Why do we run short of our staple food?

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Philippine agriculture is on the verge of total and major decline due to the moribund system that exists within the country. The agriculture sector contributes the least to the country’s economy despite being the major source of income of the majority of its population. This is expected to decrease in plunging numbers under the control of the present administration and its main operators, the imperialist countries.

The country’s agriculture is undeniably backward manifested through the continuity of the export-oriented and import-dependent character. Capitalists have a strong hold on what farmers should plant while basic agricultural products needed by the Filipinos on a daily basis such as rice, sugar, and vegetables are produced in declining volumes each year.

Recently, the National Food Authority disclosed that stocks of milled rice left are only good for two days. It’s just the start of the year yet the country has little and insufficient stocks left.

Why is this so?

Exploitation of farmers is LEGAL

Since the time when the Philippines joined and submitted itself to the leading capitalist countries through the World Trade Organization, its people experienced perpetual and even worse crises. WTO ensures that only the ruling capitalists will economically rule the world as they steadily make major shifts in third world countries’ economic policies. This is manifested with the presence of countless transnational companies across the country.

The Philippine government, as obedient as they have always been, then implemented laws their masters have mandated them such as Republic Act 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act which lessened the country’s import restrictions in major counts and repealed several laws that once restricted the importation of many agriculture products including onion, potato, cabbage, coffee and other products which can be locally produced in enough volumes. WTO and the Philippine government lured the people through the “global competitiveness” flagship.

Since last year, National Food Authority and Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) have opened possibilities of amending RA 8178 to remove the quantitative restrictions (QR) of rice importation and just like the other agricultural products, place rice under a tariffication system instead. Higher volumes of imported rice will flood the Philippine market, thus competing with the locally-produced rice. After all, LEDAC’s goal is to “develop” transparency and competition – that kind that will kill its very people.

Irrigation problem remains unaddressed

The Philippine government might have neglected one vital requirement in agriculture especially in tropical countries – irrigation. It took decades of fighting for a free and quality irrigation system before it was passed into law.

But why does it remain unaddressed if it’s already a law?

In 2017, a two billion-peso budget was allotted for the supposed implementation of free irrigation. This means that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) will no longer charge the farmers with P4, 250.00 per hectare for irrigation. However, accounts reveal that NIA continues to collect irrigation service fees (ISFs) from farmers nationwide. And what makes the picture worse is that irrigation is, in fact, still inaccessible to most of our farmers.

In Eastern Visayas, one of the country’s top producers of abaca, coconut, and rice, more than half of its agricultural land is non-irrigated. In Samar island alone, more than 60% of the whole agricultural land is still rain-fed. The figure is still conservative since there have been a lot of uncompleted irrigation projects.

Although it should be recognized that the passage of the free irrigation law is a result of the farmers’ long-time struggle, the law will, however, remain dubious so long as the tillers still have to deal with rain-fed land resulting to low volumes of harvests.

Where to plant rice?

The space for rice and other major agricultural products in the country shrinks every year, every administration and every program being implemented. For example, the government does not even regulate the massive conversion of agricultural land to commercial purposes neither did it intervened on the alarming crop conversion happening all over the country. After all, it is the top promoter of these programs. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has its National Greening Program, DA is implementing the High Yielding Variety Program, local governments are promoting agriculture liberalization, and bureaucrat capitalists, as a whole, favor neoliberal policies.

Due to the lack of a genuine agrarian reform and as feudal lords remain immensely powerful, more and more farmers lose their land. International peasant alliance Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reveals that there are already nine out of ten farmers who owns no land. No wonder, the poorest regions in the country are those that are highly-agricultural as in the Eastern Visayas region that ranks top 2 only next to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

According to Ibon Foundation on its book Disaster upon Disaster published in the year 2014, Eastern Visayas has the largest land remaining on leasehold. This proves that the very land tillers actually have no land to plant their crops including rice, not even a lot for their houses.

So, should we import more rice or add tariffs?

Neither of the two will solve the problem.

Since last year, the government has been pushing for the removal of rice importation QR, not because of the rice stocks shortage but because this is what the imperialists want. Much like the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law and all of the neoliberal policies the state approved.

Hence, NFA is faking a rice shortage to alarm the public and push both the people and the government to agree on more rice importation this year, right at the very start of 2018. This, instead, will lead to worse food shortages as products become much unaffordable to most of the consumers. The tariffication system, on the other hand, is bogus and pretentious as bureaucrat capitalists are in fact those behind rice and agricultural products smuggling.

How, then, do I get my rice?

The best way is indeed to win your land.

So long as the feudal lords, giant corporations, and corrupt politicians continue to exploit our very land, we won’t get away from food shortages and extreme crisis nor shall we able to get away from imperialist control.

A united seventy-five percent of the country’s population, along with the positive forces, can win over an anti-poor government as proven in history. Them who’ll never remain silent in times of predicament will fight and win the land. And they have been for decades and decades now.

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