Archive for the ‘rice crisis’ Category

Substandard Hybrid Seeds Distributed Under GMA Rice Program

April 21, 2009

A fact-finding mission led by various peasant groups and non-government organizations revealed that farmers in Nueva Ecija towns received substandard hybrid rice seeds under the government’s GMA Rice Program. Worse, the Department of Agriculture’s response to the problem was far from being satisfactory.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

Unlike the traditional rice seeds, the SL-8H rice variety distributed to farmers in Nueva Ecija towns is red in color.

The SL-8H rice variety is the latest hybrid line introduced by Chinese company SL Agritech Corporation (SLAC) and promoted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) under its Hybrid Commercialization Rice Program.

As rice granary of the country, Nueva Ecija is included in the target areas for hybrid rice cultivation along with other provinces such as Ilocos Norte, Isabela, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Maguindanao, South Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Bukidnon.

Finesa Cosico, an agriculturist and member of the scientist group Agham (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), said that the red color of the SL-8H seeds may be attributed to a grain protectant, indicating that they were stored in warehouses for a long time.

Cosico is a member of the fact-finding mission led by Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochemical Transnational Corporations (RESIST) on March 19. The team went to Barangay (village) Tondod in San Jose City and Brgy. Santo Rosario of Santo Domingo town.

Other participating organizations include the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL-Alliance of Farmers in Central Luzon), Farmers and Scientists for Development of Agriculture (MASIPAG), EED Task Force Indigenous Peoples (TFIP) and Genetic Resource Action International (GRAIN).


Willy Marbella, national officer of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, compares the red hybrid seeds distributed to farmers in Nueva Ecija to the traditional rice varieties in a press conference in Quezon City, April 4. (Photo by R. Olea)

Closer examination shows that the seeds were not uniformly red and appeared to have been mixed with another hybrid variety, the mission report stated.

Cosico noted that the bags containing the seeds have no tags to indicate their origin and other important information. She said that traceability, an important factor in quality control, is a problem.

Without this information, the team said, the bags could have been tampered before delivery to the market.

Abnormalities

The report of the fact-finding team states that the SL-8H variety showed early signs of flowering immediately after transplanting. Cosico said flowering normally takes a month. The hybrid rice seeds also produced panicles empty of rice grains.

“This caused massive panic to the farmer communities,” the report said. Cosico said the farmers increased the application of fertilizer, on a weekly basis, to catch up with the early flowering of the rice crops.

“Such abnormalities from the regular practice of fertilization of hybrids caused farmers additional expenditures in buying fertilizers,” the report said.

Cosico said that planting of hybrid rice seeds is usually input-intensive. But she said that in the case of SL-8H, the application of additional fertilizers is extraordinary.

Unsatisfactory response

The groups criticized the DA’s response to the problem.

“The Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Rice Research Institute failed to explain the failure of the SL-8H hybrid seeds,” Cosico said.

Philrice said that the abnormalities in the growth of hybrid rice were due to “cold stress”, “strong wind” and other “stresses”. The farmers interviewed by the fact-finding team, however, did not notice anything unusual that could trigger the unusual development of hybrid seeds.

A one-page advisory from the DA instructs farmers to apply additional fertilizer to the seeds.

Enough of IRRI

The groups blamed the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the proliferation of hybrid variety of rice seeds.

Willy Marbella, KMP deputy secretary-general for internal affairs, said that hybrid rice seeds introduced by IRRI have exacerbated rural poverty.

In connivance with agrochemical transnational corporations (TNCs), Marbella said, the IRRI confiscates all traditional rice seeds and introduce hybrid rice seeds. Marbella said TNCs gain enormous profit from the sale of the seeds and chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

In a statement, Dr. Chito Medina, MASIPAG national coordinator, said, “The use of high yielding varieties (HYV) has put farmers in continuous contact with pesticides thereby increasing serious health hazards and environmental contamination.”

The MASIPAG said the IRRI receives grants from agrochemical TNCs.

Marbella called for the abolition of IRRI. “IRRI’s programs and policies have always been anti-farmer and pro-agrochemical TNCs.”

The groups asserted that in IRRI’s 49 years of existence, it has failed to achieve its promises to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers and ensure that rice production is environmentally sustainable. (Bulatlat.com)

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Unrestrained mining may cause rice shortage, foreign environment experts warn

January 30, 2009

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/27 January) – A moratorium on mining is needed if the Philippines is to avoid a rice shortage in the long term, foreign environment experts today said in a presentation of a study done in six mining sites across the country. The study was conducted in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur; Libay, Zamboanga del Norte, Tampakan, South Cotabato; Pujada Bay, Davao Oriental; Victoria, Mindoro and Sibuyan Island, Romblon.

The results of the study conducted by Working Group on Mining in the Philippines echoed the sentiment earlier raised by the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

“Mining in these locations would cause massive environment problems jeopardizing food security and supplies by damaging agriculture and fisheries,” the book “Philippines: Mining or Food”, authored by Clive Wicks and Robert Goodland, said.

The book is set to be launched on February 4 in Manila.

Goodland, a former World Bank environment scientist for 25 years, warned that mining will adversely affect rice production in the country in the long term if the government continues its pro-mining stance.

“[To avert this rice crisis] the government should promote rice production and demote mining in its economic agenda,” he told the plenary.

He noted that the Philippines was once self-sufficient in rice “but is now the world’s biggest importer,” which was rooted in the failure of the government to maintain the health of its agricultural sector.

Goodland cited the threats posed by the venture of Sagittarius Mines Inc. to food security in the area.

“Open pit mining is terrifying, especially that the mining area sits in an earthquake fault. The oceans surrounding the mining area will be in danger of contamination (once the project pushes through),” he said.

Representatives from the local Catholic Church, academe, non-government organizations, farmers and local government officials attended the group’s presentation.

Sagittarius, which is owned by global mining player Xstrata Copper and Australian firm Indophil Resources NL, is currently undertaking an exploration.

Sagittarius officials have repeatedly assured that environment protection is one of the company’s key thrusts once they go into commercial production.

Goodland noted the mines development site straddles vital watershed areas that flow towards Lake Buluan, an important source of livelihood for the Moro-dominated town of Buluan in Maguindanao province.

“Forget Lake Buluan [in the long-term] once the mining goes into production,” Dave E. de Vera, executive director of the non-government Philippine Association of Inter-Cultural Development, said in a separate interview.

De Vera presented a map showing the watershed areas within and outside the mines development site of Sagittarius and other prospective mining investors.

The map showed that Lake Buluan serves as the catchment of water coming from the mountains of Tampakan, where 70% of the land area is prospective mine site, he said.

Last month, the CBCP, through its president, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, asked the government to impose a moratorium on mining across the country for the sake of the environment, livelihood and food security in the country.

“No material gain can equate the value of life. Every Filipino depends on the environment. Because of the threats against these fragile resources, our lives and livelihood are likewise threatened,” Archbishop Lagdameo said in the pastoral letter titled “Upholding the Sanctity of Life.”

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said the CBCP statement was “out of touch” with the sentiment of a million or more Filipinos who rely on the “responsible” segment of the industry. (MindaNews)

RICE PRICES TO SURGE IN 2009 – IRRI

January 10, 2009

Rice prices are likely to rise sharply for the second straight year in 2009 as the global economic slowdown hits farmers and consumers alike, the International Rice Research Institute warned Friday.

The worldwide credit crunch would make it hard for farmers to secure cash to purchase essentials, such as seeds and fertilizer, the Philippines-based body said in the latest edition of its quarterly journal Rice Today.

At the same time, it added, the economic downturn may increase demand for rice in developing nations as falling income forces poor people to switch back to less expensive staples.

The price of rice—a staple food for half the world including nearly 700 million poor Asians—spiked to $1,080 a ton last April, triggering fears of social unrest.

It slid to about $575 six months later because of record production and the early effects of the economic slowdown.

But the current rice export prices remain around double those of mid-2007.

Credit crunch complications

But the institute warned that “production uncertainty due to tight credit and declining rice prices combined with strong demand growth points to another rise in rice prices in the coming months.

“Price volatility will remain high.”

Even if they had the cash, farmers burned by the sudden plunge in commodity prices “will likely play safe and reduce input for their 2009 crops.”

The institute pointed to a decision by the Philippines government to lower its 2009 rice output estimate by almost 4 percent, and said a similar move from other rice producers “is likely in the near term.”

While global rice output reached record levels for each of the last four years, this was achieved through increased acreage and obscured the key issue of declining growth in rice yields owing to reduced agricultural investments since the early 1990s, the IRRI said.

As the world consumed more rice than it could produce in five of the last seven years, it forced governments to dip into their reserves to make up the shortfall.

Historic low levels of rice stocks contribute to the volatility, it added.

While rice prices have dropped from their 2008 peaks, the IRRI said, “they are still high relative to 2007 levels, and are likely to remain too high for millions of poor.

“If the yield growth rate does not improve, we can expect rice prices to continue to rise, and at a faster pace than that seen since prices started moving up in 2000.”

The world produced a record rice crop with most of the increase coming from area expansion rather than yield growth, said the expert, adding that the rice yield growth has been slowing down since the early 1990s.

Boost yields

There is no other way out than improving the yield growth to solve the world rice shortage, caused by “fundamental imbalances in supply and demand,” Samarendu Mohanty, an expert of IRRI, said also on Friday.

In five of the past seven years, rice consumption has exceeded production, resulting in frequent dipping into the world’s buffer stocks to cover the shortfall, he added.

The key solution lies in “revitalizing rice yield growth through higher investment in research and infrastructure development,” said the expert.

Mohanty’s opinion was echoed by his colleagues in the research institute.

“The task ahead is challenging but not insurmountable and requires a substantial boost for agricultural research, which remains highly underinvested,” according to another journal article, jointly written by Sushil Pandey, Mark Rosegrant, Timothy Sulser and Humnath Bhandari.

“Increased investments together with policy reforms that make rice markets more efficient will provide the ultimate solution to the rice crisis,” it said.

Amid the crisis

The recent crisis turned the world’s attention back to agriculture, but the credit crunch is likely to further tighten funding for infrastructure improvements and research and development activities, he said.

Mohanty noted that many farmers who in late 2008 harvested a lower-priced crop produced with high-priced seeds and fertilizer.

“Burned once, these farmers will likely play safe and reduce input use for their 2009 crops,” Mohanty said.

The credit crunch will also make it difficult for farmers around the world to secure credit for purchasing inputs.

The Philippines, for instance, has lowered its 2009 rice production estimated by almost 4 percent, because of lower input use as farmers struggle to secure credit to buy seeds and fertilizer.

Production uncertainty because of tight credit and declining rice prices combined with strong demand growth points to another rise in rice prices in the coming months, warned the expert.

Making matters worse, the economic slowdown may increase the demand for rice in developing countries as falling income forces poor people to switch back to less expensive staples.

Consumption projections may, therefore, rise above earlier estimates of around 90 million tons per year of additional unmilled rice by 2020, according to the International Rice Research Institute.
–AFP And Xinhua(ManilaTimes)

Rice mill anomaly: Ex-Ilocos mayor convicted of graft

December 24, 2008

BACARRA, Ilocos Norte — The Sandiganbayan has convicted a former mayor of this town for graft over an anomalous rice mill project during his term nine years ago.

The anti-graft court’s third division sentenced former mayor Pacifico Velasco to a jail term of up to eight years and perpetually disqualified him from holding public office.

This, after he was found guilty of violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) when he granted the P3.3-million project to a cooperative that he partly owned.

In a nine-page decision promulgated Dec. 10, the Sandiganbayan ruled Velasco “gave unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to Zanjera Cooperative because he had shares in the said cooperative and that his son, Michael Velasco, was appointed manager thereto.”

It said Velasco’s move also showed “manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence” that had caused undue injury to the government.

Out of 32 consumer cooperatives registered in Bacarra town, it said Velasco “singled out” the Zanjera Cooperative “to administer, manage and operate the multi-pass rice mill” on October 1999.

The Sandiganbayan also found out that the required ordinance or resolution from the municipal council of Bacarra prior to the purchase of the rice mill was absent.

During the trial, Velasco admitted that he was a member of the Zanjera Cooperative.

But he said he believed there was no need to secure a municipal council resolution in granting the operations and management of the rice mill to the cooperative since no transfer of funds was involved.

But the anti-graft court said Velasco “failed to comply with the basic rules of governance embodied in the Local Government Code. As local executive, accused Velasco ought to know the law and he was duty-bound to obey the same.”

The defense presented as witness Maximo Agustin Jr., chairman of the board of Zanjera, who only affirmed that Velasco was among the incorporators of the cooperative and that his son Michael had been its manager since July 1998.

It was learned during the trial that Velasco owned 520 shares in the cooperative.

The prosecution, led by prosecutor Mario Quinit, presented as witnesses former vice mayor Philip Velasco, Zanjera officer Ardelino Galicinao, Commission on Audit regional director for Ilocos Norte Alejandro Que, and municipal accountant Lydia Mann.

The former vice mayor, a nephew of the accused, was gunned down in May last year. — EP(NorthernPhilippineTimes)

Study says rice subsidy program punishes poor

December 20, 2008

MANILA (AFP) – The Philippine government’s mammoth rice subsidy program hurts the poor people it is supposed to helping, according to a study published yesterday.

The report called for reforms to the program, which ate up 2.5 percent of the 2008 gross domestic product and turned the monopoly rice importer National Food Authority (NFA) into the largest loss-making state firm.

The NFA has a mandate to provide low prices of the cereal, provide price support to rice farmers and smooth out price swings mainly by the “untargeted transfer of cheap, mostly imported rice to households” of the world’s biggest rice-importing nation.

But Shikha Jha, of the by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Aashish Mehta, of the University of California, found that between 1996 and 2003, Filipinos bought rice at prices that were “almost twice as high” as world prices.

This was because the state barred private rice imports and then the NFA imported “less than that required to maintain the target price, which is set below the world price,” the report found.

While a larger segment of the poor bought subsidized NFA rice than the better off, this was due mainly to the promotion of an “inferior quality of rice” which the wealthier also bought to feed their “domestic helpers and pets,”  it added.

NFA rice imports and price subsidies were ramped up significantly this year due to soaring prices, with first-half imports rising nearly four-fold to 858 million dollars, the study said.

The World Bank announced this week that it had lent Manila 200 million dollars to support the government’s increased food subsidy program to the poor amid a global financial crisis.

The study said the 167 billion-peso (3.6 billion-dollar) subsidy program had been a drain on government coffers — it buys rice from local farmers at a nine percent premium to the market price, and sells rice to consumers at prices 18 percent cheaper than commercial rice.

Every dollar of rice subsidy transferred to consumers costs the government about 2.2 dollars, the study estimated, a benefit-cost ratio that it said doubled to 4.4 dollars per dollar of subsidy because of diversion to the regular rice market.

The study found the subsidy was poorly targeted, with Manila receiving about 25 percent, the same as the entire southern region of Mindanao, which has the Philippines’ highest incidence of poverty.

While the NFA subsidy program “is an important safety net in the Philippines,” the study said its actual scope was tiny, reaching “only about 16 percent of the population” in a country where two in five people live on two dollars a day or less.(MindanaoTimes)

Hindi biro ang mag-Cha-Cha

December 13, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

Mahigit 77% ng taumbayan ang di pabor sa pag-aamyenda ng saligang batas, ayon sa sarbey (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Ekspresyon ng pagtutol sa Charter Change: Mahigit 77% ng taumbayan ang di pabor sa pag-aamyenda ng saligang batas, ayon sa sarbey (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

NAKAKATAWA na nakakatakot ang isang bidyo na kumakalat ngayon sa Internet. Ginampanan ng nagpapakilalang Juana Change ang mahigit limang-minutong komedya hinggil sa ngayo’y mainit muling isyu hinggil sa Charter change (Cha-Cha). “Isang araw, magugulat ka na lang. Matanda ka na pala, kami nandito pa,” sabi ng kontrabida bago humalakhak at i-laser gun ng kanyang sidekick ang isang mananayaw na umaalma sa pambababoy diumano ng gobyerno sa kanyang paboritong sayaw.

Malinaw na tinutukoy ng bidyo si Gloria Arroyo, ang Pangulong pinakamatagal nang nakaupo sa puwesto sunod sa diktador na si Ferdinand Marcos.

Pinaniniwalaang nagmumula pa rin kay Arroyo ang panibagong tulak sa Mababang Kapulungan ng Kongreso na amyendahan ang 1987 Konstitusyon.

Simpatetikong Korte Suprema?

Halos kasabay ng pagbabasura ng Kamara sa ika-apat na reklamong impeachment laban kay Arroyo, sinimulan muli ng House Committee on Constitutional Amendments ang mga pagdinig hinggil sa Cha-Cha. Tinalakay ang House Resolution 737 ni Espiker Prospero Nograles ng Kamara. Pinababago ng HR 737 ang Seksiyon 2 at 3, Artikulo XII ng 1987 Konstitusyon para payagan ang mga dayuhang pagmamay-ari ng mga lupain sa bansa.

Katuwiran ni Nograles, kailangang isalba ang ekonomiya ng bansa sa gitna ng krisis pandaigdig.

Pero agad na sumingaw ang mas kaduda-dudang motibo sa Cha-Cha sa HR 550 ni Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas. Pinahahaba nito ang termino ng Pangulo hanggang Hunyo 30, 2011.

Sa kabila ng iskandalong nilikha ng HR 550 na agad namang ibinasura ng komite, nagpursige sa Cha-Cha ang mga kaalyado ni Arroyo sa partidong Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino). Itinutulak nila ang pagbubuo ng Kongreso sa isang Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

May 167 kongresista na ang pumirma sa ihahaing resolusyon ni Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, presidente ng Kampi. Balak ng Kampi, mangalap ng 197 pirma sa Kamara na kakatawan sa ¾ ng kabuuang miyembro ng Kongreso o 238 kongresista at 24 senador. Pupuwersahin nitong resolbahin ng Korte Suprema, sa wakas, ang isyung bumabara sa pagbubuo ng Con-Ass.

Ayon sa 1987 Konstitusyon, maaaring amyendahan ang Konstitusyon kung boboto ang ¾ ng mga miyembro ng dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso. Pero hindi malinaw dito kung boboto nang hiwalay o iisa ang Mababa at Mataas na Kapulungan.

Di tulad noong 2006 na ibinasura ng Korte Suprema ang people’s initiative, naunang tangka ng administrasyon para itulak ang Cha-Cha, paborable para kay Arroyo kung magdedesisyon sa susunod na taon ang korte hinggil sa Con-Ass. Pitong hurado ang magreretiro. Pawang mga appointees ng Pangulo ang matitira. Siya rin ang magtatalaga sa bagong mga hurado.

Mismong si dating Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, kinatatakutan ang isang “Korte Suprema ni Arroyo.” Umano’y baka mabahiran ng impluwensiya ng Pangulo ang tanging sangay ng gobyerno—sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Chief Justice Reynato Puno—na may imaheng relatibong independiyente mula sa ehekutibo.

Paliwanag ni Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, presidente ng United Opposition, “Malakas ang loob ng mga nagtutulak ng Cha-cha sa Kamara na magiging simpatetiko ang Korte Suprema at aalisin nito ang legal na mga balakid sa Konstitusyon hinggil sa term limits ni Arroyo.”

Term extension: ‘Di mapipigilan’

Sa isang birthday party sa tahanan ni Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez noong Nobyembre 15, napabalitang dumalo sina Pangulong Gloria at kabiyak na si Mike Arroyo para basbasan ang Con-Ass. Ngayon, kasama ni Villafuerte sina Romualdez at Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, anak ng Pangulo, sa pangangalap ng pirma para dito.

Itinatanggi ni Villafuerte na ang lahat ng ito ay para maisalba ang Pangulo, na posibleng kumaharap sa iba’t ibang kasong kriminal kapag natanggalan ng immunity from suit sa 2010. Umano’y walang kinalaman ang Con-Ass sa pagharang sa darating na halalan. Dapat lang umanong resolbahin ang moda ng pagbabago ng 1987 Konstitusyon.

Pero marami ang naniniwala na kapag nabuo na ang Con-Ass, hindi mapipigilan ang pagpasok ng probisyon sa pagpapahaba ng termino.

Isa na rito si Sen. Francis Pangilinan. “Kung may humirit at sabihing ayaw ko ng economic provisions lamang, walang magagawa ang sinumang senador o kongresista. Dahil hindi puwedeng ilimita…Oras na magkaroon ng objection, at magkaroon ng proposal, puwedeng pagbotohan iyon. At kung ang pagbobotohan ay term extension, baka matuwa ‘yung napakarami at sabihing, ‘sama-sama na tayong pabor,’” aniya.

