Posts

Don’t insist on low poverty threshold, address jobs crisis, gov’t told

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) recently attributed reduced poverty in the first semester of 2018 to the rising quality of jobs under the Duterte administration.

But research group IBON said that dismal jobs creation, the magnitude of joblessness, poor quality work, and meager wages give away the true picture of Philippine poverty.

The group stressed that government needs to first admit that there is a jobs problem to embark on real solutions to poverty.

Very weak job creation indicates an economy in crisis that deprives people of livelihoods, IBON said.

Job generation in the first two years of the Duterte administration was the worst in six decades and nine administrations.

Employment grew by an annual average of only 0.2% in in 2017 and 2018 compared to the 1.6%-3.9% annual average under the administrations since the time of Diosdado Macapagal in the 1960s.

IBON added that the persistence of joblessness and underemployment, where even those employed seek additional work, underscores the inability of the economy to generate enough stable and decent work.

The group estimates the unemployment rate to have grown from 9% in 2016 to 10.3% in 2017 and 9.9% in 2018.

In 2018, IBON estimates 4.6 million unemployed and 6.7 million underemployed Filipinos.

IBON also underscored that wages remain far below what households need on a daily basis.

NEDA claims that poverty fell due to higher incomes from wages and salaries especially among the poorest families.

IBON however pointed out, for instance, that the Php575.18 average daily basic pay of wage and salary workers in January 2018 is not even enough at 60% of the estimated Php955 National Capital Region family living wage at that time.

It should also be noted, said IBON, that the methodology of poverty and unemployment statistics obscures the real situation of poverty and unemployment.

The unrealistically low poverty threshold results in millions of Filipinos not being counted as poor.

Similarly, the definition of unemployment since 2005 results in millions of jobless Filipinos, including discouraged workers, not being counted as unemployed millions.

Rather than hyping supposedly on-track poverty reduction, the Duterte administration should count the real numbers of poor and unemployed Filipinos.

This is the only real basis for an effective strategy for poverty alleviation, said IBON.

The Filipino people deserve a comprehensive and broad-based poverty alleviation strategy that includes enabling the economy to create jobs, raise people’s incomes and livelihood, and increase economic production and capacity for consumption.

Government can embark on this instead of setting such a low poverty threshold and harping on reducing the number of poor just by changing the way they are counted, IBON said.

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)

‘Rice industry is at the risk of annihilation’

“Only private traders and importers, as well as rice cartels, benefit from importation while the livelihood of our farmers and the entire local rice industry is at the risk of annihilation.” – Cathy Estabillo, Spokesperson, Bantay Bigas

Continuous war against the poor

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

August 14, 2018

As the Congress approves House Bill 7735 or the Rice Tariffication Bill on third and final hearing, the Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc. (PNFSP) expresses its strong indignation as it will definitely not address the root cause of continuous food insecurity, rice shortage and worsening poverty in the country. The bill is systematically, mechanically and logically favorable to domestic and international rice cartel operators. It will further exploit the already exploited Filipino farmers and fishermen by forcing them to produce big bulk of rice, meat and fish just to meet global dictum and for importation which are all within the mechanism of HB 7735.

The House Bill 7735 has an intention to put safety nets for Filipino rice producers by imposing tariffs in lieu of quantitative restrictions on rice imports including fish and meat. It was pursued in line with President Duterte’s order to the Congress last July 23 to immediately pass the measure which targets to arrest inflation for at least 1% thus, minimally affecting the reduction of commodity prices. Though the bill mandates the National Food Authority as the sole authority to undertake the direct importation of rice for the purpose of ensuring food security and maintaining sufficient national buffer stocks, there’s no big assurance for common Filipinos to have food security due to neo-liberal agreements signed by the past administration.

The Rice Tariffication Bill will remove tough government control in all agricultural commodities and will oblige our domestic market to join and spend unnecessary resources to global rice market and competition. It will be a burden to all Filipinos especially the 60 million poorest of the poor families because of the high possibility of price increase on all basic commodities like rice, fish, meat, canned goods, vegetables, bread, etc. due to bloating rice import and unstable status of the global market which was further intensified and legalized by the TRAIN Law. In a country where landlessness, joblessness and homelessness are proliferating, the bill will not be of help to the majority of Filipinos. It will lead to farmer’s bankruptcy, drowning in debt and displacement from their lands. It will put farmers at a disadvantage situation especially that the government have minimal support to our rice producers.

In order to address poverty, food shortage and inflation, it is very timely to pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill for it has the capacity to uplift the lives of the poor majority Filipinos. Rural aid like free water irrigation, free calamity subsidy, post-harvest facility, agrarian mechanization and boosting of local market. Land conversion must stop because it contributes to the unceasing decrease of tillable land which affects the annual productivity rate of agriculture including aquaculture that shakes our food security.

Lastly, we want to reiterate that the right to safe, healthy and sustainable food system is a basic and universal human right which the Philippine government must abide with. There is no need to pass the Rice Tariffication Bill including the TRABAHO Bill for it is not favorable to all common Filipinos both in public and private sector. We must act and pray that the Senate will hear and consider our intention.

 

RENMIN VIZCONDE

Executive Director, Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc.

Land grabbing endangers PH agri productivity–experts

FOOD security activists challenged the Rodrigo Duterte government to end land grabbing activities against farmers and indigenous peoples in a conference last August 1 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The Philippine Network of Security Food Programmes, Inc. (PNSFP) presented cases of land grabbing throughout the country, as well as their campaigns and mass actions.

Agricultural land in the Philippines decreased by 2.785 million hectares from 5.4 million from 2002 to 2012 due to land grabbing and the subsequent conversion of agricultural lands for other uses, such as mining and Special Economic Zones,  PNSFP advocacy officer Sharlene Lopez said.

She added that the Philippines’ agricultural productivity, rural communities and environment are increasingly at risk if land grabbing continues.

According to PNFSP studies, many land grabbing victims were deceived by the promise of fortune into planting cash crops like rubber or oil palm.

Others were forcibly displaced by militarization or “projects” by either the local government or big businesses.

Many also end up having no choice but to work at cash crop plantations for less than the minimum wage.

A panel of government reactors from the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the National Anti-Poverty Commission transition team, the Office of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, the House of Representatives (HOR) Committee on Food Security and HOR Committee on Agrarian Reform said their respective departments would try their best to return the farmlands and ancestral domains to the people.

Despite their assurances, however, Niklas Reese of the Philippine Bureau-Germany encouraged the participants to continue their advocacy against land grabbing.

“We have to be aware that the change of administration doesn’t change the nature of capitalism. We have to be vigilant; we have to be aware,” he said.

Reese added that the government should also to prosecute land grabbers.

“The role of social movements like this one is not just for demanding change, but accountability from the government as well,” Resse said. # (By Abril Layad B. Ayroso)