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Rice tariffication will displace rice farmers, worsen food insecurity–IBON

Rice tariffication and uncontrolled rice imports will displace rice farmers and worsen food insecurity without solving the problem of expensive rice, research group IBON said.

The government is using high inflation to justify rice sector liberalization according to long-standing demands of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and big foreign agricultural exporters.

Domestic agriculture should be strengthened with ample government support instead of being prematurely opened up to cheap foreign government-subsidized imports from abroad, said IBON.

Senate Bill 1998 or the Rice Tariffication Bill, which was approved by the Philippine Senate on third and final reading recently, is currently undergoing bicameral deliberation.

Government said that this will protect the rice industry from volatile prices, and consumers from rising inflation.

The measure is also supposed to earn Php10 billion annually which will be used to fund development of the local rice industry.

IBON however stressed that uncontrolled rice imports will drive rice farmers into worse poverty.

If the Philippines imports two million metric tons of palay, for instance, some 500,000 of around 2.4 million rice farmers will be adversely affected.

Even the government’s own Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) projects a 29 percent decline in rice farmers’ incomes from a Php4-decrease in palay farm gate prices when rice tariffication is implemented.

As it is, farmers’ average monthly income of Php6,000 at the Php21 farmgate price is already far short even of the government’s understated Php9,064 average poverty threshold for a family of five.

It is also not even one-fourth (23 percent) of IBON’s estimated monthly family living wage (FLW) of Php26,026 for a family of five as of October 2018.

Filipino rice farmers are unproductive and domestically-produced rice is unnecessarily expensive because of long-standing government neglect of the agriculture sector.

No more than five percent of the national budget has been given to agriculture over the last two decades.

The Duterte administration does not correct this and, for instance, the Php49.8 billion 2019 Department of Agriculture (DA) budget it submitted to Congress in July is just 1.3 percent of the national budget and even Php862 million less that its cash-based equivalent of Php50.7 billion this year.

The hyped Php10 billion (US$190 million at current exchange rates) rice development fund of the Rice Tariffication Bill is too little and too late, said IBON.

This compares unfavorably to rice industry support given by other rice producers including some countries the Philippines imports rice from — Vietnam (US$400 million), United States (US$619 million annually), Thailand (US$2.2-4.4 billion), India (US$12 billion), Japan (US$16 billion), and China (US$12-37 billion).

IBON also pointed out that there is no guarantee that retail rice prices will be lower in the long run with unhampered importation.

Relying on rice imports makes the country vulnerable to higher world market prices as well as to rice production and export decisions of other countries.

In 2008, for instance, IBON recalled bow Vietnam, India and Pakistan restricted their rice exports amid rising global rice prices.

Thailand also raised the idea of creating a global rice cartel similar to that for oil exporting countries.

Government’s neoliberal prioritization of food imports and production of crops for export should be reversed, IBON said.

The Philippine government should instead strengthen the local rice industry. This begins with free land distribution to all willing tillers, followed by giving substantial support for rice producers, and taking control of the market to ensure reasonable prices for rice and other agricultural produce. #

 

Groups denounce Sagay massacre, abduction of farmer organizer

Human rights advocates held a protest action in front of Camps Aguinaldo and Crame in Quezon City to denounce Saturday’s massacre in Hacienda Nene, Sagay City in Negros Occidental and the abduction of farmer-organizer Joey Flores Sr. in Nueva Ecija last week.

Nine farmers and farm workers, including 2 minors, were killed by suspected SCAA/CAFGU members of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in the northern Negros island city.

The protesters said they suspect Armed Forces of the Philippines-backed paramilitary and goons carried out the brutal attack.

The protesters also assailed the abduction of Joey Torres Sr., Bayan Muna’s peasant organizer in Central Luzon last week they say was by the Philippine Army. (Video by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

‘October Resistance’: Farmers protest human rights violations

Hundreds of farmers and activists commemorate Peasant Month with a series of activities they call ‘October Resistance,’ in obvious reference to the so-called Red October plot the military tried selling off as a plan oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a rally was held from University of Santo Tomas to Mendiola last Friday to call for an end to poverty, hunger as well “state fascism” by the Duterte government.

Protest actions were also launched in Tuguegarao City, Tagbilaran City, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Bukidnon, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro.