Hindi sang-ayon ang mga senador, maging ang kilalang mga kaalyado ni Arroyo na sina Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago at bagong-halal na Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, sa Cha-Cha bago ang 2010 halalan.

Para kontrahin ang Con-Ass, naghain ng resolusyon si Sen. Mar Roxas na nagpapatawag ng isang Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) pagkatapos ng 2010 halalan. Ang mga delegado sa Con-Con na siyang magpapanukala ng mga pagbabago sa Konstitusyon, ihahalal kasama ng iba pang mga opisyal ng gobyerno.

Ayon kay Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., na nagtutulak ng pagbabago tungo sa parlamentaryong porma ng gobyerno, “makukulapulan ng partisanong pamumulitika” ang paghalal ng mga delegado sa Con-Con.

Pero dahil tila mahihirapan ang Kamara na ilusot ang Con-Ass nang walang kaparis sa resolusyon mula sa Senado, bukas sa Con-Con si Nograles—dahilan para umugong ang balitang patatalsikin siya ng mga taga-Kampi mula sa pamunuan ng Kamara—gayundin si Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor ng partidong Lakas.

Walang kinalaman?

Samantala, iginigiit ni Press Secretary Jesus Dureza na walang kinalaman ang Palasyo sa hakbang ng kanyang mga kapartido. Hindi rin umano ito makikialam sa isang kapantay na sangay ng gobyerno.

Gayunpaman, dinedma nito ang hamon ng ilang mga obispo na pumirma ang Pangulo ng isang dokumentong nangangakong hindi siya mananatili sa puwesto lampas sa 2010. “Ipagpapatuloy lamang niya ang dapat gawin bilang Presidente—ang pamumuno (governance),” ani Dureza.

Pero ayon kay Sen. Pia Cayetano, ang pananahimik ni Arroyo at kabiguan nitong sawatahin ang Con-Ass ay nangangahulugang pabor siya rito. “Kung talagang sinsero siyang hindi pahabain ang kanyang termino, bakit hindi niya ihayag ang oposisyon sa mga hakbang ng sarili niyang mga kaanak sa Kamara?”

Nagkakaisa rin ang mga lider-simbahan at ang mga negosyante na anupaman ang moda o ipinapalitaw na dahilan, hindi dapat amyendahan ang 1987 Konstitusyon sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Self-serving” o pakikinabangan lamang ito ng mga nagtutulak ng Cha-Cha, ayon kay Alberto Lim, presidente ng Makati Business Club. Maging si Edgardo Lacson, presidente ng kadikit ng administrasyon na Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sinabing magdudulot lamang ng “political turmoil” o kaguluhang pampulitika ang Cha-Cha ngayon.

Ayon pa kay Arsobispo Gaudencio Rosales, na kilala ring tagasuporta ni Arroyo, hindi dapat ipagkatiwala ang Cha-Cha sa mga nasa kapangyarihan dahil sa kanila umanong “vested interests” o itinatagong pansariling mga interes.

Kahit ang taumbayan, lumalabas na hindi pabor sa Cha-Cha.

Sa pambansang sarbey noong nakaraang buwan ng Ibon Foundation, mayorya o 77.4% ng mga rumesponde ang nagsabing tutol sila sa pag-aamyenda ng Konstitusyon. Tumaas pa ang rating na ito kumpara sa sarbey noong Abril kung saan 68% ng mga rumesponde nang negatibo sa Cha-Cha.

Laging may duda

Bukod sa posibleng pagpapahaba ng termino ni Arroyo, tinututulan ng progresibong mga kinatawan ng party-list at ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) ang iba pang inihahaing mga pagbabago sa Konstitusyon. Pangunahin dito ang pagtanggal sa mga restriksiyon sa dayuhang pag-aari ng lupa, pampublikong yutilidad, mass media, paaralan, at advertising firms.

“Magreresulta ang 100% pagmamay-ari ng dayuhan sa mga lupain ng pinatinding pangangamkam ng lupa mula sa mga magsasaka at pagdambong sa kalikasan,” sabi ni Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano.

Binabantayan din ng Bayan ang pag-aamyenda sa Bill of Rights na nagsisiguro ng batayang mga karapatang pantao, at pag-alis ng mga safeguard o panlaban sa pagdedeklara ng Batas Militar.

Dagdag pa ng grupo, tututulan nila ang pagpapababa sa kinakailangang mga boto sa Kongreso para ratipikahin ang internasyunal na mga tratado na maaaring nasa disbentahe ng taumbayan, gayundin ang mga probisyong magpapabalik ng dayuhang mga tropa at baseng militar sa bansa.

“Sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang sirkunstansiya…laging pagdududahan ang mga hakbang para baguhin ang Konstitusyon. Sa panahong hindi dominante sa gobyerno ang interes ng mga mardyinalisado at inaapi, laging makikinabang sa Cha-Cha ang mga naghahari sa ekonomiya at pulitika, kapwa lokal at dayuhan,” sabi ng Bayan.

Panahon ng oposisyon

Kung paniniwalaan ang mga grupo at indibidwal na nag-oorganisa ng malaking kilos-protesta sa Disyembre 12, “papuntang Ayala Ave. ang lahat ng daan.” Umano’y panahon nang magpakitang-gilas ang mga tumututol sa Cha-Cha at pananatili sa puwesto ni Arroyo.

Kinabibilangan ito ng mga taong-simbahan, negosyante, estudyante, dating nakakataas na opisyal ng gobyerno, at progresibong mga grupong sektoral na kumakatawan sa mga manggagawa, magsasaka, maralitang lungsod, empleyado ng gobyerno, kababaihan, at iba pa.

“Talagang naghahanap ng venue ang taumbayan para maipahayag ang kanilang galit sa Cha-Cha,” sabi ni Renato Reyes, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan.

Kung pagbabatayan ang sentimyento ng ordinaryong mga mamamayan gaya ni Juana Change, magiging makulay at pursigido ang muling pagbuhay ng protesta laban sa hindi birong banta na matapatan o mahigitan pa ni Arroyo si Marcos sa bilang ng mga taon na nakaupo sa puwesto.

http://www.pinoyweekly.org

Hybrid rice hit, farmers air complaints

October 22, 2008

TABUK CITY — A farmer’s group here Wednesday criticized the government’s Food Security Program that heavily endorses the planting of hybrid rice, saying it did not consider the real situation on the ground.


HYBRID AND INBRED RICE ON THE RAMP. Rice took center stage at the Kalinga rice summit that coincided with the World Food Day rites. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga (Kalinga farmers’ forum) Secretary-general Gerry Bulaat said the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice program which heavily encourages the planting and propagation of hybrid rice varieties failed to see the actual conditions of farms in the country.

Bulaat said this top-down planning strategy results from government planners favoring big business interests, instead of looking into the sorry plight of farmers, especially the small tiller-owners.

Criticizing the food security program packaged as FIELDS, Bulaat said the government keeps on promoting the production of hybrid seeds that do not easily acculturate with local conditions.

“Local farmers do not patronize hybrid seeds because it requires certain amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, a definite climate and weather conditions, enough irrigation and a planting technology that is still alien to most rice producers,” Bulaat told Nordis.

High technology farming, he said, is not applicable to farms in the countryside. He added most farmers in Kalinga do not appreciate the technology behind the cultivation of hybrids and are comfortable with the application of fertilizers and other input they are used to.

The production of seeds and other inputs is heavily left for big business to manipulate, he said. He added, although government has been spending millions on seed production, the technology heavily relies on imported commercial inputs.

Bulaat also mentioned local groups and families who control the production and sale of hybrid seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. “They take the profit from the labor of farmers,” he said.

Bulaat added, the rice productivity program is prone to graft and corruption, like any other government program. He said the fertilizer and seed subsidy intended for poor farmers did not reach most Kalinga farmers.

During the forum at the city gym here Wednesday, where some 1,500 farmers gathered for the rice information caravan and World Food Day rites, complaints on availing the fertilizer subsidy confronted Department of Agriculture (DA) officials.

National Rice Coordinator Frisco Malabanan said the government subsidizes the hybrid rice seeds at P1,500 per bag, while the inbred gets P1,200 per bag. The farmer, however, has to be in the list of farmers to be provided by the concerned local government unit.

For the fertilizer subsidy, DA handles two discount coupons worth P250 each, while the LGUs are supposed to take care of four coupons per farmer. Malabanan admitted some lapses in implementing the subsidy scheme in the local level.

A woman farmer who spoke before the forum said only those who are favored received discount coupons.

Another irrigation association officer said accredited fertilizer dealers charge P100 more on the discounted fertilizers because they still have to wait long before the government could pay them.

Kalinga is considered the rice granary of the Cordillera. It has more than 32,000 hectares of the region’s 90,000 has. irrigated rice lands. It is also a pilot province of PhilRice technology that has contributed largely to its rice production, according to government sources.

DA Cordillera Director Cesar Rodriguez said Kalinga’s rice production continue to increase citing the naturally fertile farms and the use of organic fertilizers, the continuing partnership with state universities to improve technology and the irrigations system as among the factors.

Bureau of Agricultural Statistics estimated that of the 191,000 metric tons (MT) rice produced in the region in January to June this year, Kalinga produced some 95,000 MT, or 49% of the region’s total rice production. In the same period last year the province had 87,000 MT. # Lyn V. Ramo (NorDis)

Kalinga farmers prefer inbred to hybrid rice

October 22, 2008

TABUK CITY, Kalinga — Despite government intervention to promote hybrid rice in the country, most Kalinga farmers plant inbred rice varieties, aside from the traditional rice they now export to the USA.

Without mentioning figures, a rice farmer here said most prefer to plant the inbred rice because of the high volume of inputs and attention required by the hybrid seed varieties.

“A hectare of hybrid rice requires at least eight cavans of fertilizers while the inbred needs only six for the same land area,” our informant who opted for anonymity said.

A bag of fertilizer costs P1,800 to P1,900, according to agriculture technical officials. Hybrid seeds range from P3,500 to P4,000 per 20-kilo bag, while inbreds costs only around P1,200 or even lesser. Traditional rice growers, however, maintain their own seed banks.

Grace, in her 30’s, a farmer from Pasil town, said she tried planting hybrid rice varieties but reverted to inbreds after she lost a fortune when a typhoon did not spare her rice paddies. She said, hybrid rice stalks tend to bend at the slightest wind, unlike the inbreds and the traditional rice that proved to be sturdier.

“Diay apitek a 150 cavans ket nagbalin a 20 laeng kalpasan a nabagyo daytoy,” (I expected 150 cavans but only got 20 after a typhoon hit the crops) Grace said. She said the hybrids are so sensitive to climatic changes, unlike the inbreds.

Tabuk City now boasts of being the hybrid capital of the Cordillera, but its farmers find woes with the newest seed technology.

Assistant Provincial Agriculturist Juliana B. Aclam said there are farmers who have tested the hybrid but plant inbred rice.  She confirmed reports that Kalinga farmers prefer the inbred to hybrid rice.

Top-down planning

“Kasla baby a maaywanan dagiti hybrid,” (Hybrids are like babies that need care) Gerry Bulaat, secretary-general of the Timpuyog ti Mannalon ti Kalinga (TMK) told Nordis in a separate interview.

Bulaat said the government did not consider the local situation in its planning resulting in wrong priorities.

Jessie Fernandez, Philrice supervising science specialist, based in Isabela said inbred rice yields an average of 120 cavans per hectare, while the hybrids could bring out 150 per hectare.

Both Philrice and private seed companies produce hybrid seeds.  Inbred rice was first introduced in the 70’s by the Masagana 99 program of then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. Philrice first developed these seeds to produce hybrid. Later, private companies followed suit, according to Fernandez.

DA Sec. Arthur Yap, in press release, stressed that while DA recognizes the potentials of hybrids at increasing farmers’ income, it also emphasizes on the extensive use of certified high-yielding varieties or inbreds, which are responsive to irrigated, rain-fed and upland rice ecosystems; unique or sub-optimal rice environs; specific seasons and climatic conditions; and commercial markets.

Cost of seed, production

Farmers, however, could not produce their own seeds because of decreasing production.  This is reportedly due to degeneration of the seed variety, that farmers have to buy seeds.

“Pinadas mi nga inmula manen diay bin-i ket saan a bumagas a kas idi damo daytoy nga imula, uray isu met laeng ti ikabil nga abono,” (We tried replanting the seeds and found out these do not yield as much as when these are first planted, even if we applied the same amount of fertilizers) said Ricardo Sad-ang, 52, of Tinglayan town.

Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera’s (Apit Tako) Fernando Bagyan once said in an earlier interview, these are terminator seeds. These could not produce their own seeds for later propagation, thus, compelling farmers to procure their planting materials from seed-producing companies like Syngenta, Monsanto, Asian Hybrid, Bio-seed and the like.

Sad-ang has been planting his two-hectare rice land to hybrid varieties. He said he had tried different types of hybrid seed varieties, but still get only around 90 cavans per hectare.

Philrice has reportedly produced Mestizo varieties M1, M3 and M7.  Private seed companies produce other hybrid varieties.

According to Aclam, many inbred varieties are cultivated in Kalinga. “Farmers have asserted for the certified inbred seeds. Their experience have taught them,” she told Nordis.

Unoy remains a favorite

Meanwhile, the traditional unoy is still being cultivated in most Kalinga towns.  Aclam said only the lower Tabuk barangays and the town of Rizal do not produce unoy rice.

Upper Tabuk, Tanudan, Balbalan, Upper Pinukpuk. Pasil and Tinglayan produce unoy.

Unoy rice varieties prefer the upland conditions, according to Aclam, noting that the taste and yield differ when these are planted in the lowland farms.

A negligible portion of unoy is now being exported to Montana, USA.

According to Apit Tako Spokesperson Virgie Dammay, unoy is now being produced in commercial quantities, with the provincial government trying too hard to meet the export quota for organically produced rice.

“This export program led farmers to devote more rice lands to the production of unoy. Even traditional vegetable swidden farms are now being planted to unoy,” said Mila Lingbawan of Innabuyog-Gabriela. She said, unoy was originally a paddy rice.

With more and more farmers encouraged to produce unoy for commercial purposes, TMK fears environmental degradation.

“It commands a higher price, farmers tend to produce it for sale amid food shortage and hunger,” said Bulaat.

Rice took center stage here Wednesday as the agriculture department gathered more than a thousand rice farmers, seed producers, local government officials and agriculture employees.

The rice info caravan featured a one-day stakeholders’ forum at the city gym.

Neither Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nor Yap came to the dismay of the contingent. The duo was invited as main guests.

The forum focused on Arroyo’s center piece agriculture program FIELDS as government agencies focused on improving its organic fertilizer program; restoring irrigation systems, extension services; loans; dryers and post-harvest facilities;  and production and promotion of hybrid seeds. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Rice Importation Hurts Local Farmers, Costs NFA Billions in Losses

September 27, 2008

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

For this year, the Arroyo government would import 2.296 million metric tons (MT) of rice.

Based on the estimated NFA stock inventory as of July 1 this year, 929,337 MT are imported rice, accounting for 97.99 percent of the NFA stock.

The NFA targets to import 971,145 MT of rice from July to December. Meanwhile, the planned local palay (rice grain) procurement during the same period is only 51,238 MT.

Fines Cosico, NFA grains operations officer, said the NFA normally imports about ten percent of the country’s annual rice requirement and and imported rice supposedly constitutes only three percent of its buffer stock.

More expensive

In a primer titled “100% Rice Self-Sufficiency and Self-Reliance Equals Genuine Food Security,” the NFA Employees Association (NFA-EA) stated that from 1968 to 2008, the price of wholesale imported rice per MT was more expensive than domestic rice for 21 years out of the 48-year period.

In January this year, the price of imported rice per MT was US$409 or P16,769. It rose to US$1,091 per MT or P44,731 in April. The landed cost of imported rice is estimated at P67,096 ($1,604 at the April exchange rate of $1=P41.82) per MT during the same period. The landed cost takes into account freight cost, insurance, tariff, equalization fee, among others.

Meanwhile, the wholesale price of local rice in April is P30,000 ($717) per MT or less than half the landed cost of imported rice.

Even private traders are not interested in importing rice due to the high cost.

Losses

The NFA-EA also said, “Rice importation has greatly contributed to the NFA’s losses especially with the imposition of the rice import tariff.”

From 2002 to 2006, the NFA paid more than P20 billion ($389,787,565 at the 2006 average exchange rate of $1=P51.31) to the Bureau of Customs – Department of Finance. The tariff on rice was pegged at 50 percent.

On top of this tariff, the NFA also spends for transport, handling, stevedoring, and arraste services, warehousing, pest management, among others.

It is only in 2007 when the Arroyo government exempted the NFA from paying tariff on rice imports.

WTO commitment

Why does the government insist on importing rice?

Even the Department of Finance (DoF) said that losses of the NFA may reach P43.1 billion ($925,786,703 at the September 19 exchange rate of $1=P46.555) if the price of rice in the world market increases to more than US$1,000 per MT.

Cosico said the Arroyo government’s rice importation program is in compliance with its commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Under the WTO’s minimum access volume (MAV), the country is obliged to import a certain volume of rice whether or not there is a supply shortage.

Cosico said the Arroyo government seems to be telling them to buy imported rice at any cost. On the other hand, local procurement remains very low.

Local procurement

The NFA buys local palay at low prices.

The NFA-EA revealed that from February 1999 to October 14, 2007, the NFA bought palay at only P10 ($0.216 at the 2007 average exchange rate of $1=P46.148) per kilogram even as the actual farmgate price then reached P11.21 ($0.24).

Since October 15, 2008, the price of palay increased by P1.50 ($0.03) per kilogram.

In April this year, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo increased the P0.50 incentive to farmers selling palay to the NFA to P5.50 per kilogram. Of the P17 ($0.365) per kilogram buying price of the NFA for clean and dry palay, farmers receive only P11.50 ($0.247) as cash payment and P5.50 ($0.118) as incentive.

Cosico said farmers who sell at least 50 kilograms are given P1,800 ($38.66) as subsidy for fertilizers.

In 2007, the NFA absorbed only 0.19 percent of the total local palay production of 16.237 million MT.

Not for poor farmers

Willy Marbella Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Philippine Peasant Movement) deputy secretary general said farm gate prices of palay remain low even as the cost of production increases.

Marbella said poor farmers cannot afford to sell their produce to the NFA and cannot avail of the subsidy on fertilizers. Landless peasants, he said, have to pay for land rent, interest payments for debts they incurred, and also have to shoulder all the expenses in production, said Marbella.

Cosico said that even with the NFA’s mobile procurement, poor farmers cannot sell their produce to the NFA. “Wala na rin silang maibenta… napunta na sa trader na pinagkautangan ng binhi at abono.” (They have nothing to sell…their produce goes to the trader from whom they loaned the seeds and fertilizers.)

Basic problems

Marbella said the Arroyo government should address the Filipino farmers’ basic problem of landlessness if it wants to resolve the rice crisis.

The KMP has been pushing for the passage of House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill filed by the late Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran.

Cosico who is also an officer of Agham (Science and Technology for the People) said the government must support local agriculture by providing continuous incentives and credit to farmers.

Marbella criticized the Arroyo government for various agriculture-related scams. “Ang dinadaya nila, 75 porsyento ng mamamayang Pilipino.” (They are cheating 75 percent of the Filipino people.)

She described as token the subsidies provided by the Arroyo government to farmers. “The Arroyo government has no decent policy to strengthen local agriculture,” said Cosico.

She also called for the mechanization of agriculture. Today, farmers pay for the use of irrigation facilities and other services, said Cosico.

Moreover, both the KMP and the NFA-EA are calling for the passage of House Bill 3958 or the Rice Industry Reform Act sponsored by Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo.

The bill aims to strengthen the NFA’s domestic procurement capability, among others.

Cosico concluded that the country’s food security must be met through local procurement and enhancing local agricultural production. (Bulatlat.com)

NFA to buy 800,000 bags of palay in Bicol

September 27, 2008

LEGAZPI CITY — The National Food Authority is aiming to buy 800,000 bags of palay harvested by local farmers in Bicol up to December.

NFA Bicol Assistant Regional Director for Operations Jose Guevarra said the procurement target is a self-imposed task after traders in the region lowered the buying price to P14 per kilo for dried and P11 for wet palay.

Guevarra said the NFA’s buying price for dry palay is pegged at P17 per kilo. “The NFA has bought 170,000 bags of palay since July.”

The agency is now operating 19 warehouses all over the region to accommodate the expected surge of palay sellers. Six of them are in Camarines Sur and nine in Albay.

