggest rice importer.

Peasant women group Amihan, citing data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), said the Philippines will be importing up to three million metric tons this year, beating China’s 2.5 million tons.

China’s population is 13 times more than the Philippines.

In a statement, Cathy Estavillo, Amihan secretary general, said, “This is an epic failure of the Duterte government, when rice sources are supposed to be within the country, but his policies made this distant and even at the discretion of foreign traders colluding with local big traders, who will eventually dictate supply and prices in the domestic market.”

The Rice Liberalization Law was signed February this year to supposedly reduce the price of rice by removing the quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

This, however, only resulted in the falling farmgate price of palay, which fell to as low as P7 in Central Luzon.

Estavillo, also spokesperson of consumer group Bantay Bigas, underscored that they have repeatedly warned that “RA 11203 will turn Filipinos into beggars of imported rice.” “We all have witnessed this law causing bankruptcy to rice farmers, and this will lead to displacement and ultimately declined productivity,” added Estavillo.

The peasant rights advocate also said that becoming the world’s biggest rice importer in a mainly agricultural country is an obvious failure of the government to provide “food on the table.”

“We reiterate, Rice Liberalization Law is anti-peasant and anti-Filipino. It is an economic and social crime against Filipinos as it threatens our inalienable right to food and food sovereignty,” Estavillo said. #

Kung saan bihasa ang PNP at AFP

” Kung ang mga magsasaka ay nagtatanim ng palay at butil, ang PNP at AFP ay bihasa sa tanim-bala, tanim-baril at tanim-explosives.”–Danilo Ramos, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson

Agri sector slumps due to continuous government neglect

by IBON Media

Even prior to rice liberalization, the country has become increasingly dependent on food imports.”

Long-time government neglect and low prioritization has put the agriculture sector in a chronic crisis, said research group IBON.

The group said that this is in line with government’s advancement of neoliberal policies favoring local and foreign big business. The Duterte government continues this by giving minimal support to the agriculture sector.

IBON said that declining share in gross domestic product and agricultural productivity per capita, increasing import dependence, rising trade deficit, and widespread rural poverty are signs that this crisis is worsening. 

The agriculture sector’s share in the economy has shrunk from over 40% in the 1960s to less than 10% in 2018.

Agricultural productivity per capita peaked at Php7,862 in 1981, declined, and then was in a period of recovery from 1999-2008.

But agricultural productivity per capita again fell to Php7,052 in 2018, noted the group.

IBON also said that the country has become increasingly dependent on food imports even before rice liberalization this year.

For instance, garlic imports made up only 1.1% of the country’s consumption in 1990, but this spiked to 90% in 2017. Import dependency ratio also increased significantly with coffee (-7.7% to 56%); beef (8.5% to 36%); tuna (3.7% to 17%); onion (-14.3% to 15%); potato (0% to 15%); and pork (0% to 13%) in the same period.

Meanwhile, rice import dependency ratio declined from 9% in 1990 to 5% in 2016. But this rose to 6.6% in 2017 and is expected to be higher due to the influx of rice imports under the Rice Liberalization Law.

The agriculture trade deficit has also increased by 30 times from US$287 million in 1994 to US$8 billion in 2018.

In the first quarter of this year, the agriculture trade deficit was a staggering US$2.1 billion, said the group.

IBON said widespread rural poverty is another indicator of agriculture in crisis.

Official figures show that the poverty incidence among farmers (34.3%) and fisherfolk (34%) is higher than the national average (21.6%).

IBON estimates that, if based on more reasonable standards of poverty measurement, at least 90%, if not all farmers and fisherfolk, are impoverished.

This chronic agriculture crisis is due to government’s chronically low prioritization of the agriculture sector, said IBON.

The group noted that from 1981 until 2020, the annual average share of agriculture and agrarian reform was only 4.1% of the national budget.

This low priority of agriculture is being continued under the Duterte administration.

The group said that the 3.5% share of agriculture in the proposed 2020 budget is the lowest since 2004 (3.3%).

Also, from 2017 to 2020, the annual average share of agriculture in the national budget was only 3.6% – the lowest since the Ramos administration (3.5%).

The average share of agriculture was higher under Estrada (4.4%), Arroyo (4.7%), and Aquino (4.2%).

IBON said that immediate steps government should take to arrest the agriculture crisis is to wipe off if not significantly reduce all forms of loans including amortization for awarded lands, and to substantially increase support and subsidies for the agriculture and agrarian reform sectors.

It should also suspend, and eventually repeal, policies like the Rice Liberalization Law, that are harming domestic production and farmers’ livelihoods.

But to truly strengthen domestic agriculture, government needs to implement long-term policies that prioritize rural development over big business interests. #

Land rights activists confront Irene Marcos-Araneta

Land rights activists Angelo Suarez and Donna Miranda chanced upon Irene Marcos-Araneta at a Sunday market in Quezon City last September 15 and confronted the late dictator’s daughter.

Suarez and Miranda said it is ironic that Marcos-Araneta is buying vegetables when the Araneta family is grabbing land from vegetable farmers in San Juan del Monte City, Bulacan.

