Letters: Securing food for the primary food producers and for the nation

By VERNIE YOCOGAN-DIANO
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CORDILLERA WOMEN’S EDUCATION ACTION RESEARCH CENTER (CWEARC)

4 August 2016

Change is coming. That change however will hardly happen for rural women and other main food producers – the peasants, indigenous peoples and fisherfolk, if land grabbing that is perpetrated by the state and corporations is not decisively stopped.

That was the resounding statement of local, national and international organizations promoting food security and sustainable agriculture that convened on 1 August 2016 at the UP Balay Kalinaw through the initiative of the Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP).

The food security advocates resonated that change will happen if the Duterte government shifts away from a neo-liberal or business-as- usual mindset of development to people-oriented development.

The gathering defined and refined particular hopes and demands to the Duterte government in securing the country’s agriculture, food security and the main food producers.

Conversations focused on the impacts of land grabbing perpetrated by the state and corporations to the country’s food security. Data shows that since 1991, a staggering 2,784, 913 hectares of agricultural lands of the country, were lost. The case studies on the experiences of the Palaw-an, Tumanduk indigenous peoples, peasant and indigenous communities in Mindanao and rural women in Central Visayas pointed to the conversion of agricultural lands to commercial, industrial, residential, bio-fuel production and mining as reasons for the loss of agricultural and forest lands.

The reality of land grabbing in the Cordillera region, is facilitated principally by laws on land and natural resources with utter disregard for indigenous peoples land rights but in favor of corporate profits and control. Such laws facilitate the favorable entry of corporate projects such as energy and mining.

The presented studies pointed out to the enactment of laws on land and natural resources for the rapid loss and conversion of agricultural and forest lands. Among these are the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (1988) that legalized the control of multinational corporations and agribusiness over vast tracts of agricultural lands in order to evade land transfer to actual tillers;

Sec. 20 of the Local Government Code that allows local government units to reclassify 5-15% witin their municipalities; Revised Forestry Code and Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) which displace indigenous peoples off their effective control and access to the forests within their communal lands. The IFMA allows industrial forest plantations which is detrimental to communities and beneficial to corporations.

The Mining Act of 1995 which gives as much as 81 thousand hectares to a mining application for as long as 75 years, and quarantees eviction, water and timber rights for mining corporations. From its enactment until the 1st half of 2010, more than 1 million hectares of land were already covered by mining applications, threatening thousands of indigenous peoples, peasants, fisherfolks and other rural communities. The Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) was used to favor corporate projects instead of guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples as seen by the flawed process of the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).

In all the case studies where corporations like plantations, mining and other commercial projects took over agricultural and forest lands, none was a good case in favor of food security. Affected indigenous peoples and peasants claimed that their poverty even doubled or tripled with the takeover of mining and plantations of their lands. Those who were disinformed about the contract growing scheme of oil palm plantations in Palawan and Bohol, ended up more indebted hence poorer than before.

International organizations expressed their solidarity against the drive for profits by landlords, agri-business and capitalists, that endanger the lives and livelihood of peasants, indigenous peoples and other rural food producers.

Niklas Reese of the Philippine Bureau-Germany expressed that land grabbing is inherent to capitalism. He underscored that for change to happen, there should be strong social movements, people should not only rely on government and people should continue to hold government accountable.

The change that guarantees food security of the people is measured when the following demands are fulfilled by the Duterte government: certify the immediate passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill; review and suspend the Land Use Conversion Order; review related laws and stop the expansion of agri-business plantations, corporate mining and energy projects that threaten land rights and food security of communities. Concrete steps in nationalizing key industries should be defined and fulfill the needs to industrialize the country.

Henceforth, increase the budget allocation for government subsidy and support for agriculture and fishery production; stop the smuggling of rice and agricultural products; develop a Rice Industry Development Program; promote natural, GMO-free and sustainable agriculture that leads to an eventual phase-out of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, however impose immediately a ban on aerial pesticide spraying.

The statement also sought from the Duterte government to stop the use of militarization in managing the internal peace and security issues.

The statement was accepted by agencies and officials of the new Duterte government who came for that occassion, the Department of Agrarian Reform, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), Office of the Cabinet Secretary and House Committees on Food Security and Agrarian Reform. # nordis.net

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