By Andrea Lim
The Philippines’ agricultural system of production and productivity will only improve through the implementation of genuine land reform.
This comes into focus as President Aquino appointed former Senator Francis Pangilinan as Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
Evidently, this arrangement is only another political convenience for an Aquino ally out of power.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas secretary-general Antonio Flores said Pangilinan’s appointment only creates another bureaucratic layer in the government’s agricultural portfolio.
It also makes it a clear sign that the farmers can’t expect a major change in the current agricultural trade liberalization policy of the Aquino administration.
IBON Foundation Executive Director Jose Enriquez Africa says that while farmers and farm workers suffer from poverty, agricultural transnational corporations continue to rake in profits.
Sad to say, Aquino’s agricultural trade liberalization policy has resulted in the country’s productivity decline. Aquino allots only 5.9 percent of the national budget to agriculture annually.
Facts on Agrarian Reform in the Philippines
- 1.2 million hectares of agricultural land have not been distributed to farmers despite the implementation of former President Cory Aquino’s agrarian reform in 1988.
- Cory Aquino signed RA no. 6657 otherwise known as Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in her attempts to “equally distribute land among landless farmers.”
- CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) with Extension and Reforms is an extension of CARP that was passed in 2009 and still continues to deny farmers their rights to land.
- CARPER has proven to be anti-farmer, pro-landlord as reported by militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), especially in areas dominantly controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
- President Noynoy Aquino allots 6.9% of the national budget to the agriculture sector, which includes compensation for landlords for the land placed under CARPER.
- Land distribution under CARPER entails that land must be paid for by farmers under a given amount of time. Failure to do so will result in the confiscation of the said land and ineligibility of a farmer to acquire any more land.
- KMP details cases, particularly in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, where the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) distributes land by means of a ‘raffle.’ Land is often located in far-away barangays/towns, and occupied by another farmer, leading to dispute among them.
- Farmers in Hacienda Luisita have been continually assaulted by police and ‘goons’ under the private army of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, while the mainstream media continues to ignore their plight.
- KMP maintains their call for ‘genuine agrarian reform’ through the implementation of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
- GARB ensures swift and free land distribution to landless farmers, nationalization of lands operated by transnational corporations and expropriation of commercial farms, confiscation of landholdings acquired through reprehensible schemes, and a comprehensive program for the protection of lands of beneficiaries and the promotion of cooperatives and support services.
Source: Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
The Department of Agrarian Reform today expressed confidence that it will be able to meet its targets of monumenting the lots and installing the beneficiaries of the Hacienda Luisita estate in the next few weeks. Monumenting involves the physical delineation on the ground of the beneficiaries’ CARP-awarded land by placing boundary markers or mujons.DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Paruñgao said as of the April 7 report from the DAR provincial office 5,947 farmlots, or 86.32 percent, have already been monumented. He added that out of these monumented lots, 4,478 or 65 percent have farmer beneficiaries already installed.
The DAR is confident that its self-imposed deadline for monumenting the lots and installing the farmer beneficiaries, which it has set for May, will be met unless outside forces obstruct its activities. Paruñgao also said that the DAR has been encouraging and assisting beneficiaries build organizations so that DAR would be more effective and efficient in channelling support service programs and resources of the department. “We are assisting the farmers beneficiaries in making their transition into owner-cultivators”, Paruñgao said, “We are helping them to organize themselves so that they are able to better organize farm production and marketing of their produce.”
He added that these organizations will also make it easier for the farmer beneficiary to access credit because the financial institutions are more inclined to provide loans and financial support to organizations than to individual farmers The provincial office of the DAR has been able to assist farmer beneficiaries create organizations in 8 of the 10 barangays in Hacienda Luisita. Paruñgao likewise said that in addition to helping the famer beneficiaries organize themselves, the DAR has encouraged the voluntary physical grouping of contiguous lots so that scheduling of use of farming machinery such as tractors would be more rational.
Meantime, Paruñgao said that the monumenting of the lots would have gone faster and therefore would have resulted in more farmer beneficiaries being installed had there been no instances of harassment of survey teams and ‘mujons’ being destroyed. He said that 5 persons were apprehended last April 3 while harassing a survey team that was plotting out a lot in the area. These perpetrators, allegedly members of AMBALA, were subsequently released pending the filing of appropriate charges. Paruñgao added that their act of harassment could constitute obstruction of agrarian reform. DAR has speeded up the monumenting of the lots in Hacienda Luisita. They have added survey teams to so that they will be able to install all the beneficiaries before the deadline and in time for the rainy season when farmers usually plant crops. He said that the act of obstructing the implementation of agrarian reform prescribes a penalty of 6 to 12 years imprisonment.