Under the Department of Agriculture’s procurement program, 58,000 bags of palay were initially targeted, but this was raised to 166,000 then to 340,000 until the target was raised to 800,000 bags. NFA/PIA release

Editorial Cartoon: Rice Scam

September 20, 2008

Attack of the Ilaga? (Ilaga is a Visayan term for rat)

Farmers Hit NFA for Rice Price Hike

September 17, 2008

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas criticized the National Food Authority for increasing rice prices at a time when the poor could hardly cope with the crisis. The KMP said that the NFA’s move to limit access to the P18.25 per kilo rice is nothing more than a price hike.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 32, September 14-20, 2008

Various groups have opposed the Arroyo government’s limited distribution of the P18.25 ($0.389 at an exchange rate of $1=P46.86) per kilogram of rice from the National Food Authority (NFA).

In a statement posted at its website, the NFA said that starting this month, they would sell the P18.25 per kilogram of rice only at Tindahan Natin (TN) outlets, and available only to those with Family Access Cards (FAC).

The rice allocation of the TN outlets would be based on the number of FAC beneficiaries in the area computed at a two-kilogram allotment per family per day.

Each TN outlet may identify 250 FAC beneficiaries, said the NFA. With 1,426 outlets in Metro Manila, the NFA said the scheme would serve 356, 500 families.

NFA Administrator Jessup P. Navarro said that with this move, the low-income group and underprivileged sector ‘gets the assurance of optimizing the benefits from the rice subsidies and other hunger mitigating programs of the government.’

“We can specifically focus our distribution efforts of the affordable rice to families who really need assistance from the government,” he added.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Philippine Peasant Movement) and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) deemed otherwise.

Bayan said such move would marginalize millions of families who are also poor.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) distributed FACs to approximately 280,000 families.

Arnold Padilla, Bayan public information officer asked, “How about those whose monthly income is less than P10,000 ($213.40) , which according to the government itself is the current amount needed in Metro Manila to be considered not poor?” Padilla asked.

Willy Marbella, KMP deputy secretary general said, “It is very obvious that the government doesn’t treat the minimum wage earner as poor, those earning P382 ($8.15) a day.” He said that a P5, 000 ($106.70) monthly income, which is the maximum income for a family to avail of the FAC, is equivalent to only P208 ($4.438) per day.

Price hike

Padilla added that these poor families would be forced to purchase the P25 ($0.53) per kilo rice, which is also subsidized by the NFA but is still hardly affordable to the poor.

The NFA sells three kinds of rice: NFA rice for P18.25 ($0.389) a kilo, NFA commercial rice for P25 ($0.53) a kilo, and premium NFA rice for P30 ($0.64) a kilo. Only the NFA commercial and premium rice can now be sold in public markets.

The KMP considered the move as a price hike, from P18.25 ($0.389) per kg to P25 ($0.53) per kg, plain and simple.

Cutting down on consumption

Dionisio Bindoy, a driver residing at Bgy 178 in Camarin, Caloocan said he has been forced to buy rice at P30 ($0.64) per kilo. He said that even the P25 ($0.53) NFA rice is not of good quality.

Earning only P6,000 ($128) per month, Dionisio said that they only eat three kilos of rice per week. He lives with his wife and two daughters. Sometimes, they would eat kamote (sweet potato) as substitute to rice. He planted kamote in their backyard.

Meanwhile, Jun Cera buys the P25 ($0.53) NFA rice. He tried to get a family access card but the DSWD said they had reached their limit. “Maraming di nabigyan. Ang nabigyan pa nga, iyong ibang may kakayanang bumili ng bigas, mga kamag-anak ng DSWD at ng mga taga-barangay.” (Many have not been given cards. Some of the beneficiaries have the capacity to buy rice, they are relatives of DSWD personnel and of barangay officials.)

He and his wife work as vendors, earning P300 ($6.40) per day. They live in Litex, Commonwealth. All of their three children are in grade school.

riceDati, dalawang kilo ng bigas isang araw. Ngayon, isa’t kalahati na lang,” (We used to consume two kilos of rice per day. These days, we only eat one and a half kilo) said Cera.
He said they just eat rice cakes for breakfast. They also have to reduce the quantity of their viand.

Cera said that these are difficult times. His children walk their way to school to save money. He said they walk for more than one kilometer every day. They also do not have any allowance or food when going to school.

“The government is really pushing through its murderous design of starving the Filipino people,” said Marbella.

Importation

The KMP also criticized the continued importation of rice.

Fines Cosico, NFA grains operations officer, said rice importation is prescribed by the agreements under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

According to the Performance of Philippine Agriculture (January to June 2008) by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, palay (rice grain) production was up by 5.84 percent.

Estimated stock inventory of the NFA as of July 2008 shows that 929,337 metric tons (MT) of rice are imported as against 1,255 MT of locally-produced rice and 28,304 MT of palay.

Based on the NFA’s 2008 Rice/Palay National Supply and Demand Analysis, the NFA would import 971, 145 MT of rice from July to December.

Cosico said that the NFA has started buying clean and dry palay at P17 ($0.36) per kilo. Farmers who sell at least 50 kilograms are given P1,800 ($38.41) as subsidy for fertilizer. But Cosico admitted the subsidy is not sustainable.

The KMP believes that the NFA should procure more locally-produced palay instead of importing more rice.

Bayan reiterated its demand to impose price controls on rice, dismantle the rice cartel, and strengthen the role of the NFA in the whole rice sector to ensure that affordable rice is available to the people especially the poor.

The group also emphasized that the long-term solution to the rice crisis is the reversal of globalization policies on agriculture and the implementation of a genuine agrarian reform program that would allow Filipino farmers to produce food for domestic requirements well as other needs of the economy. Bulatlat

Herbicide-laced rice downs 5 Bulacan family members

August 30, 2008

By George Trillo

CALUMPIT, Bulacan – Five members of a family here were rushed to the hospital after eating boiled rice laced with herbicide with cops still trying to determine if foul play was involved.
Efifacio Cruz, chairman of Barangay Frances, identified the victims as Feliciano, Perla, Rex, Ruth, and Ramil, all surnamed Ablaza.

Cruz suspects that the herbicide Machete, used to eliminate weeds in rice fields, was deliberately put in the cooked rice.

A relative of the victims, Manuel Ablaza, 17, who cooked the rice, is now in the custody of the municipal social welfare office.

After eating the rice night of August 15, Manuel’s grandparents Feliciano and Perla, uncles Rex and Ramil, and aunt Ruth started vomiting and experienced dizziness and shortness of breath.
Neighbors rushed them to Our Lady of Mercy General Hospital in nearby Pulilan town.

Feliciano, Rex and Ramil are out of danger, while Perla and Ruth are still in critical condition.
Manuel admitted to newsmen he cooked rice for dinner, but denied that he deliberately laced it with the herbicide.

He said his aunt Ruth was with him when he cooked the rice.

The victims’ relatives recalled that more than a week ago, Manuel’s guardians discovered that they lost pieces of jewelry. The teener’s parents are both working abroad.

They only learned that Manuel allegedly took the jewelry when his classmates reported that he gave away cellular phones in school.

Fighting for Land, a Decent Income, for their Lives and their Livelihood – the Daily Struggles of Farmers of Negros

August 21, 2008

A government ad extolling farmers as heroes for providing food for our tables has been airing regularly on television.  It also describes what the government is supposedly doing to support Filipino farmers.  But the farmers of Guihulngan, Negors Oriental tell a different story: of fighting for their land, higher wages and farm gate prices, and fighting for their lives and their livelihood as they confront daily harassments and threats from the military, and the impending operations of mining corporations.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 28, August 17-23, 2008

GUIHULNGAN, Negros Oriental – The intensified operations of several units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) here, purportedly to crush communist rebels, have not stopped farmers to fight for their livelihood.

Since the latter part of 2007, the Central Command (CenCom) of the AFP declared Negros as its priority area in its counter-insurgency campaign. The CenCom specifically identified Central Negros, which includes Guihulngan, La Libertad, Vallehermoso and Canlaon in Negros Oriental and Magallon, Isabela, La Castallena, Himamaylan and Binalbagan in Negros Occidental.

Operating in the area are the 303rd Infantry Brigade (IB) and 302nd Infantry Brigade, under which are four infantry battalions 11th IB, 61st IB, 15th IB and 79th IB.  Reinforcing them are special elite forces of the 1st Scout Ranger (SR) Battalion and two Division Reconnaissance Companies (DRC).

Two more companies of the 12th IB supervising more than 2,000 elements of Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) and almost two platoons of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) also augment the AFP in its operations. The RPA-ABB is a splinter group of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has signed a peace agreement with the government.

Elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP), specifically the Regional Mobile Group (RMG)-Region 6 and the Provincial Mobile Groups (PMG) complement the AFP’s operations.

Death threats, harassment

But state security forces are not only conducting operations against the NPA, the Kapunongan Alang sa Ugma sa Gagmay’ng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (Kaugmaon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas) said civilians, including their peasant members, have become targets of harassment.

Erwin SabijonIn an interview, Erwin Sabijon, chairperson of Kaugmaon, disclosed that their organization has been affected by militarization. He said the military has issued death threats to their barangay (village) leaders. “Some of our members fear for their safety,” Sabijon said in Cebuano.

Sabijon said that out of the 33 barangays in Guihulngan, Kaugmaon has 27 chapters.

Sabijon replaced Emilia Quirante as Kaugmaon chair. Quirante has been detained since March 2007 for trumped-up charges of child abuse and rebellion.

He himself has been subjected to various forms of harassment. For many months now, he said he could not go home because the military has been looking for him.

The harassment, Sabijon related, started as early as 2004. A certain Lt. Angcog summoned him to go to the barangay hall of Bgy. Mani-ak; the soldiers then were occupying the said hall. Angcog told him that he is included in the military’s order of battle. “He showed me the list,” said Sabijon.

When the soldiers tried to get his bag, he told them, “You don’t have a search warrant. I am not a criminal.” That day, he went away alive.

But Sabijon said attempts on his life continue. Sometime in 2007, Sabijon said two soldiers disguised themselves as farmers and stayed near their house. Cautious, Sabijon took another way out of the place. The next day, a neighbour told him, “There were two soldiers waiting for you. It’s good they did not chance upon you.”

On July 22, after attending the second day of the three-day dialogue with Guihulngan City Mayor Ernesto Reyes on the rice crisis, Sabijon and his colleagues rode in a tricycle on their way home. A private car hit their tricycle. Witnesses said that the car went inside the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). Another witness said that the car was parked inside the compound of the Mayor’s office before the incident happened.

The next day, Sabijon went to the public market. A man came to him, hit him on the side with a 45-calibre pistol and went away.

In another incident, Sabijon was speaking in a rally in Guihulngan City. He was talking about landlessness as the number one problem of the farmers. A soldier told him, “Dong, may lupa ka. Nakahanda na ang libingan mo!” (Man, you have land. Your graveyard is waiting for you.)

In May this year, Sabijon, together with more than a hundred farmers were on their way to the city on board a government dump truck. They were stopped at a military checkpoint at Bgy. Hilaitan. One of the soldiers told him, “Why are you rallying against the government when you are using a government vehicle?” Sabijon replied in Cebuano, “It is ours. We are taxpayers. Even your underwear is our property. We pay for your salary.”

The soldiers unlocked the safety of their high-powered rifles. They pointed their guns at Sabijon but did not fire. The farmers were not able to pass through the checkpoint and opted to stay in the barangay hall until the morning of the next day.

In Bgy. Linantuyan, Sabijon said Kaugmaon members are routinely being summoned by the military and interrogated for two hours. He said that Kaugmaon members are being forced them to confess that they are members of the NPA. Sabijon said that their denial or admission, however, would mean the same thing for the military whose mind is set that they are members of the NPA.

Fighting for their livelihood

Kaugmaon maintained that the upsurge in the number of troops operating in their areas has greatly affected the economic life of the farmers. Many of the leaders could no longer work in the field.

But Sabijon said their organization is not totally paralyzed. “The military cannot claim that it has successfully crushed our organization,” said Sabijon.

Their campaign for land reform continues, Sabijon said. He cited the campaigns for the increase in farm gate prices of corn, banana, coffee and coconut and for the increase in salary of sugar workers.

He said that sugar workers are paid P45 ($0.99 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.31) for 12 hours of work per day by Mayor Reyes. They have no benefits.

Kaugmaon was able to lobby for a higher salary for sugar workers at the Buenavista plantation owned by William Antepuesto. From P50 ($1.10) per day for clearing or preparation of the land, sugar workers are now paid P70 ($1.54). From P80 to P100 ($1.76 to $2.207) for plowing, it was increased to P120 ($2.648) per day.  The P100 ($2.207) per ton payment sugar workers get for the cutting of the sugarcane has been increased to P150 to P200 per day ($3.10 to $4.41).

The wholesale price of banana, which used to be P0.60 ($0.01) per piece is now pegged at P0.70 ($0.015).

Sabijon said that while the increases are minimal, these mean a lot to farmers.

Sabijon related that they are also campaigning for a shift to organic farming. Chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides are expensive. He said that they pay P2,700 to P3,000 ($59.59 to $66.21) for every sack of fertilizer.

He said they still have so much work to do to alleviate the plight of farmers. Landlessness, he said, remains the number one problem with 1:4 sharing of landlords and peasants. “The farmers pay for everything.”

Mining

Sabijon also talked about their campaign against the entry of mining corporations in Guihulngan. They have formed the Guihulngan Anti-Mining Alliance.

There is a pending application for Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) by Philmet (formerly Western Mining Corporation) for extracting copper and gold covering 88,000 hectares spread over 14 towns including Guihulngan.

The Tañon Strait on the coastal part of the City is under exploratory drilling by the Japan Exploration Company (JAPEX).

The Geograce Corporation, the director of which is former presidential spokesperson Mike T. Defensor, also has a mining project in Ayungon, four towns away from Guihulngan. According to the Geograce website, the Ayungon Project is a 4,717 hectare porphyry copper-gold prospect on the island of Negros, Philippines. The southeastern part of Negros Island is found to have positive indications of precious (gold and silver), base metals (copper, lead, zinc) and other metallic mineralization.

Sabijon deemed that the intensified military operations are aimed to pave the way for mining activities in the province.

Sabijon said he attended a dialogue with the City Council last July. He registered anew their group’s opposition to large-scale mining operations.

He said that while Vice Mayor Caesar Macalua has supported their stance, Mayor Ernesto Reyes has been silent on the issue. Members of the City Council have different views.

Sabijon said that foreign mining corporations are the only ones to benefit. Farmers will be dislocated, he said. “Foreign companies process raw materials from our country and sell these to us as finished products,” he explained.

Survival

Sabijon said there is no other way but to fight for their survival.

He said that while they can choose not to fight and live somewhere else, they are bound to face the same problems.

He said that only through collective effort can they be able to surmount the challenges ahead. “Wala nang atrasan,” (There’s no turning back.) Sabijon said smiling. Bulatlat

KASAMA TK lambasts Nasser, Call for moratorium on land conversion

August 15, 2008

Southern Tagalog tillers belonging to the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA TK) lambasted Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman for snobbing their scheduled dialogue Thursday afternoon.

They vowed that they will not return home until the DAR top man face them.

“Farmers from Tibig in Silang, Cavite, Hacienda Yulo in Canlubang, Laguna, Macabud in Rodriguez, Rizal and Hacienda Fule in Alaminos, Laguna and Sto. Tomas, Batangas were supposed to hold a dialogue with DAR officials (Thursday) but as had previously happened, we were told that Pangandaman would not be able to meet with us,” the group said in Filipino.

At least 50 KASAMA-TK members has been camping out since Monday outside the DAR office. They want Pangandaman to suspend all land conversion orders in compliance with an earlier order from President Arroyo to freeze all such conversions for at least two years until the end of her term.

Kasama TK said Hacienda Yulo (7,100 hectares), Hacienda Zobel in Calatagan, Batangas (12,000 hectares), the 2,400-hectare Macabud, Rizal watershed are being claimed by Bantay Kalikasan and the Lopez family; while Hacienda Fule (97 hectares) and the Locsin property (2,000 hectares) in Puerto Galera are set to be developed by the Zobel-Ayala group.

“The farmers in Hacienda Fule are being driven out because they plan to convert this into an eco-tourism site while the Yulo and Ayala families want to turn Hacienda Yulo into a golf course. The Macabud watershed has been demolished eight times since 2004,” Kasama TK spokesperson Imelda Lacandazo said in Filipino.

“Itigil na ang pagpapalit-gamit ng lupang sakahan, ibalik na sa mga magsasaka. Hindi kami aalis sa DAR hanggang hindi kami hinaharap ng mga opisyal nito,” they stressed.

The group also made a symbolic planting of rice outside the DAR gates, forming a mold that would remind Pangandaman what it is all about: “LUPA.”

Government told to rely less on rice imports

August 6, 2008

DAVAO CITY–It would have been cheaper for government to source rice in the domestic market instead of importing rice abroad if there had been enough supply of rice in the country, according to the leader of the National Food Authority Employees Association (NFAEA).

Roman Sanchez, president of the NFAEA, compared what the government has been paying for the lauded cost of imported rice in the last four years to the prevailing price of rice in the domestic market at the time of importation.

According to the data gathered by NFAEA, the country imported rice at a price of US$241 in 2004. At the foreign exchange rate 56.04 peso to a dollar at that time, the price of rice import easily reached P13, 550 per metric ton, or 21 per cent lower than the P17,300 per metric ton prevailing price of rice in the domestic market.

But the landed cost of rice – which covers other expenses aside from the purchased price – brings the cost of imported rice higher, making it more expensive for the government to source rice abroad than in domestic market.

Sanchez said that in 2004, the landed cost of imported rice reached P20,258 per metric ton, or 17 per cent higher than the prevailing domestic prices.

Landed cost is the total cost of a shipment from the point of origin, including the purchase price, freight, insurance and other costs incurred, up to the port of destination. The fluctuating cost of dollar against the peso also affects the price of imported rice.

Sanchez said that in 2005, the country imported rice at a price of US$285 or P15, 697 per metric ton but the landed cost of this imported rice reached P23, 546 per metric ton, which was 23 percent more expensive than the domestic price of only P19, 490 per metric ton.

In 2006, the landed cost of rice imports was only .08 per cent higher than the prevailing domestic price of P 19, 490 per metric ton while in 2007, the landed cost reached P25,200 per metric ton or 22 percent higher than the prevailing domestic price of P20, 660 per metric ton.

This year, the price of rice imports is even higher. The Philippines imported rice at a price of P 44, 731 per metric ton at a foreign exchange rate 41 peso to a dollar, which was already 33 percent higher than the domestic price of only P30,000 per metric ton.

The landed cost of this rice imports reached P67, 096 per metric ton, or 124 percent higher than the prevailing domestic price.

“This only showed us that importing rice is not cheaper and the world market can’t be trusted,” said Sanchez. He said that despite having the International Rice Research Institute, one of the world’s best agriculture school, it is very unfortunate that the Philippines placed now as the world’s top importer of rice.

Sanchez said that the government’s heavy reliance on cheap imports instead of building the country’s capacity for increased rice production threatens the country’s food security.

Now that rice exporting countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, US and China restricted their rice exports to secure food for their country, the Philippines face difficulties because of its dependence on rice imports, Sanchez explained.

He said that aside from the high landed cost of rice, there is also a 50 percent rice import tariff on government security stocks which NFA also has to pay. NFA also has to pay interest payment on commercial loans for rice imports as well as other expenses like transport, handling, stevedoring and arrastre services, warehousing, pest management, among other things.

“Because of the rice imports, NFA incurred many losses,” Sanchez said.

He said that NFA paid a total of 20.97 million pesos for rice import tariffs from 2002 up to 2006. Sanchez also said that the money used to pay for these tariffs came from commercial loans, with interests.

But he said NFA cannot do away with importing rice because of the rice production shortfall in the country, which should have been addressed by the Department of Agriculture, according to Sanchez.

“Because of insufficient rice production, which is supposedly the area of concern of the Department of Agriculture, the NFA is made to import rice as an answer for the production shortfall,” he said. “NFA is made to pay for the tariffs and other related expenses. NFA is blamed for the rice crisis when actually it is not the culprit.”

He also recalled how NFA was blamed for the importation of substandard rice from India in 2002, where the government paid 9.5 billion pesos. But he said it was not the NFA but the Philippine International Trading Corporation or PITC that imported the rice.

Agricultural secretary Arthur C. Yap headed the PITC at that time.

In 2002, the government gave the private sector the authority to import rice to ensure domestic supply.

