LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (Apr. 25) — Farmers from six Cordillera provinces today forged a declaration against bilateral agreements on agriculture with other countries, particularly the impending ratification by Senate of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and the country’s membership to the World Trade Organization (WTO), here.
Some 1,000 poor farmers gathered for the Cordillera Peasant Summit at the San Jose Gym in Buyagan, here after a motorcade from the venue of the Cordillera Day in Baguio City, and vowed to campaign against the liberalization in agriculture and called for the abrogation of WTO, which they claimed has been the culprit behind many farm woes not only in the Cordillera and the Philippines but also in other third world countries.
“We affirm our stand that the policy of liberalizing agriculture is oppressive, immoral, anti-farmer and anti-rural people, and a sellout of our sovereignty and patrimony,” the La Trinidad Rural Peoples’ Declaration read.
The farmers are apprehensive of the effects of impending bilateral free trade agreements with WTO-member countries China, Korea, India, Australia, and the US. “These will add to the people’s miseries,” they said referring to the agreements.
Federated under the regional peasant alliance Apit Tako, or the alliance of peasants in the Cordillera homeland, both vegetable and rice farmers from Baguio City, Benguet, Abra, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga and Apayao signed the declaration, that also called for the peoples’ continuous participation in developing a responsive agricultural system, which is not destructive to the environment.
“We shall continue to prevent the destruction of our lands by large-scale extractive projects,” the farmers’ declaration read, largely referring to large-scale mining and dam projects, which has inflicted economic dislocations in the Cordillera.
Fernando Bagyan, convener of the regional Pambansang Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Liberalisasyon sa Agrikultura (Pumalag) said the price of palay and legumes remain low due to the introduction of hybrid varieties and the importation of rice and legumes resulting from bilateral trade agreements.
Benguet farmers suffer the direct effects of trade liberalization, according to Bagyan. He noted that imported temperate vegetables from China has started to flood the Philippine market even before the 19 agricultural agreements with that country. “Tuloy-tuloy a maluglugi dagiti ag-gargarden ti Benguet,” (Vegetable farmers of Benguet are continuously losing) Bagyan said of the resultant effect of the GATT-WTO.
Benguet Board Members John Kim and Wasing Sacla agreed with the farmers that WTO did not benefit any farmer. Although Sacla said he is not against WTO, he said it ran over the livelihood of many farmers.
Also in the peasant summit are representatives of Pamalakaya, a national alliance of fisher folk, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis Party-list whose 4th nominee Fernando Hicap spoke in behalf of Rep. Rafael Mariano. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS