WORLD FOOD DAY

Philippine food producers go hungry

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SHE’S GOT THE LOOK Children wait for their turn to be served during a feeding program conducted by the urban poor group, Kadamay, in Barangay Payatas in Quezon city. Photo by Mike De Juan

SHE’S GOT THE LOOK
Children wait for their turn to be served during a feeding program conducted by the urban poor group, Kadamay, in Barangay Payatas in Quezon city. Photo by Mike De Juan

Peasant and fisherfolk protested on World Food Day on Friday, calling for genuine agrarian reform, which, they said, will solve hunger.

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They protested in front of the Department of Agriculture’s office in Quezon City holding placards bearing calls such as “Pagkain hindi bala! Lupa sa nagbubungkal! (Food not bullets! Land to the tiller!) A farmer carried an empty pot, to depict hunger in the countryside, where the producers are.

“It is ironic that the rural people who are the primary food producers are the ones who are experiencing lack of food and drastic hunger,” said Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice chairman. “This has been a running nightmare especially for the fisherfolk and farmers all over the country.”

France said that based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), these are the top two sectors with the highest poverty incidence.

Peasant groups called for the enactment of the Genuine Agrarian Reform bill (Garb), and a stop to the smuggling of imported rice.

Ronald Garcia, an agricultural engineer and member of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) said the 2015 theme for World Food Day — “Social Protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty” — is in sharp contrast with the situation of Philippine agriculture.

Garcia criticized the 2011-2016 Food Staples Self-sufficiency Roadmap (FSSR) program of the Aquino government which targeted 100 percent rice self-sufficiency.

However, he said the Philippines remains one of the top net importer of rice in the world, importing 1.6 million metric tons of rice in 2014. This year’s rice imports is projected to increase further.

Free irrigation bill
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, meanwhile, pushed for free irrigation services for farmers through House Bill 6224, or the Free Irrigation Services Bill.

Irrigation is one of the primary factors for the growth of agricultural productivity, Hicap said, and food security is impossible without free irrigation service in the country.

“The agriculture sector is the backbone of the national economy as the country remains agricultural, where farmers and farm workers, who comprise the vast majority of the population, till the lands for their livelihood and for the benefit of the entire nation,” Hicap said.

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) reported that as of 2014, only 57 percent of the targeted 3 million hectares had irrigation, with 1.3 million hectares still without irrigation.

Hicap said the huge budget of the National Irrigation Administration does not benefit farmers. The NIA even charges for the irrigation. The proposed NIA budget was increased from P28 billion ($622 million) in 2015 to the proposed P33 billion ($709 million) for 2016.

Hicap said irrigation fees add to the cost of rice production, with farmers bearing the high cost of fuel for water pumps. Many just depend on the rain, and eventually, “go bankrupt and lose their lands.”

Hicap called for a stop to the collection of irrigation fees, as proposed by HB 6224. He said the budget for construction, repair and maintenance of national irrigation systems should be included in the General Appropriations Act.

“To move on the path towards food security and rice self-sufficiency, we challenge President Aquino’s government to immediately pass this bill and take control of the dams to irrigate the farms across the country,” Hicap said.

Water as priced commodity
Agham’s Garcia said the “Philippines is the only country in Asia where farmers pay for irrigation services, in line with World Bank policy to treat water resources as a priced commodity.

He said the government has continued to neglect its obligation to provide agricultural inputs and utilities to help farmers in the face of calamities, such as the El Niño phenomenon.

In Basey, Samar, where Agham recently conducted an agriculture productivity assessment, irrigation facilities built during the Ramos regime remained unused, and farms still rely on rain, Garcia said.

He said that in the face of heavy losses suffered by farmers due to El Niño, the government has turned to rice importation to feed the country.

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3 Comments

  1. Shame on this Aquino Administration . Pinapabayaran niya pati ang tubig ng irrigation sa mga farmers, ginawang negosyo ni abnoy pati ang tubig na nanggaling sa DAM na proyekto ni Marcos…Poor filipino people. Talagang salot sa Pilipinas ang mga aquino family at ang mga oligarch na dilawang businessman na kakutsaba ng administrasyong ito…kaya sa darating na eleksyon, ZERO TO ALL LIBERAL PARTY OF THIS ADMINISTRATION…

  2. This year being year of the poor in the church calendar I heard a talk about the poor where the speaker expressed his unmitigated disgust that the poorest sectors of our country are ironically the sectors who feed the rest of us namely the farmers and fishermen. One reason for this is that they have no say about fixing the prices of the commodities they produce unlike in more progressive countries where farmers set their prices. He also lamented that the fish in areas accessible to small fishermen are disappearing fast due to trawling by the rich. It is not enough he said to teach people how to fish and to give them fishing rods you must to allow the fish to thrive for them.