Despite strong typhoons during the last half of the year, Filipino farmers were able to produce a total of eighteen point forty four million metric tons (18.44 million MT) of palay in 2013.
“The highest ever recorded in Philippine history.”
This was according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala who led the recognition and awarding of top producers of palay via the National Rice Achievers (NRA) awards held at the Newport Performing Arts, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City, on March 14, 2014.
Although three percent short of the 100% rice production target, overall yield was posted at 97% based on a 20.04 million MT target.
Alcala commended the local chief executives of rice-producing provinces, municipalities and cities for continuing to partner with the government in its drive to attain food self-sufficiency. He also expressed his gratitude to farmers and irrigators associations, and agricultural technicians for their invaluable contribution in attaining the historic feat.
“We value your role in ensuring safe, nutritious, affordable, and sufficient supply of food for the Filipino people,” he said.
He also challenged the provincial governors to implement programs that will increase farmers’ production and income.
In addition, he campaigned for the integration of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in rice to improve the quality of palay in preparation for intense domestic and global competition, as well as the use of appropriate modern technologies to boost overall production.
Alcala reiterated President Aquino’s directive on his 2nd State of the Nation Address: “Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi na tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan. Ikalawa, ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-aangkat. Ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin.”
A total of P117.42 million (M) worth of project grants and cash prizes were given out to the 2013 NRA awardees consist of 12 provinces, 48 municipalities, 10 Irrigators’ Associations (IAs), three Small Water Impounding System Associations (SWISAs), and 496 Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs). Each province received P4 M worth of project grant, while municipalities received P1 M worth of project grants. The IAs and SWISAs each received P1 M and P500, 000 respectively, while AEWs were given P20, 000 cash prize each. (Marlo Asis/Oda Rodriguez, DA-AFID)
By VL Domingo
BEFORE transplanting, the farmer must have to buy at least 10 bags of mix-grade fertilizers for basal application to have a good crop. Because he has very little capital which he also borrowed from the usurer he buys only 1/3 of the plant requirement.
Furthermore, the price of fertilizer as an input initially went up by 136% (and it continues to increase), since only a few Chinese traders are importing it, thus again limiting the supply of fertilizers which provides the plant energy for productivity.
This is specially so when planting during the dry season. During the rainy season, somehow the farmers get free nitrogen from the air every time there is a thunderstorm that initiates nitrification. Meanwhile, his soil has gotten acidic after more than 50 years of chemical farming which was first introduced in the l960’s by ESSO (Standard Oil).
Not a few government employees lost their lives and jobs in the fertilizer subsidy scam for lack of supply.
A Regional Director in Lasam and a DA employee who knew too much about the scam were murdered. The DA employee with his wife, and his only daughter who just graduated from college and a niece working with him as his assistant in their house in Bulacan were murdered in the middle of the night, wiping out the whole family.
When palay is harvested haphazardly, you again lose 15-20% of what you should harvest from your backbreaking efforts in farming. This is after the farmers spend a lot of money on chemicals to protect their fields from pests and diseases.
Again they need to contract at least 20 harvesters. The practice then is they get 10% of your harvest. This is after shaking off easily 5% of the rice particles to the ground and stepping on them. They could save this if they could only hire harvesting machines. But there is none.
Worse, even the harvesters like the transplanters are gone.
In the barangays, there are two kinds of farm workers. There are those who want to harvest only while the others want to transplant only.
The practice of harvest sharing is gone; hence you could no longer be assured of harvesters on time. You have to wait for harvesters from the other barangay that may still have some harvesters. Meanwhile, the field rats are slowly harvesting your palay if you did not put a rat trap before harvest. There is then a need to rent a combined harvester.
But for the moment only a few towns have it because it is very expensive. It is too costly for an investor. Only a federation or a cooperative could afford to buy it and rent it out to its members if they could raise the funds which is usually not available from banks and the government is not also investing on it.
Availability of Warehouses
Again the supply chain of the grains industry is broken by the lack of investments in warehouses. Only traders are investing and making windfall profits at the expense of the farmer-producers. This is where the trader starts making his profits. This is where the cartels come in.
