By NORWIN GONZALES
BAGUIO CITY — This late February, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, toured Baguio-Benguet to promote their book “Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka.”
The book tour started with the University of the Philippines-Baguio, moving on to the Mt. Cloud Bookshop in Casa Vallejo. The final leg of the tour was in Benguet State University where it was launched alongside two other books, “Ecological Way of Producing Strawberry” and “Primer on Organic Fertilizer Production.”
Angie Ipong, a writer, agroecologist and former political prisoner was tasked to explain the contents of the book, and share the experiences of farm-workers in Hacienda Luisita and their bungkalan.
She stated landlessness as the key factor that harms food sovereignty and food security. That 7 out of 10 farmers have no land and that no agrarian reform program is in place since the CARPER expired in 2014 under the Aquino administration.
“Even if there were previous land reform programs during the Magsaysay, Marcos and Aquino regimes, there has been no genuine agrarian reform, until today,” she said.
On the country’s food security, she said, “it is very necessary since the farmers are the ones tilling the land, that they should be also the first to reap and consume the fruits of their labor.”
She said that if there is no land and that the farmer does not own the land he tills; food security will remain an unfulfilled dream for farmers.
“How will farmers increase productivity when he does not control the land, the technology we have is backward and the policies of the government remain anti-farmer?” she asked.
She cited the import dependent and export oriented trade that has been in place for decades and the push for agro-business fruit corporations as some of the examples of the “neoliberal” policies the government is pushing for.
The Bungkalan is a project of the farmers meant not only to till the land, but to assert the farmers’ right to land. It is a mass movement to reclaim the land from landlords and increase productivity and self-sufficiency for farmers’ gain.
It combines the two ideas of food sovereignty, that is assertion of land and food security, that is increasing productivity.
Ipong shares that the Bungkalan is not only confined to the 6500 hectare Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita but has found its way into other provinces such as Negros where farmers tend to their bungkalan especially during Tiempo Muerto or “dead season” where they have no work in the sugarcane fields.
Ipong also commented on burning social issues such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law and the Charter Change of the Duterte administration.
She said under the TRAIN Law, prices of farm inputs are increasing in reaction to oil price hikes.
“The TRAIN Law is anti-poor, anti-farmer, it will not help the farmers, which is what they truly need,” she said.
She highlighted the need for organic farming in the advent of the TRAIN Law wherein farmers can nurture the land and make it productive without destroying the environment.
“We don’t need a Charter Change. It will have many bad effects on farmers.”
For instance, the 100% foreign ownership provision will only aggravate landlessness among farmers.
“It will only intensify the neoliberal attacks on land, crop trade among others,” she said.
She said that Filipinos must resist these attacks with all forms of protest.
An idea would be urban gardening, which she said should rely on mass movement. This entails farming of vegetables and other food crops for self-sufficient consumption. This is, according to her, maximizing the means that are within our control.
Her six years in prison taught her the ropes of urban gardening. She said she planted 31 varieties of vegetables in a small patch of land the prison warden permitted her to use. Her experience is also crystallized in a book “Gardening Behind Bars.”
This, along with Bungkalan, serve as manuals for poor Filipino farmers, not only on the how-to’s of farming but the why’s and how’s of asserting what is rightfully theirs. # nordis.net