The farmers said they demand genuine land reform, free land distribution and the pull-out of military troops from communities.

They also want to end land-grabbing and land use conversion schemes as well as a stop to plantations all over the country.

KMP Chairperson Danilo Ramos said that the ‘Red October’ plot scare of the government aims to justify human rights violations and intensify crackdown against peasant activists and organizers.

The group decried the recent human rights violations perpetrated by state forces. Among these is the killing of Jaime Delos Santos, chairman of the fisherfolk PAMALAKAYA (affiliated member of KMP) in Guihulngan Negros Oriental last October 6, as well as the killing of Victor Villafranca, also member of PAMALAKAYA’s HABAGAT or Haligi ng Batanguenong Anakdagat in Lian Batangas, last October 13.

They also assailed the violent dispersal of their camp out at the Department of Agrarian Reform last Thursday. # (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas with Maricon Montajes)

 

‘October Resistance’ isasagawa ng mga magsasaka

Isang press conference noong Oktubre 8 ang isinagawa nang Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas o KMP at mga kaanib na organisasyon nito upang i-anunsyo ang kanilang pagkilos na tinaguriang “October Resistance against poverty, hunger and state fascism.”

Bilang bahagi ng buwan ng mga magsasaka ngayong Oktubre, iba’t-ibang aktibidad ang kanilang isasagawa bitbit ang panawagang tunay na reporma sa lupa, libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka, pagkontrol sa mga presyo ng bigas at iba pang bilhin gayundin ang pagtigil sa militarisasyon at paglabag sa karapatang tao sa kanayunan.

Ayon naman sa Amihan (Pambansang Pederasyon ng mga Kababaihang Magsasaka), lumalala ang kalagayan ng mga magsasaka at kababaihang magbubukid. Imbes na ibigay sa mga magsasaka ang lupain, inilaan pa ito sa ekspansyon ng mga plantasyon, malawakang pagmimina at land use conversion ang iba sa mga malaking kumpanya at panginoong maylupa.

Giit pa ng Amihan, walang plano si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte para sa pagpapaunlad ng agrikultura at pamimigay ng lupa sa mga magsasaka.

Mariin naman nilang binatikos ang pakanang ‘Red October’ ng gubyernong Duterte at Armed Forces of the Philippines at sinabing layunin lamang nito na takutin at pahupain ang tumitinding galit ng sambayanan dahil sa walang-awat na taas presyo ng mga bilihin at serbisyo dulot ng Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law o TRAIN Law.

Binigyan nila ng halimbawa ang patuloy na pampulitikang panunupil at “red tagging” sa mga organisasyon at aktibista.

Patuloy din ang pagsasampa ng mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa mga lider magsasaka kabilang na ang tagapangulo ng KMP sa Northern Mindanao na si Ereneo Ubarde at 33 iba pang lider sa rehiyon, gayundin ang pag-aresto kay Gerry Basahon, lider ng Misamis Oriental Farmers Association na kaanib ng KMP noong Oktubre 4, ani ng mga grupo.

Kinundena din nila ang pinakahuling kaso nang pamamaslang noong Oktubre 6 sa tagapangulo ng PAMALAKAYA sa Negros Oriental na si Jaime Delos Santos.

Dagdag pa ng KMP, kapag patuloy na tumindi ang atake nang rehimen tiyak na tatapatan ito ng paglaban nang taumbayan. Nakatakda ang kanilang malakihang pagkilos ng mga magsasaka sa Oktubre 19 sa ibat-ibang panig ng bansa. # (Bidyo at ulat ni Joseph Cuevas/Larawan ni Jinky Mendoza-Aguilar)

KMU blames Duterte for intensified attacks in Compostela

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno in Southern Mindanao (KMU-SMR) blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for “intensifying attacks on union workers” after two Sumifru Packing Plant union leaders survived separate assaults within a week.

KMU-SMR said in a statement Victor Ageas, Board of Director of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU), was ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen Tuesday, September 4, at about 6:30 am while he was bound for work at Sumifru Packing Plant 340 at Purok Uno, Barangay Osmeña in Compostela town.

The unidentified assailants fired at the labor leader six times but Aegas was able to escape, the group said.

The attack came a day after Sumifru workers staged a protest action against the company for refusing to recognize them as regular employees.

KMU said that, in July 26, two masked men also went to Aegas’ house and asked for his whereabouts but left when told their target was not around.

