There is massive loss of livelihood. Hunger is becoming widespread. Forced migration and violence against women are increasing in different forms and levels.
This is a simple synthesis of how rural women in the Cordillera describe the current level of economic crisis in their own communities. This is a clear impact of globalization to agriculture and the Arroyo government’s persistence in realizing its commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Hunger and poverty in most villages in the Cordillera are more prevalent as compared to the survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) in the fourth quarter of 2005 where close to one of every five Filipino households is hungry for at least one day while more than half rank themselves poor. In its survey, the SWS found 17% of Filipino families, equivalent to 14 million people went hungry at least one day. Using the Ibon Foundation study, Rep. Crispin Beltran of the Anakpawis Partylist says that eight out of 10 Filipino families or 83% of the national population are poor. The percentage of Filipinos mired in poverty is even higher (87%) if international standards are used to gauge poverty which is those living on US$2.00 a day or P105.00. A study made in 2005 by TNS Worldpanel, a known Briton research institution, said that poor Filipino families belonging to class E families or those earning below P7,500.00 a month, are doing much belt-tightening for food, water and needs to maintain basic hygiene like soap.
The Arroyo government insists that only 24.7% of Filipinos are poor or are living with a P12,267.00 income. In early January, Arroyo ordered the release of P35 billion in government savings to subsidize rice and noodles and finance projects for the poor. Arroyo waited for this high level of hunger and malnutrition before making a palliative action. Obviously, she was temporarily pacifying the mounting anger of hungry Filipino families who have long cried for jobs and economic security. This is an insult to indigenous and peasant women, to rural food producers and to toiling women who don’t simpy rely on dole-outs. This approach of Arroyo in alleviating hunger and poverty is only miring the poor Filipinos to deeper dependence to relief.
Indigenous peasant women in the Cordillera continue to struggle for the recognition of their land rights and support to their agricultural production under a genuine agrarian reform program. Obviously, this problem will not find answer under the Arroyo government. Her agricultural program has basically upheld a clear policy bias against traditional, indigenous crop production technology. The thrust of Arroyo’s government on agricultural development is based on the prescriptions of imperialist globalization. Essentially, she has turned over the country’s agriculture and food production to the agro-chemical transnationals like Monsanto. The Philippine government has become the agent of agro-chemical companies in promoting modern crops and production technology. High-input farming in rice, corn and vegetable breeds, first developed during the Green Revolution is agressively being promoted by the Arroyo government.
The Arroyo government went on to promote farming with new hybrids of rice and corn, fruit and vegetables whose seeds are viable only on F1 (first generation) use. This orientation of agriculture only resulted to other problems which further buried peasant families in more debts and deeper poverty. Inherent to commercial agriculture is the high cost of production given its high-input dependency. Peasants receive no subsidy from the state beyond introduction stage. Credit facilities for agriculture like banks and cooperatives are not accessible to many peasant families and no viable credit alternative is provided by government or NGOs. Thus peasant families are dependent on moneylenders or supplier-financiers who impose usurious terms of credit or abusive terms of production-sharing.#
Continued next issue