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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

Lumad leader, farmer-activist killed in their homes

By KEN E. CAGULA / Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A Lumad leader and a farmer-activist were gunned down in separate incidents in the province of Bukidnon.

On July 8, Datu Mario Agsab was shot dead in his home at Sitio Mainaga, Brgy. Iba, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon at around 7am by suspected members of paramilitary group Alamara and CAFGU members under the 8th Infantry Batallion.

According to Karapatan-Bukidnon, Agsab was an active leader of PIGYAYUNGA-AN, a local chapter of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon.

Two days earlier, the group also reported a similar shooting incident which targeted a member of KASAMA-Bukidnon, an affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

Karapatan said that farmer Joel Anino was shot in his home in San Fernando town, Bukidnon by unidentified gunmen around 6:30am last July 6. He later died at the Malaybalay General Hospital.

Anino is the second member of KASAMA-Bukidnon killed this year.

Last June 16, 57-year-old farmer Liovigildo “Nonoy” Palma, also a member of KASAMA-Bukidnon, was killed by three suspects riding a single motorcycle just right outside his house at Barangay Halapitan, Sitio Malambago, San Fernando.

Datu Wilson Anglao Jr., secretary general of Karapatan-Bukidnon, condemned the growing number of killings in the province.

The group has already documented nine incidents of extrajudicial killings in Bukidnon in the middle of 2019.

Anglao attributed these killings to the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao, which is expected to last until the end of this year.

“The [State] wants to silence anyone – especially the farmers here in Bukidnon – who is strongly calling for genuine agrarian reform in the country,” Anglao said.

Anglao said that they will bring these cases to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Region 10 to urge them to look into the human rights situation in the province. #

Your legacy is anti-people, KMP tells Arroyo

Contrary to her glowing description of her presidency and speakership as she announced her retirement from politics, farmers said House of Representatives (HOR) Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s legacy are laws detrimental to the people’s interests.

Responding to her valedictory at the last session of the HOR Tuesday, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Arroyo led the approval of an endless string of anti-people policies and legislation, including the rice tarrification law, the lowering of the age of criminal liability, regressive taxes, revival of mandatory military training for minors, among others.

Arroyo said she will retire from politics after three decades after having been elected as senator, vice president, president and Pampanga representative.

Recalling her presidency and career in Congress with world leaders, Arroyo said she does not think she will have as dramatic a legacy as giants of world history such as United States President John Kennedy.

“I think my legacy will center around restoring our country’s fiscal stability after a storm of financial crisis here and abroad. Our fiscal reforms expanded resources for infrastructure and development, after which, as I said earlier, our poverty level went down from 39% to 26%” she said.

‘Good riddance’

The KMP said they welcome Arroyo’s retirement from politics as “good riddance.”

“She will continue to be known as among the most loathed public officials in history. Arroyo and her enabler Rodrigo Duterte deserve condemnation for all the anti-people policies they are implementing,” KMP chairperson emeritus and Anakpawis President Rafael Mariano said. 

Mariano recalled that Arroyo’s speakership did nothing but ignore Anakpawis’ landmark bills.

“Under Arroyo’s helm in Congress, pro-people measures such as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and Php750 national minimum wage hike were snubbed and archived,” Mariano said.

Mariano added that Arroyo also presided in the railroading of the refilled coco levy bill that reduced the number of farmer-representatives to the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee from nine to only three last month. 

“The coco levy bill approved by Congress will not guarantee the return of the multibillion coco levy fund and assets to farmers. Duterte and his allies will only gain control of the fund,” Mariano said. 

Under the new coco levy bill, the trust fund committee will have an annual capitalization budget of Php10-billion, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee to be appointed by the President will be composed of six representatives from government sector, two representatives from the private coconut industry sector, and only three farmer-representatives.

The coco levy assets will be privatized under the supervision of the Privatization Management Office, the KMP added.

“These are not the demands of small coconut farmers. Ito ang gusto ni Duterte kaya ito ang sinunod ng Kongreso,” Mariano said.

“This long and drawn out battle for the return of the coco levy fund has burdened millions of small coconut farmers and their families. Many of them have died without actually benefiting from the coco levy fund,” the peasant leader said.  

Estimated to be worth up to 150 billion pesos, the fund was levied from coconut farmers by the Ferdinand Marcos regime that the Supreme Court said belonged to them.

Mariano said small coconut farmers will continue to assert the genuine return of the fund.

‘Loathed politician’

Arroyo, daughter of former President Diosdado Macapagal, was the Phillippine president for nine years.

She took over the presidency from Joseph Estrada in 2001 after an uprising.

Her election in 2004 to a presidential term of her own was widely believed to be fraudulent, leading to massive protests and even ouster attempts by rebel soldiers.

During her reign, human rights group Karapatan reported 1,205 victims of extrajudicial killings and 206 victims of enforced disappearances. 

She was also elected as Pampanga second district representative in 2010.

She was arrested and jailed for plunder in 2011 but was acquitted and freed in 2016.

In July 2017, she was elected as House Speaker in a controversial maneuver alleged to be orchestrated by Davao City mayor Sara Duterte who was at odds with then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bishop calls for end to ‘barbaric attacks’ as police general says church ‘not competent’ to probe Negros killings

By Visayas Today

“I am begging our state forces, the police and military personnel, these killings must end.”

This was the earnest appeal Wednesday by San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza as controversy continues to hound the March 30 deaths in Negros Oriental of 14 men during a police operation that was initially dubbed an anti-crime drive but was later acknowledged to be targeted against alleged communist rebels.

Alminaza’s statement was read by Fr. Eduardo Laude, director for pastoral management of the San Carlos diocese, who represented the prelate at the Wednesday Roundtable at Lido hosted by journalist Melo Acuna, which discussed the Negros Oriental killings.