Only a few own rice warehouses in Metro Manila and they connive to dictate the price in the market.
Recently, they even hired persons and provided them money to queue for rice just to dramatize that there is no rice supply anymore from the NFA warehouses. The NFA then had to release their buffer stocks which some unscrupulous NFA employees usually keep and allow it to rot and sell to traders for a clean profit and recorded as losses in the books of the agency.
Farmer cooperatives have been given funds to build their own warehouses, but their trading funds were mismanaged leaving them bankrupt. So in effect there is no supply of warehouse space even as they stood in the middle of the fields like “white elephants” in the middle of brown and barren rice land for lack of irrigation.
This happens because of subsistence farming as the norm that now needs to be transformed into commercial farming with highly professionalized farmers federation to do the business of planting and trading palay and rice to supply the needs of the country and be truly self sufficient (not by statistical manipulations) .
Supply of Post-Harvest Facilities
Easily, 5-10% is lost in rice milling using dilapidated rice mills that are very inefficient. Part of the rice supply to the consumers is being given to feed mills for livestock instead of human consumption.
Drying in the highways shows the Jurassic way of drying palay which leads again to additional losses that could easily compensate for the 10% shortage that is reported every year.
Drying and Milling are not integrated because of the absence of investors. The government could easily invest on this through farmer federations but is not being done. If the government shifts its policy to invest instead of subsidizing, it will be easier for them to monitor the funds instead of using government money in anomalous subsidies and programs.
The millions of funds allocated by DA Regional offices for training monitoring, evaluation and support services can be realigned with the Government Social Investment Funds (GSIF) to finance the construction of post-harvest facilities, provide trading funds for the importation of inputs and buying palay from their members with incentives and selling to the government those that they could not sell for Quedan, stockpiling and buffer stocking.
GSIF is what is needed in completing the infrastructure in commercial rice production instead of just the farm to market road which others call as “road to my farm” among Congressmen and Senators.
Politics of Rice
The absence of rice supply in the market will topple down a President or he will lose his bid for re-election. This is the politics of rice. Thus a sitting President (with or without him knowing it actually puts a tacit approval to his/her henchmen to DALPO (Do All Possible) and allow even smugglers to bring in rice just to make sure that there is no shortage. Most often also this will be tolerated by his henchmen to keep them in power and in their high positions in government.
Thus, the previous President tolerated this sad reality through her Secretaries of Agriculture. The standing order then was to produce or tolerate smuggled rice (to insure supply in the hands of the retailers). Along the way, sometimes things go wrong in this “modus operandi”.
One popular businessman lost his life when he told the President about a smuggled rice and the President without knowing the implication since it is a complex reality in food security, had the goods confiscated. The businessman was then shot (as a double crosser) in his house probably even in front of his wife by telling on the smugglers.
The “Hunger Game” which starts with government lies that there is sufficient supply, has now graduated into a “Supply Game” which the government has failed to address by subsidizing creating anomalous transactions has now graduated into a “Killing Game”.
Like history, these anomalies in the P300 billion grains industry will keep on repeating itself from administration to administration until Kingdom Come unless there is a paradigm shift in dealing with this killing issue.
The first is to listen to what the farmers say (through their credible leaders) as a solution to this recurring problem of rice supply which starts from lack of palay supply, lack of seeds, lack of water, lack of inputs, lack of farm credit, which continues because of inefficient transplanting, harvesting, milling and warehousing thus making their unit costs higher than the world price which now results to unbridled smuggling of rice in all ports of the country.
The second is for the government to invest (not subsidize) in the commercial ventures of farmer federations and similar associations to now operate their own agribusiness.
The third is to allow the price of palay and rice to seek its own levels. When the farmers earn more because of free enterprise (not with government control) but with government investments, the farmers will produce more and better quality palay because they will now have regular incomes from the commercial venture in which they participated. They can then buy more manufacture goods and invigorate the manufacturing industry to be able to pay higher wages and can now afford to buy a more expensive rice directly sold to them by the farmers through cluster farming.
This will then enable the farmers to produce rice at lower unit cost, provide the supply needed by the traders and generate the local and national economy. With more incomes from palay farming then they don’t have to sell their seeds, keep some stocks for their use and will not become a consumer of rice themselves as claimed by many technocrats who are not even “walking the fields” just to justify their claim of certifying importation.