By ADELA DEYAEN WAYAS
At the close of the congress around 600 farmers from the said provinces trooped to the Burgos Plaza in Vigan City on March 25 to reiterate their call for P128 per kilo buying price for unclassified tobacco leaves. This is the average price the peasants of Region 1 including Abra are asking in exchange for their labor and capital invested.
Last year, STOP Exploitation asked for P95 selling price however companies continued to buy tobacco products at lower prices. At present buying prices are pegged at P78/kilo in Ilocos Norte, P85 in Ilocos Sur and P80 in La Union.
According to re-elected Chairman of STOP Explotation Avelino Dacanay, peasants have long been suffering the brunt of low buying price of tobacco. He said businessmen undervalue the tobacco produce.
He added that because of the cheap tobacco price, most of the peasants do not have enough capital for the next rice crop season.
Dacanay explained that there is a continuous increase of prices of the basic needs, services and oil including fertilizers and pesticides which are used in planting, but, peasants do not receive the sufficient amount for their production. He said this only shows that businessmen control even the prices of the farmer’s products.
For as long as there is monopoly in agriculture, selling price of products will remain cheap said Kilusang Magbu-bukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Spokesperson Anthony “Ka Tonying” Flores.
He said that the existing semi-colonial and semi-feudal social structure of the country will continue unless the tilling peasants together with the workers unite.
Ka Tonying reiterated that a genuine agrarian reform will be achieved through the unity and struggle of peasants and workers as government will not hand this in a silver platter. “Ang mga mamamayan ang siyang magtutuwid ng daan at hindi ang Malacañang,” (The people will be the ones to straighten the path and not Malacañang) he added.
It is a big challenge for all the peasants in Region 1 and all over the country to continue to fight against monopoly of agriculture. Ka Tonying also said the peasants should not be deceived by the dole out programs of the government. It is a challenge for STOP Explotation, he said, to strengthen their ranks and expand to the widest public. He said that KMP supports programs and activities that are pro-poor.
Meanwhile, Dacanay said that they had met Edgardo Zaragoza, Administrator of National Tobbaco Administration (NTA) last year. According to him, Zaragoza promised to improve the services for the benefit of the farmers. Dacanay said that they are hopeful Zaragoza will fulfill his promise.
The two biggest cigarette companies in the country are the Fortune Tobacco Corporation and Philip Morris. Dacanay said that these two companies have the capacity to control the price of tobacco.
Thus, he challenged peasants to strengthen their ranks and continue to mobilize the wide peasantry in advancing for genuine agrarian reform. He said the government has been blind and deaf to the plight of the peasants despite the fact that they provide the food set on the table.
The struggle for genuine agrarian reform
During the congress, STOP Explotation has re-ehoed also their commitment to fight for genuine agrarian reform. Dacanay said the group must continue to educate themselves on the national situation and issues that affect the peasants. He also said that they must organize and encourage other peasant workers to join STOP Exploitation.
Anakpawis Representative Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano said that over the years there has been no progress on the situation of peasants. The subsidy of the government alloted for agriculture does not reach most of the farmers of the country, he added.
He said that under President Benigno Aquino III, agriculture has not been prioritized. If there is subsidy, it is not enough for the basic needs and social services of the people. Worst, Mariano said like all allocations, subsidies are subjected to graft and corruption by politicians.
Mariano also said that land grabbing and land conversions are becoming rampant in many agricultural areas in the country. Peasants are driven away by land owner’s devious scheme of changing land use, he emphasized. Rep Mariano said that public lands are being offered to foreign investors and individuals instead of distributing it to the poor.
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government, does not address the problem of landlessness. He said that CARP never did. He added that under the program, the landlords have intensified their ruthless deception of the working peasants.
He added that Certificates of Land Transfer, Certificate of Land Ownership Awards and Emancipation Patents are wantonly being canceled. Because of this, peasants have to face the effects of land conversions and ejections. CARP never intends to distribute lands to the peasants that have been long tilling the lands.
The administration of PNoy according to Mariano has no clear action to implement genuine agrarian reform. He cited the case of Hacienda Luisita.
Meanwhile, Mariano said that the Congress has started their deliberations last February 16 on House Bill 374 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB). He said the GARB pushes for free land distributions to the peasants and nationalization of agricultural lands.
Ka Tonying reiterated that the solution to the issues that the peasants are now experiencing is a mass movement for social transformation.
“Ang pagwakas sa tuloy-tuloy na pagsasamantala sa uring magsasaka ay nasa kamay mismo ng mga magsasaka at ng masang Pilipino,” he stated.
“Ang matuwid na daan ay wala sa Malacanang dahil ang kilusang masa ang magbabago ng lipunan kasama ng uring magsasaka,” he added. # nordis.net