The bishop was in Cebu City for the launching of a movement that will campaign for an end to killings and other rights violations.

“This is very personal on my part,” Alminaza said in his statement.

“Fourteen people of our island perished in this barbaric operation. They are part of my flock, their deaths pierced my heart with pain,” he added.

“I share the collective suffering of the many families left by the barbaric arrogance of our state forces,” the bishop said.

“We are demanding peace based on justice,” he said.

In all, said Alminaza, 69 persons have died in what are believed to be politically motivated killings, a substantial number of these happening in his diocese in less than half a year in what he called a “continuing injustice.”

In October 20 last year, nine persons were massacred in a farmers’ protest camp in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, which is part of the diocese.

And on December 27, police mounted the predecessor to the March operation, Oplan Sauron, leaving six persons dead in Negros Oriental, five of these in Guihulngan City, again part of the diocese.

Of the 14 persons killed on March 30, eight were from Canlaon City, which also belongs to the San Carlos diocese.

Manjuyod town accounted for four of the dead, including two barangay captains, and Sta. Catalina, two more.

Laude told the forum that the diocese had immediately mounted an investigation into the March 30 deaths and said the accounts of eyewitnesses and the families of the slain disputed police claims that those who died were killed when they fought it out with officers serving search warrants.

He also pointed to alleged irregularities, saying witnesses told of police commandos concealing their faces in balaclavas and with no nameplates on their uniforms who “surrounded victims’ houses and forced their way inside without identifying themselves as enforcers or giving them a chance to read the warrants.”

In earlier interviews to media, families of the fatalities, who lived far from and did not know each other, gave similar accounts of what happened, all saying the raider forced them out of their houses or rooms and then executed the victims.

Laude also said all accounts noted that “no barangay officials were present at the time of entry or search,” and showed up “only hours after.”

But Philippine National Police director for police-community relations, Major General Benigno Durana Jr, immediately dismissed the church’s findings saying it was “not a competent or legitimate investigative body.”

“Any findings they have will not matter,” he stressed, even as he warned that, “if you peddle that it will create a biased perception against our legitimate police forces.”

But Laude clarified that they had tapped the services of lawyers in their investigation and also cooperated with the Commission on Human Rights. Durana also claimed that, while “some sectors would call (the fatalities) farmers,” these were “farmers with other activities” who “acted as tipsters” and, thus, were “either accessories or accomplices of terrorist groups,” referring to communist rebels behind the assassination or ambush of police personnel.

He insisted that accusations of human rights violations were “all lies” by “sectors who are front organizations” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.

When CHR representative noted that, since the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law, “belief in communism is not a crime” and that the farmers, had they committed any crimes, should have been tried, Durana accused him of “parroting the propaganda line of the CPP-NPA.”

Siapno protested this “unfair assertion” and stressed that the farmers enjoyed the presumption of innocence as much as the police operation was covered by the presumption of regularity.

He also stressed that even if police claimed the slain farmers were killed because they fought back, these “should be tried and go through our courts.”

Alminaza, meanwhile, minced no words in his statement, calling the police’s insistence that the farmers fought back “callous.”

The bishop pointed out that Negros has had “a long history of social struggle” and the island’s farmers possess “grate social awareness” as well as “experience defending our lives and rights.”

Citing the atrocities committed on the island by the police, military and paramilitary groups during the Marcos dictatorship, Alminaza said: “Here we are again calling to stop the attacks of violent and barbaric at the very hands of our state forces. Let me ask this again: What’s happening? Are we still observing law and order?”

Referencing the thousands of deaths from the government’s bloody campaign against narcotics, he noted that “the madness of the drug war has rippled into our farming communities, inflicting more harm to … our poor communities.”

“Why continue this madness? Why execute people by mere suspicion? Why shed blood just because of command from the mighty? Why? We demand answers,” Alminaza said as he reiterated an earlier warning for state security forces to “please make sure you are not adding more reasons for our people to get disillusioned with our government and peacekeepers that will make the best recruiters for the underground movement.”

COVER IMAGE: Journalist Melo Acuna, police Major General Benigno Durana Jr., Fr. Eduardo Laude and the CHR’s Marc Siapno discuss the March 30 killings of 14 persons during police operations in Negros Oriental at the Wednesday Roundtable at Lido. (image grabbed from video courtesy of Melo Acuna)

158 days

Ni Pia Montalban

Tinataras na natin ang araw
ng ating pagkakapiit.

Sinong makababatid
kung pagbibilang ba ito ng sakit
at pag-aabang ng higanti, 
o kung pagkatanggap sa pinosas na bukas
at pagbibilang ng pagsuko ng imik,

sinong makapagsasabi
kung aling apoy ang nagpakulo
ng nagsusumabaw nating poot at galit?

Ang bilang ng paglalapit
ng bayan na remata’ng sinapit
o ang paglalagkit ng pait
sa ating mga nakaambang karit?

Si Nanay Monet, ang koprahan, at militarisasyon sa kanayunan

Si Nanay Monet Pajalla, 52 taong gulang at isang magsasaka sa Quezon, ay katulad ng ibang kababaihan na hikahos sa buhay.

Bukod sa kawalan ng lupa, patuloy na bumabagsak ang kita nila sa pagbebenta ng kopra. Isa rin si Nanay Monet sa matagal nang nag-hihintay na makuha ang ipinagkakait na coco levy fund noong panahon pa ni Marcos.

Tumitindi ang panunupil at pandarahas sa kanilang lugar sa Quezon kabilang na ang pagpaslang sa isang lider kababaihan noong Marso 2018 at malaganap na militarisasyon.

Sa kabila nito, patuloy ang grupo nila na nag-oorganisa at nagpapalakas ng kanilang hanay. (Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)