It is a consensus among small farmers, it is an article of faith, that the Aquino-Roxas leadership has been the worst, the most brutal rather, to those doing agriculture on a small-scale basis. The small farming sector to which I belong rightly believes that all previous Presidents, from Mrs. Aquino to Mrs. Arroyo, treated the small farming sector better than the No-Ro Bros.
A demarcation line, though. Through their policies, the Aquino-Roxas Bros have treated the agri-business giants royally. The agri-business giants are part of the huge conglomerates that have found their golden years in the Aquino-Roxas government. There are very few independent agri-business entities that have found success. But they are limited to food and meat processing, mostly in Metro Manila and Central Luzon, and agricultural plantations down south.
That distinction has to be emphasized. Agri-business is the domain of the oligarchy, while small-scale farming has been the graveyard of small farmers like me and my neighbors. When people in charge of policies talk of agriculture, it is mostly about us and our historic neglect and misery.
So when Mr. Roxas reportedly detailed a Bukid Revolution program in San Miguel, a Bulacan farming town, a few days back, those in the peasantry immediately saw through his hoax, a hoax that deserves the tag “the greatest hoax of the 2016 presidential campaign.”
In the current campaign, Mr. Roxas is the last person who should speak about a “Bukid Revolution.” Now matter how loftily put and articulated, you readily know that Mr. Roxas is just pandering to small farmers and lying through his teeth to get their votes. The Aquino-Roxas “Daang Matuwid” has been the most torturous path even taken by small farmers in our recent history. It will never veer from that brutal course, given the anti-farmer bias of Mr. Aquino.
Agriculture, as a sector, is also an afterthought to Mr. Aquino. After the pampering of the agri-business giants, the part of the agriculture sector that is most important – extending support to small farmers – is not just within the radar of the president and the president’s alter ego, Mr. Roxas.
Look at this data and weep. The DA got a close to P90 billion budget in 2015. The growth rate for the full year was a miserable less than 1 percent. Some say it is .8 percent. Some say it is .3 percent. Whatever the figure was, the depressing truth cannot be papered over. The sector that has to grow most to ease massive poverty grew the least, all thanks to the neglect of Mr. Aquino and Mr. Roxas.
Where did the development component of the money for agriculture go? Into the large sinkhole of Elliptical Road? That the Department of Agriculture is now called the Department of Utter Mediocrity is not a baseless criticism.
The brutal intent of Mr. Aquino to keep the DA away from the path of dynamism unraveled as early as mid-2010, in his choice of DA secretary. Named was his Congress crony, Proceso Alcala, a former public works contractor, who, like many public works contractors, soon ambitioned and got a seat in the House. Mid-way in his term, Mr. Aquino appointed another deadbeat as Alcala’s co-secretary, former Senator Francis Pangilinan. Pangililan’s exposure to agriculture was the usual farm near the subdivisions. Alcala, a former kontratista, and Pangilinan, a former komentarista (radio/TV bloviator ), made sure that the DA was run down to the ground.
Ok, let us go to the specifics of “Bukid Revolution” and evaluate the specifics against the track record of the Aquino-Roxas Bros.
First, implement a dedicated loan program (low interest, of course) for small farmers.
Second, carry out a vigorous farm infrastructure program.
Third, improve farm mechanization, from planting combines to post harvest facilities.
We then go to a reality check. In close to six years that the No-Ro Bros have been in power, what have they done to carry out the details of the “Bukid Revolution?” Fair question.
Number one is farming loans. Loans will be made available at cheap rates.
The truth. Under Mr. Aquino, the trust of the Land Bank of the Philippines was to go big, to go corporate, to compete with the banking giants. Indeed, an EO recently signed by Mr. Aquino will merge the LBP with the DBP to create a banking behemoth and kill the original mandate of the LBP – the bank of small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries. Under Mr. Aquino, there was cavalier monitoring of the Agri-Agra Law.
Number Two is a vigorous farm infra program. Mr. Aquino scrapped the PDAF, which was the main funder of farm-to-market roads. The PDAF was tainted. But no one can deny the fact that much of the farm infrastructure system was PDAP funded.
Number Three is farm mechanization. Oh No.
The Philippines is the “ kulelat” in the Asean on farm mechanization. The Aquino-Roxas Bros, made sure that the institutions dedicated to promoting farm mechanization got no support. As I wrote before, we import more S-Class Mercedes than deep plowing farm tractors. We import more BMW 7-Series cars than the farming combines. And we are supposed to be an agricultural country.
“Bukid Revolution” is a hoax wrapped in an electoral intent but stinks just the same.