But NFAEA said the private sector failed to do its job. In 2004, the private sector only imported 14, 724 or 4. 75 percent of the 310,000 metric tons of rice it was allowed to import; in 2005, it imported only 11, 801 metric tons or 5.9 percent of the 200,000 metric tons allowed; and in May this year, only 13.23 percent or 21, 560 metric tons of 163,000 metric tons allowed.

The high market prices and the tariffs are the reasons why the private sector imported less than what they were allowed to import, according to Sanchez.

Research think tank Ibon Philippines pointed out that the government’s reliance on rice imports is not enough to ensure food security. Ibon said people can still go hungry even amidst the deluge of cheap rice in the market if they don’t have jobs or decent wages to buy.

“The Constitution ensure that food security is an integral part of a “just and dynamic social order” and a primary social responsibility of the government,” Sanchez said.

NFAEA said that to have real food security, the government should support the agricultural production instead of just relying on rice imports. Genuine agrarian reform should be carried out, complemented with subsidies on farm inputs and capital and investment in post-harvest facilities like the construction of irrigation systems.

According to Ibon, 1.7 million hectares of the 3.7 hectares potential land for agriculture remains have no irrigation system.

NFAEA also called on the government to withdraw from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization because of its unfair economic policies.

“There should also be adequate support to farmers and fisher folks through easy access to credit, marketing assistance, and extension services,” Sanchez said.

He said that in Thailand, a farmer gets 800 dollars subsidy per year while here in the Philippines, a farmer only have 13 dollars.

Sanchez said among the solutions to the rice problem is to strengthen the National Food Authority, intensify food production, impose a ban on the conversion of riceland to other uses and provide farm to market roads and other agricultural infrastructure. These measures, he said, would surely bring rice self-sufficiency and genuine food security in the country. (Grace S. Uddin/davaotoday.com)

Presyo ng bigas tumaas ng 100% sa ilalim ni GMA

July 31, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

TUMAAS ng 100% ang presyo ng bigas simula nang manungkulan si Pangulong Arroyo noong 2001.

Ayon kay Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza, P17 ang kada kilo ng bigas nang unang magbigay ng Sona (State of the Nation Address) si Arroyo. Sa ngayon, umaabot na sa P34 hanggang P36 ang kada kilo nito.

Binatikos pa ni Maza ang National Food Authority sa pag-anunsiyo nito na lilimitahan pa ang akses sa murang bigas-NFA sa Setyembre.

“Paano pa makakaangkop ang mga mamamayan sa walang katapusang pagtaas ng presyo ng bigas, langis at iba pang batayang bilihin?” ani Maza.

Ayon pa sa kongresista, pabulusok ang takbo ng ekonomiya mula ng maupo si Arroyo noong 2001. Ang presyo ng gasolina at krudo noong Enero 2001 ay P16.56 at P13.82.

Sa ngayon, tinatayang 400% ang itinaas nito sa halagang P62 (gasolina) at P58 (krudo).

“Pitong taon ang nakaraan, ang daily cost of living ng isang pamilyang may anim na miyembro ay nasa P420, umabot na ito sa P894,” sabi ni Maza.

Dahil dito, sinisisi ng Gabriela Women’s Party sa liderato ni Arroyo ang malawakang kagutuman at kahirapan.

Kasama ng iba pang progresibong kinatawan ng party-list, nakatakdang magboykot si Maza sa Sona ni Arroyo na umano’y magiging “litanya ng kasinungalingan at parada ng mga pekeng paglago ng ekonomiya.”

Scientists Call for Thoroughgoing Reforms to Resolve Rice Crisis

July 27, 2008

To address the rice crisis, a group of Filipino scientists joined farmers in calling for a genuine agrarian reform program, mechanization and development of agriculture and support for farmers, among others.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
BULATLAT
Volume VIII, Number 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

Scientists belonging to AGHAM or Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (Association for the Promotion of Science and Technology for the People) said that the measures being implemented by the Arroyo government would not resolve the rice crisis.

They proposed several alternatives, including subsidy for farmers, mechanization of agriculture and a genuine agrarian reform program.

Poverty

In a forum, July 24, Reynan Calderon, an agricultural economist teaching at the Bataan Peninsula State University (BPSU) said that the continuing rice deficiency is the pre-condition for the rice crisis.

He said that from 1991-2006, there was a 42 percent increase in the consumption of rice.

Calderon said that in the 70s and 80s, imported rice accounted for five percent of total consumption. He said that this increased to 14 percent by 2007.

Calderon explained that the crisis is actually an “effect of a more deepening poverty problem.” He said that most of the poor have nothing else or very little to eat except rice. “Walang maiulam, damihan ang kanin.” (No viand to eat, eat more rice.)

He cited Bataan as an example. Bataan has a four percent net surplus of rice. The Central Luzon region is a net exporter of rice, providing 18 percent of the country’s total supply.

Calderon disclosed that even so, the poor in Bataan would line up to buy rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) and many go hungry.

Calderon said, “Bataan and Central Luzon are a microcosm of Philippine society. Not everyone can afford to buy rice… As long as there is a deepening poverty problem, even if there is enough food supply, the poor cannot avail of rice.”

In the same forum, Fines Cosico, NFA grains operations officer and AGHAM project officer, agreed that there was no rural development and the poverty level is high in farming communities.

Citing data from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Philippine Peasant Movement), she said that farm workers in Negros receive only P20-P90 ($0.45 to $2.03 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.23) per day; in Cagayan Valley, P69 ($1.56) per day; and, in Samar, P50 ($1.13).

Cosico attributed this to the problem of landlessness, with 1/3 of landlords owning 80 percent of agricultural land. She said 51 percent of farmlands are under tenancy.

She said that multinational corporations also control the land, with 220,000 hectares in Mindanao occupied by Dole and Del Monte.

Backward agricultural production

Cosico said that local production is backward and stunted. Philippine agriculture has a low mechanization level with only two percent of farms mechanized. She said that there are only 102 tractors, six harvesters/treshers per 1,000 hectares of agricultural land

Irrigation is very low, too. BPSU’s Calderon cited that while 19 percent of the total irrigated area in the Philippines is in Central Luzon, still, 85 percent of agricultural lands in the region are not irrigated.

Cosico further said that 56.53 percent of farms are operated through manual labor; and 78 percent of the 4.61 million hectares of agricultural land in 1991 are divided into farmlands constituting less than 3 hectares each.

Cosico said that there was a three percent decrease in the number of farm areas in the past decade due to land use conversion. In Southern Tagalog, for example, more than 1.30 million hectares of agricultural land are under conversion while 172, 967.30 hectares have already been converted to real estate.

Cosico said that while the government uses modernization as byword in its policies on agriculture, the government is not actually modernizing agriculture.

She cited the Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) and the Medium Term Development Plan, supposedly the government’s program for modernization.  Under these programs, the catchwords are “food security, agricultural mechanization, rural development and global competitiveness.”

Under the AFMA, Cosico explained, food security is to be achieved through importation instead of increasing local rice production. With regards agricultural mechanization, she said that she has not seen anything concrete yet that has improved technical efficiency in farms.

She criticized the inclusion of global competitiveness in the definition of modernization under AFMA. “It will only strengthen the import-dependent and export-oriented character of the Philippine economy.” She asserted that the Philippine government should prioritize food production for local consumption.

Cosico blamed the globalization policies for the devastation of agriculture. She cited the structural adjustment programs (SAPs) in 1981 to 1985, which removed price control on rice and farm inputs; the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) in 1995 and the Agreement on Agriculture under the World Trade Organization, which removed quantitative restrictions on agricultural imports and the charging of tariffs on rice.

Solutions

The Arroyo government’s measures in addressing the crisis would not work, scientists said.

Calderon criticized the government’s proposal to replace the staple food. Government officials said that cassava, banana, sweet potato may be staple substitutes. “This is politically, economically and culturally wrong,“ Calderon said.

He said that likewise population control management would not resolve the problem. Even if the population growth would register zero, Calderon said the deficit in supply would remain at ten to15 percent.

The real issue, Calderon said, is food security. He said that the converted agricultural lands in Calabarzon region alone could produce enough rice for the country.

Calderon said, “Government must intervene not only in rice trading and in providing subsidies, but also in providing the facilities needed.”

He said that the P50 billion ($1,130,454,442) budget of the NFA to import rice could be diverted to help increase local production.

In a statement, Dr. Chito Medina, national coordinator of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG or Farmers and Scientists for the Development of Agriculture) criticized the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for calling for another Green Revolution. He said that the Green Revolution, implemented in the 70s, and its introduction of high-yielding varieties nearly wiped out the country’s traditional varieties.

For Anakpawis Representative and KMP Chairperson Rafael Mariano, IRRI is doing nothing good for Filipino farmers and the Philippine agriculture. “It continues to be the number one perpetrator of anti-farmer rice research in Asia.”

For Cosico, lasting solutions include the outright rejection of globalization policies, providing economic and political reforms to local agriculture through the genuine agrarian reform program, and re-energizing agricultural science and technology for national industrialization.

Cosico maintained that agriculture is the base for industrialization.  It will provide the means of subsistence for the people and raw materials for industries. With the development of agriculture the rural population would become a vast market for industrial products and the main reservoir of the labor force for industry and other sectors of the economy.

Land reform

In a statement, AGHAM and RESIST (Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochemical Transnational Corporations) expressed support for House Bill No. 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) and for the House Bill No. 3958 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA). Both bills are being sponsored by progressive partylist representatives from Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Bayan Muna (People First) and Gabriela Women’s Party.

Antonio Flores, spokesperson and lead convenor of Bantay Bigas, said, “The RIDA will pave the way for the development and protection of our rice industry into a self-reliant and sustainable economic element of our national development.”

Dr. Giovanni Tapang, AGHAM president, maintained that GARB is the solution to the age-old problem of landlessness and feudal exploitation in the country.

Speaking at the forum, Mariano said that the Arroyo government must not take pride in the so-called accomplishments of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

He said that of the 3.8 million hectares covered by CARP, only 2.1 million hectares are private agricultural lands. This, he said, is equivalent to only 20 percent of the privately owned lands and 80 percent still remain outside the CARP.

Mariano said that certificate of land ownership awards (CLOA), emancipation patents (EP) and certificate of land titles (CLT) are being confiscated from farmers. “Walang security of tenure ang magsasaka, babalik at babalik sa panginoong maylupa.” (Farmers have no security of tenure, the land will go back into the hands of the landlords.)

Mariano said that it is essential to break up land monopoly control of foreign and local agricultural corporations. He said that while the GARB aims to do this, the peasant mass movement is implementing various levels of land reform.

Mariano said, “Ang masang magsasaka ay nagpapatupad ng bersyon ng tunay at puspusang reporma sa lupa. Kung sapat ang angking lakas, naipagtatagumpay ang kanilang pakikibaka.” (The masses of peasants implement their own version of genuine and thoroughgoing land reform. If they have enough strength, they succeed in their struggles.)

He said that the farmers’ campaign for the defense of land continues and develops amid violence from the state and landlords.

He cited the experience of Hacienda Luisita farmers and farm workers who have asserted their right to till thousands of hectares of land. More than 2,000 hectares are now planted to rice, vegetables and other crops.

In Hacienda Looc, Mariano said that farmers refused to leave even as their EPs and CLOAs were taken. The same is true with farmers at the Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Bukidnon and in Ha. San Antonio Sta. Isabel in Isabela.“Nakakapanatili sila dahil organisado.”  (They are able to stay because they are organized.)

Mariano maintained that farmers should not be made to pay for the land they till. After all, their ancestors were the ones who developed the land, he said.

The peasant leader also cited successful campaigns for the decrease in land rent, decrease in interest of debt, for the increase in the farm gate prices of agricultural products, and increase in the wages of farm workers.

Mariano said that peasants also have asserted their right to organization despite threats and harassments from state security forces.

He said that the GARB is a response to the peasant mass movement’s campaign for land reform. The central objective of GARB is the free distribution of agricultural land.

Mariano said that free distribution will correct the historical social injustice against farmers who till and develop the land as the landlords wait for their share by virtue of pieces of paper. Bulatlat

Women’s Front: Asian Women asserts “food over gold”

July 26, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Over the years, large-scale corporate mining has caused tremendous damage to the food resources of rural communities putting indigenous and peasant women in more difficult hunger and human rights situation. Large mining has caused irreversible damage to the environment — defacing mountains, caused desertification and heavy siltation, damage of water resources and agricultural lands. Yet, most governments all over the world continue to support the mining industry, opt for the interest of mining transnationals over peoples’ rights to resources and the environment.

The Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) is a network of women organizations and individuals in the Asia Pacific region that promotes women’s human rights in the face of globalization, militarization and fundamentalism. Particularly, its Task Force on Women and Environment launched the “Food Over Gold” campaign in 2005 as part of APWLD’s food sovereignty campaign.

The Task Force WEN, convened by Vernie Yocogan- Diano of Innabuyog aims to highlight the impact of mining to women and food sovereignty given the heightened aggressiveness of mining corporations since the World Bank called for the liberalization of the mining industry in the early 90’s. In the previous years, WEN has organized some forums regarding women and mining and mining fact-finding missions. These forums served as venues for effectively analyzing the impact of mining on food sovereignty, on women’s rights as a whole and in the light of human security laws enforced by governments in the Asia-Pacific. In the light of the world’s outcry against climate change and global warming, the Task Force on Women and Environment of APWLD will also concretize its work to respond to this concern.

APWLD’s Task Force WEN held a study session on women and mining in Asia on 17-20 July 2008 in Baguio City to strengthen its resolve for women’s food sovereignty over the destruction of environment at the Igorot Lodge, Asian Institute Management Conference Centre, Club John Hay, Baguio City. Participants came from women’s organizations from Cambodia, India, Thailand, Philippines, Mongolia, Korea and Indonesia to discuss on the international trends in mining, mining and food sovereignty, mining and indigenous women, mining and militarization and the health issues that goes with mining. The study session also looked into the opportunities where women in Asia can bring their collective voice for actions, both in the local, national and international arena. #(NorDis)

‘RECYCLED’ NFA RICE Eating it is dangerous – exec

July 23, 2008

By MONTESA GRIÑO

ILOILO – A Sangguniang Panlalawigan member warned the public against buying and consuming rice sullied by last month’s flashfloods but are being passed off as brand new by unscrupulous traders.

According to Board Member Macario Napulan of the 1st District, information came his way that some businessmen were “recycling” National Food Authority (NFA) rice that got flooded at the agency’s warehouse in Jaro, Iloilo City at the height of Typhoon “Frank.”

This rice is being mixed with good quality rice, said Napulan, a doctor of medicine.
Eating this rice is deleterious to one’s health, he warned.

“Ang pan-os nga bugas (stale rice) can cause food poisoning,” Napulan said.

The chemical preservatives sprayed to the NFA rice while on storage at the warehouse may also have some ill-effects to one’s health, he added.

“Delikado gid ini (This is dangerous) that’s why we advise the public to discontinue eating this kind of rice if they have bought some,” he quipped.

Napulan urged the Iloilo Provincial Health Office (IPHO) to check rice retail outlets in the province.

“Businessmen conducting this illegal activity must be arrested,” he said.

NFA-Iloilo estimated that some 200,000 sacks of its rice worth P271.83 million were damaged by the flood. These were mostly imports from Vietnam and Thailand.

Last week, residents and environmentalists here picketed the NFA office to complain about the foul smell of rotting rice in its warehouse.

The groups scored the NFA for letting the flooded rice rot.

The smell of the rotting rice had made many people living near the NFA warehouse in Brgy. Quintin Salas, Jaro district sick, especially children, according to environmentalists.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. whose house is near the NFA warehouse said he had convinced President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to allow the immediate sale of some 188,000 bags of the damaged rice.

“Someone offered P500,000 for it. So at least we made money out of the damaged goods,” he added.

Gonzalez said the damaged rice had begun to smell and affect residents in the area. He said local authorities wanted to bury it, but he objected because it may contaminate the water.

“That’s the danger to the environment,” he said. “It may sift into the soil and contaminate our water supply.”

Meanwhile, NFA Provincial Manager Hedy Jardeleza said the rice supply in the region, particularly in Iloilo, remains sufficient.

NFA has 379,696 sacks of imported rice available aside from commercial stocks already with traders and households.

The imported rice is sold at public markets as well as at Bigasang Bayan and Tindahan Natin outlets in the province so people can have an alternative to more expensive commercial rice stocks.

Iloilo City and the province have a daily rice consumption requirement of 19,760 bags while Western Visayas still has 650,366 sacks of suitable NFA rice available as of June 2008’s end./PN

GenSan, Sarangani eyed for jatropha production

July 23, 2008

Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 08:54
var sburl4866 = window.location.href; var sbtitle4866 = document.title;var sbtitle4866=encodeURIComponent(“GenSan, Sarangani eyed for jatropha production”); var sburl4866=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4777”); sburl4866=sburl4866.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl4866=encodeURIComponent(sburl4866);GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 July) – With 172,500 hectares of ready expansion area for jatropha production, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today endorsed plans by the Philippine National Oil Company’s Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC) to develop this city and nearby Sarangani province as major production areas for biofuels in the country.

In her visit to the two-hectare jatropha nursery and plantation of the PNOC-AFC and partner firm Jubilee Agri-Advancement Corporation (JAC) in sitio Lanton, barangay Apopong here this morning, the President directed PNOC-AFC officials to speed up the development and expansion this year of the jatropha nurseries and plantations in the area.

PNOC-AFC chair Renato Velasco said this city and Sarangani can offer at least 172,500 hectares for the production of Jatropha curcas, locally known as tuba-tuba.

Velasco said this city’s 140.57 hectares of jatropha plantation may expand up to 10,000 hectares.

He said Sarangani’s current jatropha plantation area of 238.36 hectares may be expanded up to 162,500 hectares.

“These are among our priority production areas for jatropha and eventually its end-product, the biofuels,” he told the President, who was joined by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and local officials led by South Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Darlene Custodio and City Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr.

The President, clad in light blue raincoat, arrived at around 10am here amid morning drizzle. She was met by a cheering crowd of around 300 people, mostly barangay officials and jatropha farmers.

After the briefing, she inspected the jatropha nursery facility and briefly observed several workers harvesting seeds of the plant.

After signing Republic Act 9367 or the Biofuels Act of 2006, the President directed the PNOC-AFC to spearhead the production of biofuels in the country.

Last Feb. 7, the PNOC-AFC and JAC signed a memorandum of agreement on the establishment of a 500-hectare jatropha orchard here and in Sarangani for seedlings propagation and seed production to supply the requirements of plantations in the area.

The JAC, in partnership with farmer growers, has already planted 783 hectares with jatropha in General Santos City alone, which could produce one ton of seeds per week.

Last July 3, the PNOC-AFC and Landan People’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative, a pineapple growers’ cooperative of Dole Philippines based in Polomolok, South Cotabato, signed an agreement to plant jatropha on 5,000 hectares of marginal, idle unproductive lands in the area.

Eco-Global, a Korean biodiesel producer has also expressed interest in establishing commercial-scale jatropha nurseries cum plantations in various areas in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sararangani and General Santos.

Jatropha curcas has been found to have the best potential for biodiesel having a yield of up to 40 percent of oil from its seed.

Based on this estimate, planting 2,000-2,500 jatropha plants per hectare could yield up to five tons of seeds or an equivalent of about 3,000 liters of biodiesel, which is now popular in Europe as an additive to petrochemical fuel. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

P18.25 rice rationed after August

July 22, 2008

BY RANDY NOBLEZA

THE National Food Authority yesterday said it is planning to pull out government-subsidized rice in public markets in September when prices of the staple are expected to soften because of the second cropping and harvest season.

The NFA is selling government-subsidized rice at P18.25 a kilo. As part of the government’s pro-poor programs, poor families are being given access cards which will enable them to buy the cheap rice.

“Low-priced rice should be allotted only for the poor families with access cards,” said Jessup Navarro, NFA administrator.

“By September, if the harvest is high and prices of rice go down, that will be our cue to fully place the P18.25/kilo rice only to those with family access cards,” he also said.

For families without access cards, the NFA is planning to put up additional outlets for its mid-priced rice, said Rex Estoperez, chief of the NFA public affairs office.

The NFA is giving poor families until July 28 to secure their family access cards.

The government has spent almost $1.5 billion to procure 2.3 million tons of rice from Thailand and Vietnam this year, or more than three times it spent ($626 million) last year.

Sen. Mar Roxas II urged the government to divert the $2 billion fund allotted for importing rice to a program giving subsidy and support mechanisms to farmers. This, he said, would increase rice production.

He said there are 1.4 million hectares of irrigated rice lands with two cropping seasons. Even if only 1 million hectares would be added, it would already ease the problem on rice supply, he said.

