Farmers to protest low tobacco price


VIGAN CITY — The Solidarity of Peasant Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) with other tobacco farmers’ associations in the Ilocos Region and Abra in protest to the low tobacco price prepare to raise their issues and concerns with the newly appointed administrator of the National Tobacco Administration (NTA).

President Rodrigo Duterte recently appointed Dr. Robert Seares of Dolores, Abra as the new NTA chief.

“We have many important issues to raise before the NTA. Among these concerns is the low tobacco price for the past three years, the onerous provisions under the contract growing programs, and sub-standard irrigation projects funded by the agency,” said Stop Exploitation Secretary General Zaldy Alfiler. A dialogue between Stop Exploitation and Seares is scheduled on March 27.

According to the peasant leader, the P2 to P4 increase during the 2015 Tobacco Tripartite Conference is insufficient to offset the increase of prices for basic needs and farm inputs.

“From 2015, the daily cost of living for farmers in the region increased by P26 based on the inflation rate released by the government, making our demand to raise the price of tobacco proper and just,” explained Alfiler.

Alfiler added that the slump in tobacco prices and unfair conditions under the contract-growing program of tobacco companies and trading centers has also increased the burden on farmers.

Stop Exploitation is currently undertaking consultation meetings to unify farmers in the different tobacco producing municipalities of Ilocos, La Union and Abra, and to send representatives for the March 23 protest actions in front of the big tobacco trading centers in Ilocos Sur and to the March 27 dialogue with Dr. Seares.

“We urge Administrator Seares to consult with the negotiating panel of the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines on how the industry can genuinely improve the lives of farmers in Ilocos”, said Alfiler.

Alfiler disclosed that his organization expects about 150 farmers from different tobacco-growing areas in Ilocos-Abra to join the March 23 protest actions. # em>


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