Another union leader, Melodina Gumanoy, Secretary of NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU, was also tailed by motorcycle-riding men last Thursday, August 30, KMU said.

Gumanoy was on on her way to work in Packing Plant 250 of Sumifru at Purok 8, Brgy. Osmeña, Compostela when she realized she was being tailed by her attackers.

She hid in a nearby house to evade her attackers.

The attacks on workers-unionists intensified in Compostela Valley after President Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) a “terrorist” organization and subsequently tagged KMU and other progressive organizations as legal fronts of the underground group, KMU said.

Farmers are also being attacked in Compostela, the labor center said.

Peasant couple Gilbert and Jean Labial, members of Compostela Farmers Association, were gunned down last August 19, 2018 in Bango, Compostela, after attending the wake of Rolly Panebio, a fellow CFA member and security personnel of the Salugpongan Learning Center in Bango.

“KMU holds the Armed Forces of the Philippines President Duterte accountable for these blatant violation of the workers’ economic and political rights. KMU believes that these attacks are the Duterte government’s move to protect the business interests of Sumifru and mining companies in the area,” KMU said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Itaas sa P20 ang kilo ng palay’

“Isang dekada nang binibili ng NFA ng P17 kada kilo ang palay. Panahon na para taasan ang support price ng NFA at gawing P20 kada kilo.”–Zenaida Soriano, chairperson, Amihan

Rice tariffication to impoverish Filipino farmers more, Congress warned

Research group IBON raised concern over the current move by the House of Representatives (HOR) to lift the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports and instead apply a 35 percent tariff on unlimited rice importation.

This will practically decrease farm gate prices, said IBON, but not necessarily lower retail rice prices as government claims.

Rice prices have increased for six straight months in 2018 – by Php2.53 from Php37.83 to Php40.36 for regular milled rice and by Php1.61 from Php42.58 to Php44.19 for well milled rice.

Consequently, government called for additional importation ahead of the schedule for the minimum access volume (MAV), a commitment under the World Trade Organization (WTO), and for Congress to rush the rice tariffication bill to lower the price of rice and ensure support for farmers.

IBON however said that as it is, the prevailing farm gate price of Php21 does not provide sufficient income from the farmers’ average production cost of Php12 per kilo.

Computing the average yield of 80 cavans of palay from one hectare, which is equivalent to 4,000 kilos, the rice farmer earns only Php36,000 until the next cropping.

Each cropping commonly lasts for six months, which means that the farmer’s average monthly income of Php6,000 is 76 percent short of the estimated monthly family living wage (FLW) of Php25,454 for a family of five.

If higher importation will decrease farm gate prices, the already insufficient income of farmers will fall further, IBON said.

Retail prices, on the other hand, will not likely automatically go down with increased rice imports that supposedly stabilize supply.

The years of highest importation are also the years of highest price increases, IBON observed.

For instance, when rice retail prices increased by Php7.99 per kilo during the rice crisis in 2008, the country was already importing an average of 1.8 million metric tons (MMT) for three years, an unprecedented volume since 2000s.

When the country imported even more at a yearly average of 2.2 MMT from 2008-2010, retail prices continued to increase by an annual average of Php1.20 until 2016.

The farmers are themselves rice consumers, IBON said, and will be affected badly by lower income yet continuously increasing rice retail prices.

The group added that Congress may be misguided for placing hopes on unlimited rice importation for stabilizing supply and prices while the rice industry remains dominated by an alleged trading cartel that dictates rice prices. #

Sr. Pat: You have to do something

By April Burcer

“You have to do something,” Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS said during a solidarity forum held at the Ateneo de Manila University last June 29, Friday.

“You can’t stay numb when there are massive human rights abuses, injustices and poverty,” the missionary said at the forum entitled D’yandi, about the breakdown of the peace talks, injustices and human rights abuses plaguing the country.

Fox said that the challenge for church members is the determination what the role of the Church is when there are injustices, poverty and human rights abuses.

Fox has been the subject of personal tirades by President Rodrigo Duterte who infamously said that the nun’s God is stupid.

“We do have a little difference with the President about who God is,” the nun said, adding she is being forced to confine herself to church activities.

“They said missionaries like me should only be in barangays, teaching church doctrines, not be involved with the issues of society,” Fox said.