Roxas said farmers harvest less because they are putting less fertilizers in their lands. This is so because prices of fertilizers like urea have risen three-fold, he said.

Roxas said the Arroyo administration has misspent this year’s P1.3 trillion budget, resulting in a food crisis.

“Kung ilagay lamang sa tama itong malaking pondong ito, kung ilagay lamang sa tama ang aksyon ng gobyerno… itong kakulangan ng bigas ay malulutas sa loob ng isa o dalawang taon,” he said. – With JP Lopez(Malaya)

15,000 ha of Bicol rice lands idle without irrigation water

July 21, 2008

LEGAZPI CITY—Some 15,000 ha of irrigated rice lands in Bicol have been idle for the past years because of broken irrigation systems, according to the top official of the agency.

Inoperative and old the irrigation systems nationwide which had been worn-out by time and damaged by typhoons have reached 368,000 ha of rice lands, roughly equivalent to 29, 440,000 sacks of palay losses in one cropping season, revealed acting Administrator Carlos S. Salazar.

Salazar said the inoperative old irrigation systems around the country are portions of the 1.2 million ha originally covered by irrigation facilities built since NIA was founded on June 22, 1963 during the incumbency of the late President Diosdado Macapagal.

Salazar said it is estimated that a hectare of rice land can feed 40 persons a year, so that, with the estimated number of persons a hectare of rice land provide for the grains requirements, the losses in rice production could had feed some 14,720,000 Filipinos.

He said the Arroyo administration needs some P22 billion for the full restoration of the irrigation systems of the 368,000 ha of rice lands that he said targeted to be accomplished in the year 2010.

Salazar said the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the irrigation systems have been started in 2006 with 22,000 ha of rice lands re-irrigated and another 25,000 ha more in 2007 while this year, the NIA targets to restore 100,000 ha.

He said the national government has to allocate at least P6 billion a year for the next three years to accomplish the target of irrigation systems’ restoration and improve grains production amid looming food crisis.

Salazar said in Bicol region some 15,000 ha of formerly irrigated rice lands lost irrigation water.

He said the costs of restoration of the irrigation systems run in hundreds of millions of pesos in most areas and he cited the Libmanan-Cabusao irrigation system in the first district of Camarines Sur which has an allocation of P259 million this year.

With a firm-up service area of 2,076 ha and 2,183 farmer-beneficiaries, the Libmanan-Cabusao irrigation system’s restoration and redesign would cost the government some P670,6007,3000.

As the operational cost soars with the cost of petroleum, Salazar said the operation of the pump becomes unfeasible and the irrigation service inoperable.

The redesign and restoration of the Libmanan-Cabusao irrigation system comprised a dam worth P275,544,000; diversion canal worth P106,063,300; and extension to 4,000 ha the service area which will cost the national government some P290 million.

Salazar said the Libmanan-Cabusao irrigation system would be replaced with gravity-driven irrigation system from pump-fed irrigation system.(BicolMail)

Four Cordi provinces, food-poor

July 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Four out of six Cordillera provinces are among the country’s poorest with three towns in two other provinces belonging to the poorest 100 towns in the Philippines.

The National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) lists Apayao as the 4th and Abra the 9th among the poorest provinces in the country. Kalinga and Ifugao are 11th and 16th, respectively.

Apayao had the highest poverty incidence in Cordillera with 57.5 percent, followed by Abra at 50.1 percent and Ifugao at 30.9 percent.

Kibungan in Benguet; and Ifugao’s Asipulo, Mayoyao and two more towns are among the poorest towns.

Mountain Province was taken out of the list of poorest provinces in 2006. It is in the 2003 listing.

Poverty, hunger and malnutrition

These provinces are food poor, according to Dr. Micaela Defiesta of the Cordillera Nutrition Council. Being food poor may result in hunger. “Under-nutrition is a consequence of prolonged hunger,” she added.

Defiesta said, the ordinary Cordilleran may not be hungry but if the food intake is largely cereal-based, nutrition may suffer. “It is not the quantity of food intake but the quality and balance of nutrients in the food that counts,” she told the media during the Kapihan with Cordillera Regional Executives (CARE) Wednesday.

Health Regional Director Myrna Cabotaje said more people spend on food rather than medicines,

The annual average family income in the region in 2003 is P157,045, higher than the country’s P148,617. The country’s annual average family expenditure of 124,377 in the same year is higher than Cordillera’s P122,882.

Cordillera’s poverty threshold is at P16,810 per person per year, higher than the country’s annual per capita poverty threshold of P15,057 in 2006.

The country’s annual food threshold is P50,125, while the poverty threshold is P75,285. In 2006.

Government statistics show that around 42,000 are poor in Abra, 7,000 in Kalinga; 6,000 in Mountain Province and around 4,000 in Apayao.

“These are agricultural areas where farmers could grow anything and yet they are still considered food poor,” said Defiesta.

Improved

NSCB statistics showed the poverty situation in Benguet, Mt. Province and Kalinga improved with the decline in poverty incidence of families and population in 2006.

Benguet showed a decline of 2.8 percent and a drop by 18.4 percent in the number of poor families between 2003 and 2006. It is among the 5th least poor provinces with poverty incidence of 8.2 in 2006.

The Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations is set to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. It seeks to reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a (US) dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger, as well. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Tañada assails rice importation

July 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Rep. Lorenzo Tañada, in a meeting with the Liberal party, here said the government’s rice importations to solve the food crisis is but a stop gap measure and evidence of sheer neglect of the country’s agriculture.

As Tañada expounded on the rice price crisis, he said the government committed a mistake of bidding high for rice, which used to be priced low in the world market.

“This government does not listen to the farmers, instead it heeds the advice of the World Bank and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), that the world rice market is stable,” Tañada said. This led to the government’s dependence on imported rice to cover its own production shortfall, he added.

Despite the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) rhetoric that we shall strive for food self-sufficiency, the government keeps importing rice, which Tañada called “gawaing tamad” (a lazy bone’s handiwork).

He added that because of the government’s emergency procurement of rice at a higher price, the world market price of rice rose as a consequence. Other countries blame us for this he said.

Importation not a solution

Tañada, who chairs the House Committee on Human Rights, repeated what farmers’ groups have been telling the government that the global rice market, despite all the liberalization, remains very thin with just about seven percent of global production being traded.

“They said the exchange rate can still be volatile,” he warned as he feared another fluctuation of the peso would have an adverse effect on importation.

The Philippines is the world’s biggest rice importer, according to Tañada. Some 2.2 million metric tons will arrive next year, he said.

Instead of enhancing the agriculture sector, the government thought of importation to solve the problem of low production, according to Tañada.

Lately, the government launched the fertilizer subsidy partnership program that intends to increase rice yield and meet the 17 million metric tons target up to December.

According to the online Bulatlat.com on June 14 quoting the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) “the current rice crisis is a result of hoarding by the rice cartel, loopholes in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, and the government’s policy of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, which is in line with its commitment to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).”

This crisis, KMP said, cannot be solved neither by the government’s aggressive importation of rice nor by the extension of the CARP, according to the same Bulatlat.com story.

High prices

Tañada pointed out the government insists on four major reasons for the increase in the global price of rice and these are tight global rice supply, spiraling petroleum price hikes; climate change and unabated population growth.

He said the country’s palay production went up by only 2.88% in the first six months this year, way below the targeted 6.33%. He added the National Food Administration’s stocks have fallen below the 60-day buffer supply, to about a 12-day supply, which is only 396,000 metric tons. He attributes this to the conversion of rice lands for other purposes.

Irony

Those who produce food are the ones going hungry, according to Tañada. He said almost half of the country’s farmers and fisher folk live below the poverty line. Around 65% among corn farmers are poor, as well as 52% landless farmers; 48% coconut farmers; and 39% among rice farmers are poor, he said.

It is ironic that those who produce food are among the poorest of the poor in this country,” he said. It is also an irony that the country is an agricultural country, but it imports its own staple, he added.

Although Tañada did not want the country’s agriculture to get out of WTO, he said our farmers’ dependence on petroleum-based chemical fertilizers and pesticides is getting them hooked to imported agricultural inputs.

He said agriculture would be an election issue and the next president should look into it seriously. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Diversion of cheap rice behind crisis — traders

July 16, 2008

Claim cheap, imported rice diverted and mixed with local rice

By DEXTER A. SEE

BAGUIO CITY — The diversion of government-subsidized rice to rice-producing areas, particularly Isabela, is the main reason behind the shortage of rice in urban areas, which resulted in the skyrocketing prices of the staple in the past several months.

This was disclosed by local rice dealers and traders who challenged the National Food Authority (NFA) to flood the urban areas with cheap rice during the lean months as strategy to lower the prices of commercial rice.

With the arrival of hundreds of tons of imported rice, the traders and dealers said, its effect is not yet felt as the prices of commercial rice remain at P37-P40 per kilo, the traders and dealers said.

The importation has not lowered the demand as well as the prices in the urban areas because the imported rice is reportedly being brought to rice-producing areas where it is mixed with commercial rice, they said.

Admitting that there was slight decline in the prices of commercial rice in the few days, the rice dealers here said the prevailing prices are still high as the selling price of one cavan of commercial rice is more than P1,200, which, based on conservative estimates, is the right price.

Ironically, they said. the imported rice which is first shipped to rice-producing areas is allegedly being mixed by unscrupulous millers with commercial rice, and the resulting mixture is sold at the prices of commercial rice in urban areas.

The dealers and traders asked the NFA to stop the diversion and flood the urban centers with the government-subsidized imported rice, saying this would force the commercial rice traders to lower the prices and ease the burden of people groaning over high prices of food.

Aside from flooding the market with rice to stabilize the prices, the dealers also called on the national government to invest heavily in irrigation facilities and lower the prices of farm inputs to enable the farmers to have reasonable profit.

Because of the unattractive income in rice growing, they said, the farmers are tempted to sell their lands to developers who convert farms into other purposes.

The farmers said that the P500 perhectare fertilizer subsidy is not an effective solution to the problem because the subsidy is given only on a one-time basis.

With more income that could come as a result of increased productivity enhanced by irrigation and lower prices of farm inputs, the farmers said, they would no longer be tempted to sell their lands to subdivision developers and would stick to farming as their livelihood.(MB)

Food ‘crisis’ dubbed wake-up call for governments in Asia

July 16, 2008

BANGKOK (DPA) — When world rice prices hit 1,000 dollars per ton in May, more than doubling over five months, Asian governments were forced to do something they haven’t done for decades: Take a serious look at their neglected agriculture sectors.

Before the Asian economic miracle of the 1980s and ‘90s, there was the green revolution of the 1960s.

Asia’s green revolution combined the introduction of high-yield seeds for staple crops such as maize, wheat and rice with massive public expenditures on rural infrastructure. Productivity soared and famine became a thing of the past.

Taxes on agriculture, mainly on exports, helped finance a shift in development strategies in the 1980s toward industry and services, building modern economies on the shoulders of the poor farmers.

Today, most agricultural taxes have been dropped. Thailand ended its agriculture export taxes in 1986, and other SouthEast Asian countries eventually followed. China abolished all direct taxation on agriculture in 2006 and provided 5.6 billion dollars to subsidize farmers in 2007, according to the World Bank.

Other governments, such as Thailand’s, have started subsidizing their farmers through price-support schemes, notably for the country’s rice industry, a highly competitive business that has won the kingdom the position as the world’s leading rice exporter since the mid-1960s.

While subsidies are one means of assisting Asian agriculture, economists argued that they are not necessarily the best.

“Price support schemes are often preferred by politicians,” noted the World Bank in its special report on Agriculture for Development, published in November. “The benefits from public investments in agricultural productivity, on the other hand, such as agricultural research and development and rural infrastructure, are less immediate, less visible and thus less appealing to policymakers.

International development agencies such as the World Bank, however, are partly to blame for the recent drought in public investments for boosting Asia’s agricultural productivity.

From 1983 to 2000, official development assistance for agriculture fell by 57 per cent in Asia, according to United Nations’ figures. In those years, national development plans focused on cutting fiscal deficits, promoting export industries and services as well as pumping money into education and health.

“Agriculture was just left behind,” said Shamika Sirimanne, an economist at the UN Economic and Social Comission for the Asia-Pacific.

Then came the so-called “food crisis” of 2008.

“The good thing that’s come out of the food crisis is that governments are rethinking agriculture,” Sirimanne said.

The crisis has proven to be more than a blimp caused by an artificial shortage on the world market. In general, food prices will be on an upward trend as long as oil prices continue to skyrocket.

Food production requires fuel for tractors and transport, and petroleum is an important ingredient for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As long as oil prices continue to rise, so will commodity prices.

To cap food prices, experts said governments should concentrate on improving Asia’s agricultural productivity, which could increase farmers’ incomes while still satisfying consumption.

In the Philippines, the world’s largest rice importer, the government this year allocated nearly 1 billion dollars to boost rice and food production by subsidizing fertilizers, rehabilitating irrigation systems and post-harvest facilities, and introducing new high-yielding rice varieties.

“In virtually every country, there’s a recognition that they’ve got to increase investments in agriculture,” said Robert Zeigler, director general of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, which helped launch the green revolution.

One good place for governments to start is in agricultural research and development.

Public spending on agricultural R and D averaged 0.4 per cent of Asia’s agriculture gross domestic product in 2000, compared with 2.36 per cent in highincome countries.(MB)

Davao activists dismayed over Arroyo’s failure to address rising cost of food, fuel

July 13, 2008

Davao City– Militant groups were dismayed over President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s move to strengthen her political party amidst the growing demands for more affordable food, lower prices of oil from the people.

The groups of Bayan, Kadamay, Gabriela, Transmision Piston, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Bayan Muna and Anakpawis staged a protest near APO View Hotel on June 18, when the President was in the city for the merger of her party, the Lakas- Christian and Moro Democrats (Lakas- CMD) party with the Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino) in preparation for the 2010 elections.

“They prioritize their political ambitions before addressing the economic crisis that is already causing suffering to the people,” said Inday Duterte, the spokesperson and regional coordinator of Anakpawis partylist in the region.

Duterte said the problem on rice that has been going on for months has been making life harder for Filipinos. She added that even drivers and jeepney and taxi operators are suffering from the unabated increase in oil prices. Workers continue to receive measly wages amidst the increasing prices of food and other commodities.

Arroyo graced the Lakas- CMD and Kampi merger in preparations for the 2010 elections. The two were the country’s biggest political parties who currently support the President.

Arroyo said the merger of the two parties would lead to stronger economy.

But Duterte said the President has ignored people’s call for the scrapping of the oil deregulation law which has made life more difficult for Filipinos; the removal of twelve percent VAT in goods and services, the 10-year clamor for a 125 across- the- board wage increase for workers in the private sector and P3,000 wage increase for government rank-and-file workers.

Arroyo proceeded to Davao Oriental the next day for the inauguration of a new market in Mati but Duterte said the President paid no attention to the people there. President Arroyo left after few minutes of checking the new market stalls and didn’t even talk to the people who waited for her to arrive.

“She didn’t want to listen (to the protests) because she wanted to show that there was no economic crisis,” Duterte said.

Jeppie Ramada, secretary- general of Bayan said the merger was not to create policies that will uplift people’s lives but consolidate the influence of landed families and the political elites.

Edil Gonzaga, spokesperson of transport group Transmision- Piston, said his group will hold Black Friday protests each week because of the worsening poverty. The protests will continue until July, in time for the President’s State of the Nation Address. (Grace S. Uddin/ davaotoday.com)

Davao officials demand more rice from NFA

July 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY – City officials voiced concerns over the continuing scarcity of cheap rice in the region, with the National Food Authority (NFA) failing to provide 60-70 percent of the city’s daily consumption.

City Councilor Tomas Monteverde IV said NFA must be having a supply problem because the agency failed to provide rice to the increasing number of people lining up its outlets.

In a special session earlier, the city council requested the NFA to increase the rice allocation in Davao and the rest of Mindanao.

But Lorenzo Camayang, NFA’s manager for Davao City, said NFA has already increased the allocation for the city from an average of 15-20 percent to 30-40 per cent in June.

Camayang said NFA will still increase the rice allocation as answer to the city council’s request and to prepare for the lean months in July to September.

Lemuel Ortonto, chief of staff of vice mayor Sara Duterte, said the city council has yet to receive an update from the NFA regarding their request.

Davao city consumes 9,000 50-kilogram bags per day, or an equivalent of 450 metric tons of rice, according to NFA data. Monteverde expected the NFA to supply 60 to 70 per cent of the city’s rice consumption; or 270 to 315 metric tons per day.

Camayang said the city’s existing supply of 549,254 bags can last 62 days.

The city council had asked NFA to set up two outlets for every barangay (village) to make affordable rice accessible to the poor. Monteverde pointed out barangay Acacia in Buhangin District where people are lining up everyday before the only NFA outlet.

Camayang said NFA has already increased its outlets to 293 from 243 in the city. He promised to put up more outlets once the Department of Social Welfare and Development identify the areas where they are needed most.

City Hall is giving away 250 sacks of rice each week for free. Monteverde said the city plans to increase the weekly distribution to 500 to a thousand sacks but the city government is at a loss where to buy additional supply of rice.

The city distributes two kilos of rice, a can of sardines and a pack of instant noodles, to local residents who cannot afford to buy commercial rice. It has moved its distribution from the Sangguniang Panlungsod building to the barangays. The distribution program covers 700 to 1,200 individuals each week.

Councilor Peter Laviña proposed that the government should expand the area planted with rice and corn; build more post harvest infrastructures such as irrigation and farm-to-market roads to help farmers; and improve credit access to rice and corn farmers as a solution to the present rice crisis.

“All that the government need is political will,” Laviña said.

But he said the city council has to address first the long lines at the NFA outlets before coming up with long term strategic solutions to the rice problem. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)

Editorial Cartoon: Bad Breath

July 13, 2008

Real Stinky

Albay farmers use ‘bunkol’ in rice planting

July 9, 2008

LIGAO CITY — On top of Kawa-Kawa hill in this city, upland rice farmers use “bunkol” tools in planting Dinorado seedlings, a variety of rice that produces first class and very aromatic grains favored by wealthy families in Bicol.

Bunkol is a long bamboo tube with knifelike shape on the lower portion to perforate the dregs, having a slot running its length.

As it pounds the ground, it produces a sound that reverberates far and wide like a talking drum. The Kawa-Kawa Hill has about 236-meter elevation from the ground that provides a panoramic view of the city and beyond.

The hill looks like a giant frying pan overlooking the city. Downhill is the Carmelite Sisters and a resettlement area where typhoon victims and those displaced by the the most recent flashfloods from Mt. Mayon are now safely housed.

Several upland farmers, with their women carrying Dinorado seedlings, were seen sowing in the ‘bunkol’ or ‘hasok’ manner which is primitive way of farming still being practiced by upland farmers here despite the modern techniques being employed by most farmers in the lowland.

The upland farmers work faster with their “bunkol tools” creating a humming sound while the women make “bubod” (inseminating) of the seeds on the holed grounds.

Former Albay Gov. Fernando Gonzalez said the bunkol type of farming is Dinorado rice planting introduced by the upland farmers’ ancestors.

He said ‘bunkol’ is traditionally used as an instrument to communicate with fellow settlers who are situated in distant villages, especially those in hazard prone areas.

BUNKOL FARMING. Up the Kawa-Kawa hill in Ligao City, upland farmers use the Bamboo tools during the planting of Dinorado rice variety. RHAYDZ B. BARCIA

(BicolMail)

Lumads to launch indigenous food security program

July 8, 2008

SUNGKO, Lantapan, Bukidnon (MindaNews) — The Talaandig tribe of Bukidnon will embark on a “sustainable food production program” amid reports the world is facing a food crisis.

Datu Victorino Saway, a tribal leader of the Talaandigs in this town, also invited all other ethnic groups in Mindanao to replicate their own food security program which he described as “patterned from traditional way of producing food crops.”

“In fact,” Saway stressed, “people all over the world can also adopt a food security program similar with what we will do.”

The Talaandigs will launch their program in a religious ritual in September yet, but they have already conducted consultations with Lumad farmers who would participate in the year-long “pilot project.

“As of the moment, we already got the commitment of almost 100 Talaandig farmers who would support and join our food security project,” Saway said.

He identified at least three main agricultural crops that they plan to plant — camote (sweet potato), cassava and corn.

Saway explained that the three crops “will really address the food security the world is faced with because in every stage of the plants’ development, they could be harvested to serve as food.”

The young leaves of the camote, which he said are very nutritious and have medicinal value, could be steamed and served as salad.”

A study on the nutritive value of sweet potato conducted by South Korea’s Rural Development Administration shows that sweet potato contains antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, isoclorogenic acid, and caffeic acid.