The couple also pointed out that the Marcos family has yet to apologize to the victims of the late dictator Ferdinand’s martial law, including Suarez’s father, a journalist. (Video by Raymund Villanueva/Kodao)

Nueva Ecija NFA can only buy 4% of province’s rice harvest

The National Food Authority (NFA) in Nueve Ecija can only buy four percent of the province’s expected rice harvest of 21 million sacks this main cropping season, its provincial manager said.

In an interview with local radio station Radyo Natin-Guimba last Friday, NFA provincial manager Genoveva Villar said they are ready to buy 900,000 sacks of palay (unhusked rice) from the province’s rice farmers at P17.00 per kilo.

Villar said further instructions have yet to reach their office after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered that the NFA buy all palay from farmers following widespread complaints that the crop is being bought at only P7 per kilo due to the influx of cheap rice imports.

Palay was bought by traders at P21 per kilo prior to the impmentation of the Duterte government’s rice tarrification law.

The NFA in the province is willing to follow the president’s instructions if funds are made available, Villar said.

Villar added that if farmers would be qualified for added incentatives if their palay is fully dried.

Radyo Natin-Guimba reported, however, that farmers said this is a difficult precondition as the rainy season has already arrived and there are shortages of drying facilities in the province.

Villar also admitted that its warehouses are currently full of both imported and local rice, which she said is in accordance with the government’s buffer stock policy.

She suggested that the government may rent additional warehouses.

Radyo Natin-Guimba also reported that the NFA’s national budget of P7 billion is only enough to buy nine million sacks, which is not even half of Nueva Ecija’s projected harvest of 21 million sacks.

Nueva Ecija is one of the country’s top rice producing provinces. It current cropping is expected to be harvested in October. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers accuse Aranetas of grabbing farms and home lots in Bulacan

A farmers’s group accused a bank of fencing off land in Sitio San Isidro in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan, adding the bank is acting in behalf of the “landgrabbing” Araneta family.

The Samahan at Sandigan ng mga  Magsasaka sa San Isidro-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Sasamag-KMP) said the Manila Banking Corp. ordered the fencing off of lots and started constructing one-meter high posts surrounding the perimeter of Blocks 9, 10, 11,12 and 13B in Sitio Isidro.

Sasamag-KMP said surveyors and engineers from AB Surveying and Development Corp. arrived last August 29 and claimed the farm lots planted with vegetables, root crops and food crops where houses are also located.

The surveyors misled barangay officials and presented a letter that said they would only conduct a “survey of the area,” the group said.

“The farmers were surprised to see heavy equipment and construction materials such as hollow blocks, steel and cement bags being hauled near their farms. The fencing and construction activities have instantly sent the farmers into a panic,” Sasamag-KMP said,

The group also said that soldiers of the 48th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army encamped nearby only looked on as farmers tried to stop the surveying company from fencing off farms and home lots .

“The soldiers are not in our community to protect the people. They are here to protect the interests of land grabbers and private companies with businesses in San Jose Del Monte City,” Eriberto Peña of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan said in a statement.

Peña said the soldiers have been encamping near the community’s barangays hall since 2018 and conducting surveillance activities masked as “Community Support Program Operations.”

The farmers said Barangay Tungkong Mangga in SJDM is the targeted location of the intermodal depot and last station of the multibillion MRT-7—a big-ticket construction project supported by the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

The MRT-7 and commercial components will cut through 103.48 hectares of the farming communities of Sitio San Isidro and Sitio Ricafort in Tungkong Mangga. More than a thousand farmers and their families will be affected by the project, the KMP said.

Large real estate companies have already put up subdivisions and township projects in San Jose Del Monte City in anticipation of the completion of the MRT-7 project. 

In addition to the Araneta group, Ayala Land Inc. has also expanded its Php7-billion Altaraza Town Center project to include Amaia Altaraza Steps, a medium-rise condominium project.

Colinas Verdes Residential Estates and Country Club, a joint-venture partnership with Sta. Lucia Real Estate and Development, already covers 261 hectares of land in Tungkong Mangga, KMP added.

The group said the Araneta family covets a total of 3,500 hectares of land in San Jose Del Monte City that includes portions of the nearby Pangarap village in Caloocan City-North. 

“These real estate projects are affecting the farmers in the sub-village of San Isidro in Tungkong Mangga. There are frequent instances wherein crops planted by farmers are being bulldozed by surveying companies and private security guards employed by real estate companies. The security personnel also prohibit farmers from planting and harvesting their crops,” KMP leader Danilo Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kabataang handang kumilos at manindigan

“Sa bawat pagdanak ng dugo ng mga magsasaka sa mga sakahan, sa bawat binubuwag nilang picket line ng mga manggagawa, at sa bawat maralita na tinatanggalan nila ng karapatan sa paninirahan, ay ang pag-usbong ng bagong salinlahi ng mga kabataang rebolusyonaryo na handang kumilos at manindigan, buhay man ay ialay!”—Alex Danday, Anakbayan spokesperson

Image by Jo Maline Mamangun