But the nun said she will continue her missionary work with the poor sectors of Philippine society.

“I cannot not be involved with the people who are oppressed, who are victims of injustice or of war.  My belief is (the poor people are) who God is,” she explained.

The missionary emphasized the need to be aware of the issues in the society, looking into the system and doing something about it.

“That’s what I thought I was doing. At this stage, the government doesn’t agree with this,” she said, referring to the attacks the government has been throwing at her.

Farmers and justice

Fox has been working with farmers and the poor for more than 27 years and she said she learned so much in the Philippines, especially the plight of the farmers.

“Why are industrious farmers still poor? Over the time I learned there were problems. There were people who said they own the land but farmers have been tilling that land for a long time so how can it be their land? The farm lands are far and the roads then are rough. How do you get your produce to the market? You have to sell to a trader at a loss,” she said.

She also worked with farmers of Hacienda Luisita and other missionaries on a fact-finding mission where some of her colleagues were arrested.

However, this did not stop Fox from continuing with her work.

“I believe that is part of our mission. How can we have peace, how can we have justice, if there’s no justice for the farmers?” she asked. #

 

KMP: AFP-PNP ‘misencounter’ bound to happen

Farmer’s group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the so-called mis-encounter between government troops earlier this week in Sta. Rita, Samar is inevitable under President Rodrigo Duterte’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.

“The government’s own policy Oplan Kapayapaan and not Murphy’s Law is responsible for the mis-encounter between the 1st Platoon, 805th Company, Regional Mobile Force Battalion 8 of the Philippine National Police and the 87th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army troops in Sitio Lonoy, Barangay San Roque, Sta Rita, Samar,” KMP said in a statement.

Six police were killed and nine were wounded in the incident both the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) blamed on improper coordination.

“There was coordination. We just do not know down to what level the coordination reached,” PNP director general Oscar Albayalde said Wednesday.

The AFP said its troopers suffered no casualties.

According to news reports, the AFP’s 87th IBPA have mistaken the police troops as New People’s Army guerillas. Both units were conducting counterinsurgency operations.

The KMP, whose members have complained of being target of the government’s counterinsurgency operations said such occurrences are bound to happen.

“Wala nang sini-sino ang mga tropa ng gobyerno, kahit sila-sila nagpapatayan na. Government troops are ready to fire a gun at the least provocation, regardless of the situation or probable consequences,” KMP said.

The mis-encounter shows how indiscriminate government troops are in their conduct of military operations, particularly the Community Operations for Peace and Development (COPD) and Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP). No more protocols, no more observance of international humanitarian laws, the group added.

Kahit sino na lang pinaghihinalaan na NPA. Lalo na ang mga magsasaka, pinagbibintangang NPA, saka huhulihin at ito-tortyur ng militar. Ang AFP kapag may nasalubong na magsasaka sa bundok, pagbibintangan agad na NPA. With the heightened militarization and military operations in rural areas, misencounters among government troops are likely to happen,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

At present, there are seven AFP battalions in Eastern Visayas – 20th, 43rd, 14th, 87th, 52nd, 19th and 78th Infantry Battalions under the 8th Infantry Division, KMP revealed.

SAGUPA-SB, KMP’s chapter in Eastern Visayas said it is common for Community Support Programs (CSP) and Peace and Development Teams (PDT) of the AFP, under Oplan Kapayapaan, to ‘loiter’ and conduct counterinsurgency operations in the hinterlands.

“Government troops encamp and operate in civilian areas,” SAGUPA-SB said.

KMP called on the Duterte government to resume the cancelled peace talks with the NDFP and make way for a possible stand down of forces to deescalate heavy military presence in peasant communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers call for genuine land distribution on CARP’s 30th anniversary

Sa ika-tatlumpung anibersaryo ng Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), nagmartsa ang mga magsasaka at iba pang anakpawis, sa pangunguna ng Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, patungong Mendiola.

Ipananawagan ng KMP ang tunay na pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka at kinondena naman ang kabiguan ng CARP na  lutasin ang kawalan ng lupa ng nakararaming magsasaka sa bansa.

Dagdag pa rito ay ang pagpapataw ng mga gawa-gawang kaso at pang-aalipusta sa mga magsasaka at mga manggagawa sa kanayunan, ayon sa KMP.