Taiwan’s Food and Fertilizer Technology Center shared the information on the RDA study with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development.”

Antioxidants, also identified as anti-aging nutrients are phytochemicals or substances (mostly present in fruits and vegetables), which neutralize the free radicals generated by the body during metabolism.”

Saway said the Lumads also steam and eat the leaves of cassava while waiting for its roots to mature.”

Cassava is grown for its enlarged starch-filled roots, which contains nearly the maximum theoretical concentration of starch on a dry weight basis among food crops.”

Fresh roots contain about 30 percent starch and very little protein.

Roots are prepared much like potato. They can be peeled and boiled, baked, or fried.”

For the Talaandigs and other ethnic groups in Mindanao, corn is a staple. Saway said that in “almost all stages” of corn’s growth, the Lumads could make use of it as food.

“The very young corn can be cooked as vegetable when cobs still have no grains, then the young  grains can either be steamed or roasted before it finally matures.”

He said “there are many other useful uses of corn” aside from being a staple of  the natives.”

Corn components can be found in thousands of products – food, drugs, cosmetics and cleansers, just to name a few,” the Talaandig leader  said.

A year after the launching of the food security program of the Talaandig Saway said they will host a week-long thanksgiving ritual that would showcase a variety of foods produced from the three crops.”

“We shall invite people and show them all the processes that would be involved in producing food for the table from these three crops,” he said eagerly and with optimism that “other farmers in Mindanao, Philippines and even the world could really appreciate and be encouraged to replicate this project.”

He said their food security project “is not costly because we would not be using fertilizers and chemicals.” (Romy Elusfa/MindaNews)

DSWD distributes 200,000 cards for NFA rice allocation

July 2, 2008

Jenny F. Manongdo

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) distributed 200,000 Family Access Cards (FACs) yesterday to poor families, allowing them to purchase government-subsidized NFA rice at P18.25 per kilo at designated stores of the National Food Authority.

The program covers families living below the poverty threshold or those who earn an aggregate of P5,000 per month. It is implemented in the 16 cities and one municipality of Metro Manila.

According to DSWD Secretary Esperanza I. Cabral, they have received a masterlist of 1,013 barangays over the original target of only 911 barangays. Some 700,030 beneficiary-families are targeted to receive the cards.

“The Family Access Cards contain Beneficiary for Government Assistance (BIGAS) bar codes to ensure that these will go to the intended recipients,” Cabral said.

DSWD officials earlier discovered an irregularity in the listing process when some of the names entered in the list of beneficiaries were found to be dead or have moved out of their barangay.

A barangay official in Quezon City was even found to have produced fake access cards which were sold for a certain amount.

The DWSD came up with the BIGAS serial numbers imprinted on top of the FACs to eliminate fraud.

The DSWD-NCR continues its random validation to verify the accuracy of the information generated by the local government units through the use of the General Intake Sheet (GIS), which also contains BIGAS bar codes.

“The National Food Authority can now start pulling out the subsidized rice from commercial outlets and markets in the identified areas whenever they want to and start selling these at Tindahan Natin outlets, Bigasan sa Parokya and rolling stores to holders of FACs,” Cabral said.

Marikina City earlier implemented the use of the FACs in prioritizing public access to the P18.25 per kilo NFA rice.

“The Department is going the extra mile to help the poor and the disadvantaged through its other social welfare and development programs and services,” Cabral said.(MB)

=======================

My Take:

I am hoping that these cards will not be used as a mode of counting the 2010 votes in advance, for whoever.

Women’s Front: The impact of global hunger

June 28, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Groups of women, mostly activists working with rural and indigenous women gathered for a workshop in Hong Kong this June 18, to discuss about women and the global hunger. This is part of the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS) event on its Third International Assembly.

The ILPS is a broad-anti-imperialist organization which was established in May 2001 and has 18 study commissions on various concerns, one of them indigenous peoples, national minorities and nationalities and another women. Innabuyog will be attending to share how indigenous women are hit by the worsening food crisis and the increasing global hunger and poverty, in the women’s workshop.

Women contribute to the production of food for the whole world, whether as direct (agricultural) producers, agricultural workers, or food factory workers. From preparing the land up to bringing the produce to the market, women are part of the process. Between rice planting and harvesting for example, women often have to find extra source of food for the family while waiting for the harvest, making them non-stop producers of sustenance.

According to the US Census International Database, current world population is estimated at 6.7 billion. While there is enough food to feed everyone, an estimate of more than 850 million people are severely food insecure (Ibon, nov 2007, p. 5) and 70% of this are women and girls according the UN World Food Program. Current studies by the World Bank shows that an estimate of 100M more people in each continent are pushed into hunger.

Protesting food crisis

Last year skyrocketing prices of basic commodities such as oil, food and utilities drove the usually peaceful Buddhist monks in Burma to stage protest actions demanding government intervention which in turn reacted by killing and abducting thousands of protesters.

2008 ushered in a number of food riots and protests actions over high prices from all parts of the world—Mexico, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivorie, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

In the Philippines the price of rice, the country’s staple food, rose up to more than 100% in a span of two weeks forcing women and children to line up under a 40-degree Celsius heat of the sun for at least two hours to buy a maximum of three kilos of cheap rice sold by the government.

Poverty

Imperialist plunder of poor and developing nations has exacerbated the conditions of the working class people of the world and tripled the burden of women. Neo-liberal policies have practically crushed the vital industries and agricultural economies of the Third World resulting to the massive displacement of people’s jobs, homes and livelihoods. More than one billion people in the world today, the great majority of whom are women mostly in the developing countries, live in unacceptable conditions of poverty,.

The issue of hunger among women is rooted both in the economic programs and policies implemented by governments as required by need and greed of imperialism and by the feudal-patriarchal culture that prevails in many countries.

Food production in Third World countries is in chronic crisis. Backward agricultural production, land monopoly and an export oriented and import dependent economy has been keeping farmers from producing enough rice for local consumption. Imperialist globalization has exacerbated this crisis by imposing land and crop conversion resulting in less lands available for food production. The existence of food/rice cartels and global warming is also affecting the output of farmers both in third and first world countries.

Feudal relations

The feudal relations in agriculture between tenant and farmer is carried on/mirrored between a husband and his wife. Despite being a major force in agricultural production, women’s work in general is considered only as an “added” force to the men’s work. Their work at home is considered the main responsibility of women and is unpaid because it “comes with being a woman.”

In the simple distribution of food among the members of the family, the best and most nutritious food is given to the men because they do the hard work and that they earn for the family.

So that during crisis women have to divide what they have among the husband and the children first and will make do with whatever is left—if there is anything left at all.

In many countries women, who are not allowed to own lands and other properties in their names, are considered properties of father, husband or brother. The chances of women owning and tilling land have become next to impossible due to globalization policies of land conversion.

Chronic hunger

Families are being poisoned by eating unknown fruits or root crops because of extreme hunger. In the Philippines for example, women and children scavenge for leftovers from fast foods and restaurants to re-cook and eat, this is known as “pagpag”. Governments’ lack priority and interest in providing health care and education services to women instead allots majority of its budget to paying debts to teh IMF-WB and military services. Thus chronic malnutrition, health ignorance and diseases are passed from mother to child.

The loss of jobs and livelihoods in the countrysides resulted in an unprecedented phenomenon of migration to cities and other countries. Women, as family caretakers, have fallen prey to illegal recruitment and trafficking forcing them to work in deplorable conditions and inhumane wages. Women working in sweatshops and export processing zones are more vulnerable to sexual harassment and intimidation because companies who operate as such are not required to comply with labor laws such as minimum wage, union membership, etc.

In a March 8 statement in 2006 , Prof. Jose Ma. Sison wrote, “US-led imperialism pretends to be an advocate of women’s rights while transforming them into chattel for multinational corporations and commodity for the labor and sex markets. US-led imperialism proposes to bring “democratic rights” to women even as it maintains by brute force, in alliance with local reactionaries, economies that create an endless supply of impoverished women to exploit in their own homes or in sweatshops.”

The burden of feeding the family lies in the hands of women—whether there is food or not. Many have resorted to anti-social activities such as theft, drug trafficking, and prostitution, or even pimping their own children to paedophiles, just to survive a hand-to-mouth existence.

Baby making is becoming popular among young women in urban poor communities. Women as young as 13 are offering their wombs for childless couple in exchange for a meager sum of money and food for the next nine months of pregnancy. Chronic food crisis in fishing and agricultural areas gave birth to a kind of prostitution called “palit-bigas” where women prostitute themselves in exchange of a kilo of rice or “palit-isda” for a kilo of fish.

Battered women, when asked why their husbands hit them, would answer “he is hot tempered because we do not have money to buy food.” Although economic crisis is never an excuse for violence in the family, beating women is always a good reason for men to bend their anger and frustration.

Because of the current food crisis people more and more people are experiencing chronic hunger. And because they are hungry it is natural for them to seek ways to feed their familiesb and demand responsibility and action from their governments.

While people are getting hungry we expect that imperialist hegemony and control will take more vicious forms, structures and modes to subvert the people’s will and resistance. It will mount all and every form of assaults to perpetuate itself.

But women are breaking in from the sidelines and are more actively participating in the anti-imperialist movements in their countries. Women realize that only they can liberate themselves. By breaking loose from religious taboos and patriarchal culture, women who comprise half of the world’s people have engaged in various roles to fight and struggle against hunger and violence brought about by imperial hegemony and worldwide fascism and chauvinism.

Women from both the capitalist and developing countries have to join hands in order to fight imperialism’s onslaught and demand responsibility from puppet governments and imperialists for the crisis that is starving millions of people. Their coming together will yield a wealth of data and information on the current food crisis and its effects on women and children. This will provide the context and landscape wherein the anti-imperialist movement is advancing. In like manner, sharing experiences, tactics and strategies will serve as an important link to strengthen the bonds, unity and struggle of the world’s women in the fight against imperialist attacks on women’s life and livelihood. #

Economics and Society: The food crisis as crisis of imperialism

June 28, 2008

By ARTURO BOQUIREN

In an attempt to shift away the blame on the food crisis a.k.a. “food price crisis” from her administration, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tried to misrepresent the food crisis as a world crisis in which the country can do nothing about.

True, the current food crisis is a world crisis. More accurately, it is a crisis of imperialism. It is crisis of an economic system that relies too much on trade liberalization, a policy rammed down on our throats by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank through their paid hacks. Imperialism continually attempts to create a world in which people are dependent on the market because that would imply that corporations rather than the state control public life.

Through a control or dominance of the purse, United States imperialism has effective control on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank even if they are multi-lateral bodies or organizations supposedly established by several nations. The two are the prime instruments of imperialism in promoting free-marketeer economics.

The Arroyo administration is a willing accomplice in the promotion of the erroneous policy and is, therefore, just as accountable as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for the food crisis that we are in. In fact, President Arroyo, during her senate years, was one of the sponsors for our blind subservience to the policies of the World Trade Organization.

The current food crisis that we are in is not simply attributable to the oil price hike. Yes, the oil price hike is contributory but it is not the main cause of the food crisis. For instance, the price of many varieties of rice has risen today by as much as 50% since January of this year but the price of oil has risen by much less. Further, oil is only a small percentage of the production cost of rice.

We cannot blame supply and demand as the principal cause of the price hikes. For instance, during the first quarter, world demand for oil decreased from 86.66 to 85.73 million barrels per day while world oil supply increased from 85.49 to 86.17 million barrels per day. Based on the figures, the price of oil should even decrease. Yet, the price of oil increased by around 20-30% today from January 2008.

Indeed food riots have taken place in many parts of the world. However, the riots did not take place in all parts of the world. Internal policies play a role on whether we will be vulnerable to a world crisis that is the creation of imperialism.

By refusing to adequately assist farmers on their production woes, the Arroyo administration is directly responsible for the food crisis we are in. The developed nations are known for their subsidies on agriculture. Conventional economists like Arroyo frown at subsidies on agriculture but developed nations simply ignore the mental baggage of the conventional economists.

Developed nations subsidize their agriculture as a pragmatic approach to policy: the world has risks, the markets may be working well today but they may not be working well tomorrow. A pragmatic approach to policy bet on two workhorses: the workhorse of the market and the workhorse of the state. If one fails to provide food, the other can fill up the inadequacies or shortcomings of the former.

Markets promote efficiency but they are good in promoting efficiency for goods whose sole value is monetary. Unfortunately, however, the value of a good is not only monetary but they can have intangibles or values that are not immediately quantifiable with monetary equivalent.

Food production, for instance, may not be the option that would provide the highest monetary returns for land. However, if there is no food production, food security will be affected and the food insecurity will be translated into food riots, disorder, and social discord. The end result can be dangerous to society. Market prices do not capture the costs associated with food insecurity when markets make a decision on prices.

Even the fundamental theories of economics say that welfare level is not necessarily lower when an economy is inefficient. Welfare level can even be higher in spite of the inefficiency that may result if markets are not working well. For instance, the goods that society produces may not be those that would yield the highest returns and there can be inefficiency. However, if the set of goods guarantees food security for all, welfare level can be at the highest level.

Another way of looking at the problem is this: markets can be good at allocating resources in terms of short-term efficiency but state leadership, especially if people’s interests control the state, can take a longer-term view. As long as imperialism is dominant, however, it would be difficult for the state to take a longer-term view. State policies will remain free-marketeer. #

(The writer maintains a blog at http://www.geocities.com/arturoboquiren. Comments can be coursed through http://www.nordis.net, artboquiren2040@yahoo.com, and +63927-536-8431)

Tamang hirit sa taggipit

June 22, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

Pila para sa subsidyo sa Davao City

NANGANGATOG ang tuhod ng mga taga-Malakanyang sa pagharap sa kasalukuyang krisis. Pero hindi dahil nalipasan sila ng gutom – sa huling balita natin, tuluy-tuloy pa rin naman ang catering sa Palasyo. Nangangatog ang tuhod ng mga tambolero ni Pang. Arroyo dahil sa takot. Iba’t ibang pandaigdigang ahensiya na ang nagsalita, mula World Bank hanggang Eurasia Group, hinggil sa posibilidad ng pagbugso ng pag-aalsa ng mga mamamayan kung titindi pa ang pagtaas ng mga presyo.

Pero sa kabila nito, patuloy na itinatanggi ng Palasyo ang tatlong kongkretong hakbang na pinaka-epektibong magbibigay ng kagyat na ginhawa sa taumbayan. Hindi maikakaila ang matinding presyur sa gobyerno ng lokal na mga negosyante at dayuhang mga mamumuhunan na magbingi-bingihan sa mga tatlong hirit na ito.

Lumalabas tuloy na ang pagtugon ng gobyerno sa krisis ay hindi nakatuon sa pagbigay ng kagyat na ginhawa, kundi sa pagrenda ng galit ng taumbayan para di mag-alsa.

Ito ang tatlong hirit ng taumbayang gipit:

1. Itaas ang sahod, P125 across-the-board

Maski bote ng softdrink, bibihira na ngayong matikman ni Armando Arroyo, halos tatlong dekada nang nagtatrabaho sa Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc. Luho na, para sa kanya, ang sariling produktong nililikha. Sa halip na lumagok nitong paboritong palamig ng mga Pilipino, itatabi na lamang niya ang iilang piso para pambili ng bigas at pamasahe ng mga anak na pinag-aaral.

Kung tutuusin, angat sa karaniwang obrero si Arroyo, presidente ng Pepsi Cola Labor Unity. Umaabot sa P650 kada araw ang kanyang kinikita (P345 hanggang P382 ang minimum na sahod sa National Capital Region). Pero dahil sa tindi ng krisis sa presyo ng batayang mga bilihin, kapos na kapos pa rin ang kanyang sahod para sa pangaraw-araw na gastusin.

Katunayan nito, isa na lamang sa kanyang mga anak ang nagpapatuloy sa kolehiyo. Para makapag-ambag sa pamilya, tumigil na sa pag-aaral ang dalawa at namasukan – isa sa call center, isa sa water station – sa trabahong mas masahol dahil kontraktuwal at walang kaseguruhan.

Hindi sana mangyayari ito, aniya, kung noon pa man dininig na ng gobyerno ang panawagan ng mga manggagawa para sa P125 dagdag-na-sahod, across-the-board sa buong bansa. “Napakahirap nang kitain ang sahod namin sa walong oras na paggawa, tapos kapag ibinili pa namin, napakaliit ng halaga,” sabi ni Arroyo.

Taong 1999 pa unang ipinanawagan ng KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), militanteng sentro ng paggawa, ang pagsasabatas ng P125 dagdag-na-sahod. Pero idinaan ng gobyerno ang kakarampot na pagtaas ng sahod sa mga Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board, na nitong Abril, P20 ang itinakda para sa mga manggagawa sa NCR.

Labis na ikinagalit ito ni Arroyo. “Para ka lang binigyan ng kendi…Ngayon, kahit siguro umabot pa sa P1,000 ang sinasahod namin araw-araw, hindi pa rin aangat ang aming kabuhayan. Kakainin lang ito (taas-sahod) ng pagtaas sa presyo ng mga bilihin.”

Nakasalarawan sa mga estadistika ang kanyang sentimyento. Para mabuhay nang disente ang isang pamilyang may anim na katao sa NCR, P858 kada araw ang kinakailangang kita o living wage, ayon sa National Wages and Productivity Commission o NWPC noong Marso.

Hindi ito mapupunan kahit parehong magulang ang nagtatrabaho at nakatatamasa ng minimum na sahod. Ayon pa sa Ibon Foundation, sentro ng pananaliksik, mababa sa minimum ang sahod ng mahigit sa kalahati o 58 porsiyento ng mga manggagawa sa bansa: mula P153 hanggang P287 lamang kada araw.

2. Tanggalin ang VAT

Hindi pa kasama sa komputasyon ng NWPC sa living wage ang sunud-sunod na pagtaas ng presyo ng bigas, langis, kuryente, at iba pang batayang bilihin at serbisyo sa nakaraang mga buwan. Pumapalo na ang bigas sa P38 hanggang P50 kada kilo. Nagbabantang umabot sa P80 kada litro ang presyo ng mga produktong petrolyo.

Kaya kahit pa man tinutulungan si Isabelita dela Cruz, manggagawa at lider-unyon sa Triumph International Philippines, ng kanyang asawang OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker), hindi na sapat ang kinikitang P480 kada araw sa mahigit dalawang dekada sa serbisyo. Tipid na tipid ang kanyang paggastos—sapat lamang para mapakain ang pamilya.

“Dati-rati, nakakadaan pa ako sa groseri para makapag-stock nang isang linggo. Ngayon, araw-araw na akong namamalengke…Tinuturuan ko na rin ang aking mga anak na magkasya sa kung ano lang ang nandiyan ngayon. Bahala na ulit bukas kung papaano,” aniya.

Hindi lamang siya naghihinaing sa gobyernong maganit sa pagtaas ng sahod, kundi maging sa gobyernong walang patid ang pagkubra ng buwis. Tulad ng progresibong mga grupo, naniniwala si Dela Cruz na pinakamabilis at sinserong solusyon sa krisis pang-ekonomiya ang pagtanggal sa 12 porsiyentong VAT (value-added tax).

“Malaking ginhawa ang pagtanggal sa VAT kasi todo-todong paghihigpit ng sinturon na aming ginagawa. Matindi rin ang korapsiyon sa gobyerno. Paano ka magtitiwalang bumabalik sa iyo ang buwis na binabayaran mo?” sabi ni Dela Cruz.

Kung aalisin ang VAT sa mga produktong petrolyo, bababa ang presyo ng krudo at gasolina nang mahigit P4 kada litro, at P60 naman sa bawat tangke ng LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).

Makakatipid naman ang mga konsiyumer ng P1.42 kada kWh (kilowatt hour) kapag tinanggal ang VAT sa kuryente. Katumbas ito ng P206 na kabawasan sa bill sa kuryente ng mga kumokonsumo ng 200 kWh kada buwan.

3. Ibaba ang presyo ng mga bilihin

Naniniwala rin si Dela Cruz na kakayanin ng gobyerno, “kung gugustuhin nito,” na ibaba ang presyo ng mga bigas, langis, at kuryente – ibasura lang ang ilang mga batas at patakaran na nagsasapribado sa industriya at nagdederegularisa ng merkado.

Kabilang na rito ang Oil Deregulation Law, Electric Power Industry Reform Act, at importasyon ng bigas.

Para kay Arroyo, iisa lamang ang ibig sabihin ng kabiguan ng gobyerno na itaas ang sahod, tanggalin ang VAT, at kontrolin ang presyo ng mga bilihin. “Hinahayaan ang mga [negosyanteng] dayuhan na igisa tayo sa sariling mantika. Ibinebenta nila ang kanilang mga produkto dito na napakamahal…ang pasahod naman nila, napakababa,” aniya.

Nawawalan na rin ng pasensiya si Dela Cruz. “Ang tagal-tagal na namin iginigiit ’yang P125 dagdag-na-sahod. Namatay na nga ang awtor (ng panukala),” sabi niya, patungkol kay yumaong Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran na naghain sa Kongreso ng House Bill 1722.

Hindi na sila umaasang mapagbibigyan nang basta-basta. Alam nilang kailangang ilaban.

Kaya patuloy nilang pinalalakas ang kani-kanilang mga unyon, sumasama sa mga pagkilos, nangangalap ng mga pirma para sa pagtanggal ng VAT, at ipinaliliwanag sa mga kapwa-manggagawa ang krisis pang-ekonomiya.

“Hindi ito simpleng krisis kundi permanenteng krisis, kung hindi tayo mamumulat at tutugon sa lalong madaling panahon,” pagtatapos ni Dela Cruz.(PinoyWeekly)

Food security of the people in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya being threatened

June 20, 2008

KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya — Food security of indigenous peoples in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya is threatened by large-scale mining operations of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) and Oxiana-Royal Co.

At the same time, the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) brings disunity among the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) residing in the mining-affected areas.

Different organizations like the Philippine Network for the Environment (PNE)-Kalikasan, and the Regional Development Center-Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan (RDC-Kaduami) which is a member of the EED TFIP or EED Philippine Partners for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, joined the Congressional hearing with their partner Save the Valley Environmental Alliance together with the local people organizations.

The Committee on National Cultural Communities of the House of Representatives conducted two on-site hearings and investigations in June 7-9, 2008 in Brgy. Kakidugen and Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya which are the sites of Oxiana-Royal co and Oceana Gold,respectively.

Indigenous peoples expressed their concern about the adverse impacts that these mining operations will bring to the environment and their sources of livelihood and subsistence.

“How do these mining operations address the food crisis of the people? We have been displaced from our ancestral lands in Ifugao and Benguet due to mining operations yet we are still facing the same problem here. We have witnessed the destructive impacts that these mining operations brought to the environment and we cannot allow this to happen again here. The people in these areas already have a sustainable source of livelihood than what these mining companies claim to provide upon entry of these operations,” said Lucas Buay of Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED).

The municipality of Kasibu has a wide forest area, making up about 30% of the total land area. It is proven that almost all crops except mango are suitable in this area.The primary agricultural products of the province are still rice and corn, but this gateway to the Cagayan Valley is envisioned to be the regional center for fruit and vegetable production and spice-based industries.

“We cannot let the entry of these mining companies destroy our lands as Kasibu is considered the citrus capital of the country, with an annual output of about 10 million kilograms of oranges from an estimated 20,000 hectares of citrus plantations. The citrus farmers stand by its position that agriculture is still the sustainable development for the people as our independent study on the success of citrus industry here would show. We do not want mining here,” Alfonso Namuhje II of the Mallabing Tribal Development Association (MTDP) said.

In Nueva Vizcaya, about 40% of its total population of 366,962 (based from the 2000 census) is comprised of IPs. It is home to the Bugkalots, Ifugaos, Ibalois, Gaddangs, Isinais, Ikalahans and Ilongots. Bugkalot, a group of IPs from Nueva Vizcaya, has entered into a peace covenant through a blood compact in 1950s with other IP groups who have migrated to this area after they had been driven away from their ancestral lands.

The areas stated in the mining permit granted to the mining companies are within an ancestral land claim by the Bugkalots who applied for Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC), through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

“We were not consulted by the NCIP during the process of securing the FPIC certificate because we are only migrant IPs in the areas and we are not holders of CADC. But there was no such thing in the provisions of the IPRA that migrant IPs could not be consulted, especially that we have been here for three decades now,” Fidel Opay of the Lower Muta Valley Farmers’ Federation (LMVFF) explained.

The FPIC process is being questioned because of the bribery and deception controversies in securing the certificate. “ Our peace pact with the Bugkalot tribe is also threatened to be negated because of this conflict that arises due to these controversies,” Opay added.

Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu, who was one of the resource speakers during the hearing said, “mining operations claim that they will bring development to the people in Kasibu. What kind of development is this if our people are disunited? We were once a peaceful community, but these issues have divided us because of these operations.” # Sherry Mae Soledad(NorthernDispatch)

Militant groups stage “chain of protests”

June 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Showing their disgust to the Arroyo government of the worsening economic crisis, different militant sectoral groups staged a “chain of protests” in key areas of the city’s central business district, here Tuesday.


RICE PRICE PROTEST. Passersby and people queued trying to buy the cheaper government-subsidized rice listen attentively to women protesters as they explain steep price hikes at the rice section of the Baguio City market Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Clad in apron while holding placards with calls of protest against the issue of rice crisis, members of Innabuyog-Gabriela and the Cordillera peasant group Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taéng Kordilyera (Apit-Tako) held a short program in the rice section of the market, where there was a long line of people trying to buy the cheaper government-subsidized rice.

The women protesters stressed that the “increase in rice importation made the country dependent on other countries to meet the local demand for rice” that eventually led to the condition of speculation and price manipulation.

“We are actually capable of producing our own supply of rice but thousands of hectares of our agricultural lands are now being converted into subdivisions and golf courses,” said Virgie Dammay of Apit-Tako adding that the country’s food security is also threatened by crop conversion where high-value crops such as oil palm and jathropa are substituted for palay.

Members of the urban poor organization Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus) in their lightning rally at Km. 0 lower Session Road, showed their fury on the continuous oil price hikes resulting to the relentless increase in the prices of basic commodities.

“Mahal na ang bigas, mahal pa ang gas, kaunting kita lagas!” read the rallyists’ placards.

Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) Spokesperson Lito Wayas aired the sentiment of drivers and operators for the scrapping of the 12% expanded value added tax (EVAT) on oil and its by-products.

The urban poor sector pinpointed the oil deregulation law as the main culprit why multinational oil companies can have unlimited increases in the prices of their petroleum products.

The militant workers’ alliance Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Cordillera chapter held a petition signing at the People’s Park calling for the enactment of House Bills 1772 and 1962 authored by the late Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran of Anakpawis Partylist.

The said House Bills are to legislate the P125 wage increase of workers and the P3,000 across-the-board wage increase of government employees.

“We intend to get as much signatures as we can before submitting it to the appropriate committee in Congress,” said Nida Tundagui of KMU-Cordillera.


Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Different youth organizations led by Anakbayan also gathered along Session Road on the same day to ventilate the people’s remorse to the present economic crisis, specifically denouncing Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s late pronouncement asking colleges and universities not to increase tuition and other school fees.

“There is no other way to help the students with the high fees than to review and reform the Commission on Higher Education’s (Ched) policies on education and allocate higher state subsidy to education,” said Anjo Rey Cerdeña, chairperson of College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) Baguio-Benguet chapter.

According to the statement of Tongtongan ti Umili “the economic hardship would not only lead to increasing number of poor and hungry Filipinos but also to the widening and ever-growing movement to assert people’s rights and protest against this anti-people regime.”

The protesters all gathered at the People’s Park and held a short program to signify their united call to oust Arroyo. # Cye Reyes(NorthernDispatch)

CBCP head: Gov’t subsidies may worsen poverty

June 19, 2008

MANILA, June 17, 2008—A ranking Catholic Church officials chided today the government’s “subsidy spree,” saying it will only exacerbate poverty in the country.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the motives are laudable, but the mode of implementation may not provide the required results.

The Arroyo government is currently providing financial subsidies, through its “Katas ng VAT” program, to identified poorest of the poor in selected communities.

The subsidies include the one-time lifeline electricity P500 subsidy, the one-time P8,000 cash loan subsidy for junior and senior college students and the P60,000 scholarships grant for incoming college students.

There is also the access card given to the poor to be able to buy subsidized NFA rice.

“The dole-outs are temporary solution. In fact, it may even aggravate the problem of poverty,” Lagdameo said.

Lagdameo said poverty would have been averted somehow if only the government utilized public funds for proper and fitting anti-poverty programs.

“Hindi sana mangyayari kung ang mga salapi na napunta sa mga stamps na na-divert sa pansariling kapakanan ay nai-ipon at napapunta sa dapat pagkagastusan para sa common good of the country,” he said.

“Ang mga magsasaka ay mayroon sanang fertilizers, ang mga tubigan ay mayroon sanang irrigation. Yun ay yung developmental na pagtulong at developmental na solusyon sa problema ng bayan. Kung lalabanan ang kahirapan, dapat sugpuin at pigilan ang mga nagpapahirap,” Lagdameo added.

He said the government must take care to allow the pump priming drive to be reduced to a massive dole out program that could worsen the parasitic mentality of some people and spur mendicancy.

He said there is a greater, more lasting value in teaching the poor “how to fish,” rather than in simply giving them fish. (Roy Lagarde)(CBCPNews)

NorthCot converts 1,000 hectare land to ricefield

June 16, 2008

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/14 June) — To secure food sufficiency in North Cotabato, the provincial government is set to convert a thousand hectares of agricultural lands in Pikit town into a ricefield.

Cotabato Gov. Jesus Sacdalan conducted an ocular inspection of the area in Pikit town this week.

Together with Sacdalan were Pikit municipal Mayor Sumulong Sultan, Administrator Carlos Salazar of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and Director Silvino Tejada of the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Soils and Water Management.

The NIA has been working on a portion of the Maridagao River Irrigation System canal in Barangay Gocotan in Pikit.

The construction of the irrigation canal, according to NIA officials, is already 90 percent complete.

The project is undertaken jointly by the provincial government of North Cotabato, NIA, and Pikit LGU.

NIA project engineers said the system test run is set on June 18.

“The project being undertaken would open up additional rice production areas in support of the food security program of the national government,” said Sacdalan.

While work on the irrigation canal is continuing, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in coordination with the Municipal Agricultural Office of Pikit has started organizing the farmers in preparation for the full operation of the irrigation system.

Acting Provincial Agricultural Officer Engr. Eliseo Mangliwan said farmers from the four service barangays of Gocotan, Tinutulan, Balabac and Nabundas have already formed an irrigation association.

Mangliwan also said that five farm tractors of the provincial government started land preparation work in the area on Thursday.

Other assistance provided for the farmers include 1,000 bags of certified rice seeds from the Department of Agricultural and fertilizers.

“More than our contribution to food security, the project will further strengthens peace efforts in this part of the country,” said Sacdalan. (MindaNews)

Central Luzon has sufficient rice supply

June 13, 2008

CABANATUAN CITY: About 2.4 million bags of rice are stored in National Food Authority warehouses in Central Luzon, ensuring ample supply of the staple during the traditional lean months of June to September, grains officials said on Thursday.

Engr. Nicolas Crisostomo, NFA-Region 3 director, said the volume strategically positioned in the agency warehouses is even supplemented by 1.8 million bags in the commercial sector.

He said that Central Luzon, a rice producing region, “is better prepared” for the anticipated tight supply during lean period.

An inventory, Crisostomo said, showed that the present stocks that include private and households’ would last up to 95 days based on daily rice consumption requirement of 69,700 bags.

Besides existing stocks, the food agency is still expecting to receive a tentative volume of 577,000 bags of imported rice that represent the balance of Central Luzon as 2008 import allocation.

This will add to its buffer stocks, which are intended to meet the consumer demand during these lean months.

On lean months, even agricultural areas experience tight grains supply for lack of harvests, causing commercial rice supply to dwindle and prices to soar again from its already high levels of P32-40 per kilogram.

To prevent this, the government thru the NFA intervenes by releasing a greater volume of its P18.25 a kilo, said Edelino Alejandro, NFA-Nueva Ecija manager.

The NFA sells its rice stocks thru 364 institutionalized Bigasan sa Palengke stalls, 305 Tindahan Natin stores, 87 Bigasan sa Parokya outlets and 8 rolling stores in Central Luzon. In addition, 19 Tindahan Natin stores were put up inside NFA owned compounds to give the public more access to cheaper rice.

”There is no reason to fear a rice crisis this coming lean months as we will inject more NFA rice in our respective outlets accordingly to ensure that cheap and good quality rice will always be available to consumers especially the most needy,” Crisostomo said. Armand Galang

He added that the NFA would intensify all its efforts in shielding the public from the impact of the seemingly uncontrollable increases in oil prices, which precipitates the high prices of commodities including commercial rice.
— Armand Galang(ManilaTimes)

No soaring rice price in Bicol, says NFA

June 11, 2008

LEGAZPI CITY – What happened in Mindanao where the price of commercial rice had gone up to as much as P50 per kilo would not happen here in Bicol, said Edgar F. Bentulan, Director of the National Food Authority in Region 5.

Bentulan revealed that the price of commercial rice in Mindanao had really shot up to as much as P40 to P50 per kilo. He said he had found this out when he visited his family in Cagayan de Oro City recently.

“Because we had run out of rice, we tried to buy a half sack of rice from the local NFA dealer but we failed because every family was allotted only five kilos of rice. So we bought the cheapest commercial rice at P35 per kilo,” he said.

Bentulan said that the price of commercial rice had gone up in Mindanao because traders had been expecting the lean months when the cereal would be in short supply.

“We’re better off in Bicol because the highest price is only P35 per kilo and that is only for Masbate. Here in Legazpi City you can buy commercial rice at P31 to P32 per kilo,” the NFA chief said.

He also assured Bicolanos that the region had enough rice as 150,000 bags of rice from Vietnam were being unloaded at Tabaco port

“Excluding the 150,000 bags of rice from Vietnam, we have in our inventory 821,000 bags as buffer stock which could last for 114 days for the whole region,” Bentulan said.

The former NFA regional director of Region 12 said the decline in rice production in Mindanao could be attributed to conversion of some rice lands for the production or palm oil, sugar and corn. He also blamed climate change for the irregular rice planting season that has resulted in low harvest.

Farmers Kick Off Week-long March for New Land Reform Bill

June 11, 2008

No less than 1,500 farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and peasant women from Southern Tagalog provinces – Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal have kicked off a week long rural people’s march to dramatize their opposition against the proposal to extend the 20-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), and push for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill No. 3059 principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran.

BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

No less than 1,500 farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and peasant women from Southern Tagalog provinces – Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal have kicked off a week long rural people’s march to dramatize their opposition against the proposal to extend the 20-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), and push for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill No. 3059 principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran.

Five of the biggest rural-based groups – Anakpawis, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA or Union of Workers in Agriculture) and Amihan- National Federation of Peasant Women, in cooperation with Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK or Association of Peasant Organizations in Southern Tagalog) and Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog will spearhead the “Lakbayan ng mga Magsasaka para sa Lupa, Pagkain at Hustisyang Panlipunan” (Peasant March for Land, Food and Justice).

“GARB is Beltran’s legacy to the Filipino farmers. It is a landmark piece of legislation that recognizes the class interest and class power of the peasantry,” said Kasama-TK secretary general Orly Marcellana.

Marcellana added: “The rice crisis we are experiencing is proof that CARP has done nothing to solve the landlessness of peasants and the development of agriculture in the country. Since CARP was implemented, more farmers have been driven away from their lands and homes because of massive land grabbing and land use conversions made legal by CARP. This bogus land reform program now being directed by Arroyo is a pest to farmers.”

Lakbayan organizers added that peasant and rural people joining the march are expected to enter the National Capital Region (NCR) on June 8 and would hold a vigil in Baclaran Church on the same day. On June 9, the farmers would march from Baclaran to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) National Office in Quezon City for an anti-CARP and pro-GARB solidarity night. On June 10, the farmers would march from DAR to Mendiola in Manila to demand the rejection of CARP extension, and the passage of HB 3059.

20 years of injustice

“For millions of farmers and rural people, CARP is equivalent to 20 years of social injustice and extreme massacre of peasant land rights. It is nothing but a token symbol of land reform. It is about time to bury this shotgun piece of legislation six feet under,” KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said in a press statement.

“As far as truth- and justice-seeking farmers are concerned, the death of CARP is the new beginning for GARB, a landmark piece of legislation that will entail a thoroughgoing and justice driven agrarian reform program in the country. The free distribution of land to landless farmers is the corner stone of GARB which is a million times superior to the bankrupt character and orientation of CARP and CARP extension,” Ramos added.

Reply to detractors

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap told detractors of GARB and proponents of CARP extension that CARP beneficiaries themselves were victims of the twenty year old bogus agrarian reform program.

“Proponents of this bogus land reform program failed to explain the real score behind thousands of cases of land reform reversals, compounded by confiscation of land titles, thousands of cases of land use conversions, across-the country land grabbing extravaganza and the unexplained P143-billion ($3,240,793,201) taxpayers’ money spent for CARP, which all happened in the 20 years of CARP,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

“Now GARB detractors have the guts to tell the farmers that CARP is meant for social justice despite the fact the CARP failed the tillers of this land over the last 20 years. The ring leaders of the pro-CARP syndicate in and out of Malacañang are obscuring the truth in the name of their respective political and material agenda,” Hicap added.

“These pro-CARP extension hooligans and anti-GARB shenanigans are misleading the farmers for fear of losing their rackets in and out of the Arroyo syndicate,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

CARP victims

KMP’s Ramos and Pamalakaya’s Hicap cited at least 7 big cases in Southern Tagalog where CARP beneficiaries including fishermen were eased out from their farmlands to give way to land use conversion projects undertaken by big landlords, private developers and the government:

• 10,000 farmers and fisherfolk beneficiaries, all CARP beneficiaries are still locked in a battle against Fil-Estate, the Manila South Coast Development Corporation and SM of Henry Sy over 8,650 hectares of prime agricultural lands, which private developers intend to develop into a major eco-tourism hub in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu in Batangas. The Department of Agrarian Reform cancelled their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) to pave way for land use conversion.

• The CLOAs of CARP beneficiaries were revoked by DAR in Hacienda Roxas in Nasugbu, Batangas covering 7,183 hectares of sugar lands to give way to eco-tourism, residential and commercial projects to be funded by foreign and local investors.

• In Hacienda Puyat in Batangas, some 1,800 hectares of land were denied to supposed CARP beneficiaries to pave way for the construction of golf courses and other eco-tourism projects.

• The DAR allowed the exemption and conversion of 10,000 hectares of sugar lands to livestock farms, poultry farms, fishponds in Hacienda Zobel in Calatagan, Batangas, and also gave the right to the Ayala clan to land-grab an additional 2,000 hectares of foreshore land to deny agrarian claims of farmers and fishermen in 19 out of Calatagan’s 24 barangays (villages).

• In Carmen and Silang towns, DAR approved the conversion of 2,500 hectares of land into golf courses and residential areas by the Ayala land group of companies, denying farmer beneficiaries of their rights to utilize prime agricultural lands which they tilled for generations.

• In Aguinaldo Estate, Tartaria, Silang in Cavite, 2,000 farming families were displaced from their farmlands, after DAR gave the go-signal for investors to convert the 197- hectare estate to commercial subdivision and a high-end golf course.

• The DAR also facilitated the conversion of 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo in Canluibang, Laguna into an array of subdivisions and golf courses, and victimized 457 families, whose CLOAs were cancelled by the agrarian reform agency.

They said from 1994 up to 2007, about 1,302,375 hectares of prime agricultural lands have been placed by DAR under conversion and such terrible act led to the massive land reform reversals with the cancellation of land titles all over the region. The group said around 173,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands in the region have been already been converted for commercial purposes; leaving tens of thousands of supposed to be CARP beneficiaries landless.

In 1993, Pamalakaya, KMP and the Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra or Center for Genuine Agrarian Reform) held a preliminary assessment of CARP from 1988 to 1993, and one of the most striking results of the program was revealed – a total of 10,958 certificate of land transfers (CLTs), 9,133 EPs and 2,303 CLOAs were cancelled by DAR covering 32, 041 hectares of prime agricultural lands affecting over 22,000 CARP beneficiaries.

The groups said while farmlands belonging to farmers are perpetually targeted for landgrabbing and conversion under CARP, lands leased to foreign corporations like Dole and Del Monte Philippines remained untouched. It said foreign corporations managed to keep 220,000 hectares of agricultural lands because these lands were devoted to production of export crops.

P100 billion for CARP extension

Meanwhile, another GARB co-author, Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teodoro Casiño, said the Filipino people will be forced to fund a fatally flawed agrarian reform program to the tune of not less than P100 billion ($2,266,288,951) in taxpayers’ money if CAR is extended.

“Merely extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657) without correcting its fatal defects will cost the Filipino taxpayer P100 billion ($2,266,288,951) in wasted funds,” Casiño said.

The Bayan Muna party list lawmaker recalled: “ In my interpellation…of Rep. Edcel Lagman, sponsor of HB 4077, he candidly admitted that the so-called “necessary reforms” in the proposed CARL extension bill do not address what even he admits are the flaws and glaring loopholes in RA 6657.”

“Lagman even called said loopholes “congenital defects” that have sabotaged the government’s agrarian reform program for the last 20 years,” Casiño added. The Bayan Muna solon said the most glaring of these defects in RA 6657 that HB 4077 fails to correct are:

1. The limited coverage of agrarian reform:

• The exclusion of lands that are technically classified as either forest, mineral, commercial or residential land even if these are tenanted and actually used or suitable for agriculture (Sec. 3)

• The exclusion of lands devoted to livestock, swine and poultry farms, fishponds, prawn farms, salt beds, fruit farms, orchards, vegetable and cut-flower farms, cacao, coffee and rubber plantations (Sec. 10)

• Allowing the conversion and exclusion of lands already awarded to farmer beneficiaries from the program (Sec. 65)

• Allowing landowners to retain their vast landholdings by instituting open-ended retention limits of five hectares for the owner plus three hectares per child, whether natural or adopted, legitimate or not (Sec. 6)

• Provisions for alternative modes of compliance as outlined in the definition of agrarian reform (Secs. 3 and Sections 29-31) on corporate and commercial farms that allows landowners to enter into stock distribution schemes, leasehold, joint venture,leaseback arrangements and other ways of going around the physical distribution of land to the ownership and control of the farmer beneficiaries. This leaves farmer beneficiaries confused, easily manipulated and exploited by landowners and vulnerable to corporate
backroom maneuvers.

2. A payment scheme that keeps farmers in a continued life of servitude, paying for the land at 6 percent interest per year for 30 years (Sec. 26). Thus, most farmer beneficiaries end up illegally mortgaging or selling their land just to pay the landowner or the Land Bank
.
3. A valuation and compensation scheme (Sections 17 and 18) that is so contentious and complicated that it opens a myriad of opportunities for graft and corruption. Thus, DAR is seen as of the most corrupt government agencies.

4. A “voluntary offer to sell” and “voluntary land transfer” scheme (Sections 19-21) that gives landowners the upper hand in imposing their will on their former tenants, with the connivance of unscrupulous DAR officials.

“These are the very reasons why the implementation of the agrarian reform program has taken a world-record breaking 20 long years with distressing results. What RA 6657 could not achieve in 20 years it can never achieve through a five year extension as long as these provisions remain. A CARP extension bill that fails to correct these most glaring defects is a bill that is more deplorable than the existing law it seeks to extend,” Casiño said. Contributed to Bulatlat

Cartel, GATT-WTO, Gov’t Polices to Blame for Rice Crisis

June 11, 2008

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that the current rice crisis is a result of hoarding by the rice cartel, loopholes in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, and the government’s policy of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, which is in line with its commitment to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that the current rice crisis is a result of hoarding by the rice cartel, loopholes in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, and the government’s policy of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, which is in line with its commitment to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

This crisis, KMP said, cannot be solved neither by the government’s aggressive importation of rice nor by the extension of the CARP.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, early last week, certified as urgent House Bill No. 4077, which provides for a five-year extension for CARP. HB 4077 provides for an allocation of P100 million ($2.27 million at the June 6 exchange rate of $1:P44.14).

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law was signed in 1988 and was intended to be in force until 1998. CARP expired in 1998 but was extended for another 10 years. It expires again on June 10 this year.

Based on DAR data, only 3.96 million hectares out of the target 5.16 million hectares, or 77 percent, under CARP have been redistributed.

Usec. Gerundio Madueño of the Department of Agrarian Reform supported the extension of CARP saying that extending CARP will help improve the country’s rice production.

“By completing CARP, it will help in the increase in the production of rice ‘cause the farmers will be given the basic rural infrastructure, technology, the training and support for their cooperatives and training for themselves,” Gerundio said.

But Madueño’s claim was belied by KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos. He pointed out that the country had experienced rice crises under CARP. This, he said, does not give a promising picture of CARP’s supposed ability to solve the rice crisis.

“When did we first experience a rice crisis?” Ramos said. “That was during FVR’s (Fidel V. Ramos) time (as President). 1994-1995. CARP ended only in 1998, before it was extended for another 10 years. That means that experience shows that CARP is not a solution to rice crises.”

The rice cartel

“In fact, during FVR’s time, rice supply increased by 350 percent, but prices nevertheless soared,” he added. “Why? Because of the cartel.”

The rice crisis of 1994-1995 was largely a result of the partial privatization of the National Food Authority (NFA), which then procured only 0.5 percent of total palay (unhusked rice) production. Private traders took advantage of the situation, creating an artificial rice shortage by hoarding supplies. This caused rice prices to jump by 90-100 percent.

The present rice crisis is also largely traceable to the activities of a rice cartel, known as the Big Seven, whose members, aside from being able to channel production to itself through a network of traders, are also allowed to import heavily.

The members of the Big Seven have been identified in Senate investigations as Joaquin Go Soliman (JOMERCO Trading), Pio Sy Lato (PNS Grains Center), Ramon Ang Syson (Family Native Supply), Gil Go (Jocardo Merchandising), Leoncio Tan/Janet Tiu (Leoneco Merchandising), Santos See (Manila Goodyear), and Teofredo Co (Teofredo Trading).

CARP and GATT-WTO

The depredations wrought by the rice cartel are aggravated by CARP’s loopholes and the government’s implementation of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization policies in accordance with the GATT-WTO (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization) framework.

The Philippines is now the world’s top importer of rice, according to the socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation – a far cry from its status as a self-sufficient, rice-exporting country in the 1980s. IBON Foundation’s research also shows that the Philippines devotes only 4 million hectares to rice production – contrasting sharply with Vietnam, with more than 7 million hectares planted to rice, and Thailand which devotes more than 10 million hectares.

Lands planted to cash crops are exempted from CARP. The owners of lands planted to rice and corn, which are subject to CARP, have found a way out of the government’s agrarian reform program through crop conversion. This contributed to the decrease in rice production.

Under the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), which the Senate ratified in 1995, the Philippines has been forced to meet a minimum rice importation requirement, whether or not the country has sufficient rice yields. The Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), which Ramos signed into law in 1997, aims for further privatization of the NFA and increased private-sector participation in rice importation.

The NFA is mandated by law to procure at least 12 percent of palay production. From an average of 7.95 percent of palay production in 1977-1983, the NFA’s procurement dropped to 3.63 percent in 1984-2000 and from 2001-2006 was only 0.05 percent of total production.

Rice imports have increased from 257,260 metric tons (MT) in 1995 to 1.7 million MT in 2006. This year, the government has secured the importation of some 2.2 million MT of rice from Vietnam, Thailand, and the U.S. – the country’s largest volume of rice importation since 1998.

“The government’s ratification to the GATT meant full liberalization of Philippine agriculture, particularly the emphasis on export crops and, on the other hand, rice importation,” Ramos said. “That is why in 1994, when the GATT was being deliberated upon in the Senate, we put forward a position urging them to reject it.”

The government’s Medium-Term Agriculture Development Plan (MTDAP) aims to reduce rice and corn production from 5 million MT to 3.1 million MT. Meanwhile, the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2004-2010 aims for “the development of 2 million hectares of new agribusiness lands through multi-cropping, the cultivation of idle and marginal lands, the expansion of fishery production in unutilized offshore and inland waters, and expansion of the product mix through high value crops and value-adding through innovative packaging and agro-processing.”

The reduction of rice production and the country’s increased dependence on rice importation have placed the people more and more at the mercy of private traders, who control rice prices.

HB 3059

The KMP is calling for the passage of House Bill No. 3059, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill. Principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran, the bill provides for free distribution of land to farmers, the expansion of agrarian reform coverage to include all agricultural lands, and government support services for beneficiaries. Bulatlat

The long wait

June 10, 2008

As rice prices in Mindanao start to soar this week, consumer lines in NFA outlets are getting longer. In Bankerohan public market, the wait can start as early as one in the morning just to be included in the first 500 persons allowed to buy NFA rice in the store for the day. The first 375 consumers can buy maximum of two kilos each of Vietnam variety which costs 18.25 pesos per kilo and Thailand variety of NFA rice which cost 25 pesos per kilo. The remaining 125 consumers is left to buy a maximum of two kilos of the Vietnam rice variety, which consumers consider not as good as Thailand rice. Although consumers wait for long hours, the distribution ends as early as 9 A.M.. Those who cannot avail will have to go back the next day. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Real solutions to the global food crisis

June 10, 2008

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation held a summit in Rome this week to focus global attention and action on the food price crisis that is currently hitting the world’s poorest people.

The World Development Movement highlighted the role of unfair trade rules and the rush to biofuels as key contributors to this emergency and called on the EU and US to stop their drive to open developing country markets to their agricultural produce, thereby undermining local farm production.

Benedict Southworth, director of the World Development Movement said:

“The food crisis is hitting poor people hard. This week the FAO’s attention must focus on the root causes of the crisis and long term solutions. A good start would be for the EU and US to stop relying on World Bank funding schemes for agriculture and biotechnology fixes. Instead the EU and US must halt their drive to open poor countries’ markets to their subsidised agricultural goods, which destroys local food production and so creates dependency on foreign imports. The price of these imports is sky-rocketing and as such is a clear contributor to the current global emergency.”

Watch a video here from Antonio Tujan, international director of the IBON Foundation in the Philippines, talking to WDM director Benedict Southworth about how donor aid and trade policies have contributed to the rice crisis in his country.

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The World Development Movement is part of a coalition of over 230 civil society organisations from around the world that have urgently written to the leaders of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. In the letter, we argue that the Doha round of trade talks, as currently proposed, will intensify rather than alleviate the food crisis by making developing countries more dependent on food imports, the prices of which are now sky rocketing. (IBON)

Rice dole in schools a burden to parents

June 9, 2008

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:59:00 06/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The government’s food-for-school program has become more of a burden than a relief to parents and teachers because of poor distribution, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a report, the COA said students, parents and school officials had to spend personal money to transport rice doles from National Food Authority (NFA) drop-off points to their schools and that much of the staple they received was of “poor quality.”

In the 24 schools in Northern Mindanao (Region 10) alone, students had to shell out P30 each while parents and teachers P500 to P1,000 each to cover various expenses in transporting sacks of rice from NFA delivery points to their schools last year, the COA said.

In the Ilocos (Region 1), 825 parents of schoolchildren entitled to receive the rice doles were found to have spent a total of P83,240 just to haul the supplies from the depots.

The Department of Education first launched the program during school year 2004-05 in a bid to arrest the rising incidence of malnutrition among public elementary students and improve school attendance.

Under the program, each elementary student is provided a kilo of rice each day for five days. Sometimes, school officials prefer to distribute five kilos of rice on a Friday or the last school day of the week to save time.

In its 2007 report on the DepEd, the COA said P36.9 million worth of rice (or 1,808,127.39 kilos) was delivered by the NFA to selected drops instead of the designated storage areas of 456 school-beneficiaries nationwide.

It noted that this was contrary to the agreement between the NFA and DepEd, which stated that the food agency must ensure that the rice allocations were delivered directly to the schools. In cases where rice was delivered to drop-off centers, the NFA will shoulder the expenses for the final stretch to the school recipients, the agreement stated.

Losses to pests, thieves

But a survey conducted by the COA revealed that in most instances, the rice subsidies were instead delivered to drop-off points “selected at will” by the NFA delivery personnel on grounds of poor roads and long distances.

“Noncompliance with the DepEd guidelines … resulted in unnecessary expenses and waste of time and effort by concerned school personnel and parent-pupil beneficiaries,” the COA said.

It further noted that the lack of adequate storage rooms in target schools in at least eight regions, including Metro Manila, exposed the rice doles to pests and thieves.

A total of 101 sacks and 23 kilos of rice were spoiled by pests while 62 sacks and 25 kilos of the staple were lost to robbers.

Rat-infested warehouses

Some of the rice allocations were found kept in rat-infested and dirty, dilapidated school bodegas and in storerooms with heavy-duty padlocks.

Thieves carted away 435 kilos of rice from Julian V. Antonio Elementary School in Bolo, Masbate City, last year. Four elementary schools in the Division of Capiz reported that 290 kilos of NFA rice worth P5,800 were stolen.

Robbery incidents were also reported in schools in Bohol, Eastern Samar, Dipolog City and Mutia town in Zamboanga del Norte, among others. The COA described the loss as minimal.

Not iron-fortified

The government spent double for the program last school year from P1.3 billion covering school years 2004 to 2006 to P3.4 billion, it noted.

The COA also found the NFA to have distributed some P4.5 million worth of rice (238,625 kilos) that was not “iron-fortified” and was “poorly sealed” in six regions last year.

These areas were identified as Albay and Catanduanes in Bicol (Region 5); Antique and Capiz in Western Visayas (Region 6); Leyte and Eastern Samar in Eastern Visayas (Region 8); Zamboanga Sibugay in Western Mindanao (Region 9); Davao del Norte in Southern Mindanao (Region 11) and all the division offices in Caraga (Region 13).

Under the provisions of the program, one sack of 50-kg iron-fortified rice should be repacked into one-kilogram bags to facilitate distribution. But if the rice variety was not available, the NFA could give out well-milled rice as a substitute.

“Most deliveries by the NFA were well-milled rice instead of the iron-fortified rice required under the program guidelines,” the COA said, “weakening the attainment of the program’s objective of improving the nutritional status of the pupil-beneficiaries.”

Insects, weevils and other pests, staple wires and a foul smell were detected in the rice distributed in Eastern Visayas. Schools there had been asked to return the staple.(PDI)

KMP: Blame the cartels, not the farmers

June 8, 2008

DAVAO CITY (KMP-SMR/04 June) — “To blame the farmers over the soaring price of rice in Mindanao is an insult to injury for it is the farmer’s sector that suffers most from this worsening rice crisis. Instead of blaming the poor farmers, it should expose the rice cartels, the hoarders which are in government or protected by high-ranking government officials,” decried Pedro Arnado, vice-chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao Region.
He added, “The DA should be ashamed for its obvious bias against the sector that it should serve, for passing on the blame to the people when it should in fact hang itself for its inutility to solve the rice crisis, just like its big boss in Malacanang.”

Arnado pointed out that farmers in Mindanao, as in the rest of the country are victims of the abusive buying prices set by big traders, stressing that most farmers do not own the land they till, are victims of usury and of wanton neglect due to the lack of government subsidy to farmers.

He also dismissed as “ludricrous” Paras’s justification that “tech-savvy” farmers who are able to access the internet can actually base their prices with imported rice.

“The DA is completely out of touch with the reality farmers live in. He must realize that majority of the Filipino farmers, if not all, are in far – flung areas with no access to even the most basic social services, much more to the internet. He is merely confusing us in order to cover-up the real issue that rice cartels are the powers-that- be in the agriculture business and they are well protected by this corrupt government,” Arnado said.

KMP said the DA and the Malacanang has played a deaf ear to the farmer’s calls to stop rice importation, to increase the National Food Authority’s procurement of locally produced rice, to stop the agri-business plantations such as banana and jathropa and other extractive industries that has encroached on agricultural lands.

The farmer’s group, which members around 200 local farmer-organizations in the region, said there was no genuine effort from the side of the government to solve the rice crisis.

Arnado said the poor’s limited access to NFA rice, the absence of a price ceiling and the aggravating food security of the people is proof that the government has done nothing but to save face and “deceive” the people through band-aid solutions.

Arnado challenged the DA saying that instead of blaming the poor, it should rally beside the Filipino people in calling for genuine and long term solutions to the rice crisis embodied in the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, or House Bill 3059 that is pushing for free land distribution to farmers.

June 4, 2008

Reference:
Pedro Arnado
Vice-Chairperson
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – SMR

Despite surplus, Bukidnon not spared from high rice prices

June 8, 2008

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/5 June) – Despite a 5,000 metric ton surplus in rice production, Bukidnon has not been spared from soaring rice prices, the Provincial Agriculture Office said.


“We have no control of the commodity flow,” Engr. Alson Quimba, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) told radio station DXDB Wednesday.

Quimba said the province has a surplus of at least 5,000 metric tons with a 92-percent sufficiency level projected up to the end of June but added this wasn’t a guarantee against high prices.

Rice prices here increased to P46 to P48 this week from last week’s P36 and P38. The same trend is also observed in other provinces in Mindanao.

Quimba said the government is trying to cushion the impact to farmers through subsidies. The provincial government, he said, has allotted at least P40 million to be made available to rice farmers for production. But how the fund would be distributed, he said, is still under study.

Quimba said the provincial government has organized a price coordinating body that could look into possible price violations.

He stressed the importance of defining the distinction between “stocking” and “hoarding” to monitor rice supply and demand.

Quimba also said the situation calls for farming using organic methods and inputs, noting that commercial fertilizers are so costly, ranging from P1,600 to P3,200 per bag.

Aragasi Pasandalan, provincial manager of the National Food Authority (NFA), told Central Mindanao Newswatch on June 3 that they were preparing to put up a 24-hour checkpoint in Malaybalay City to monitor the flow of grains and other commodities in the province.

Earlier, Agriculture Undersecretary Jesus Emmanuel Paras had accused farmers of “speculation” or holding on to their harvests in anticipation of higher farmgate prices. But farmers’ groups hit Paras, stressing the government should pursue rice cartels and hoarders.

Pasandalan said one of the factors that severely caused the soaring rice prices is low supply. He cited that by this time, only smaller parts of rice fields are yet to be harvested.

Ermedio Abang, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provincial officer, backed the idea, saying supply of rice is low especially that traders from outside Bukidnon buy the product at a higher price.

In Valencia City, Engr. Gerson Salvan, city agriculture officer, said in another DXDB interview that there is no rice cartel or hoarding in Bukidnon’s rice-rich area dubbed as the “City of Golden Harvest.”

Based on joint DTI and NFA monitoring, Abang said, they found no hoarders in Valencia City.

But Salvan admitted the prices of rice in the city have soared even if they have at least 10,000 hectares of irrigated land.

He said farmers are selling palay at a higher price because of the increasing cost of farm inputs. He said traders, too, want to sell rice outside the province because buyers in those areas are willing to buy at a higher price.

The city government, he said, has realigned at least P4 million for farmers’ subsidy in reaction to the problem.

He admitted that allotting for farmers’ subsidy was not prioritized this year even if there were infrastructure projects that help the farmers.

Salvan said the city council has eyed passing an ordinance putting up the city’s food security fund of at least P15 million per year.

He said they would also request for more NFA rice retailers or outlets in the city. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

NFA rice now sells P25 a kilo

June 6, 2008

THE National Food Authority (NFA) will no longer sell NFA rice at P18.25 a kilo.

Starting Thursday, NFA rice will cost P25 a kilo in all public markets in the city, according to NFA Misamis Oriental Victoria Duray.

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“We are heeding the clamor from the general public for us to sell good quality rice,” Duray said.

Duray said the grains they are selling for P25 per kilo is from Vietnam but of better quality than those sold at P18.25 a kilo.

She said the new rice will be available to the public at three kilos per family.

“Actually it is the public who is demanding that we sell better varieties of rice,” Duray said.

The announcement came as prices of commercial rice varieties went up to as much as P54 a kilo starting this month.

NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said in Manila they ordered the distribution of the P25 a kilo rice to curb speculative retail pricing.

Estoperez said the medium price rice is distributed in the cities of Davao, General Santos and Cagayan de Oro where the price of rice is unusually high.

“We know that speculation plays a role in pricing. For example, when the price of fuel goes up or when we report that a drought or typhoon affected harvests, retailers may think about raising prices,” Estoperez said.

Subsidized rice, sold at P18.25 per kilo, will still be available in far-flung barangay of Cagayan de Oro and other provinces, according to Duray.

“We assure the public that the P25 kilo of NFA rice is a higher grade variety, yes it also came from Vietnam but it is a mid primed commercial grade,” Duray said.

Trinidad Abragan, a vegetable vendor, was taken by surprise when she saw the huge tarpaulin announcing the new price of NFA grains in Cogon market Thursday morning.

Abragan have to dip for more money when her turn came at the NFA retail store.

“Bug-at na baya gyud na nga presyo pero wala man mi mahimo kay dili man pud namo makaya ang tag P44 nga kilo. One day one eat na mi ana (It is really expensive but it is better than buying rice at P44 a kilo. We will eat only once a day with that price),” Abragan said.

Prete Digna Pandan, of barangay Iponan, agreed. She said they are still lucky that the increase was not too high.