#KABLAS: Dry fields and pockets

Free irrigation is not a good news for the farmers of rain-fed farmlands.

Cracked land. Less abundant fields. Poor growth of crops. Backward irrigation system.

After years of pushing for an irrigation system that is free of charges, some farmers already cherished the fruit of their long-time struggle starting this year. But such is not the case for most of the farmers in Eastern Visayas.

From year 1985 to year 2009, there is only an 18% increase in the irrigation system development in Eastern Visayas showing a less than 1% annual development rate. In the whole island of Samar, only 39.34% of farmlands is irrigated according to the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) 2017 data. Least irrigated is Eastern Samar with only 35.42% irrigated land.

irrigation

Irrigation development in all the six provinces in Eastern Visayas

In 2000 to 2014, at least 40% of the region’s overall rice production come from rain-fed fields. The figure shows how poor irrigation system significantly deduces farmers’ supposed harvest. With the slow-paced development, a decrease in production is expected especially amid the adversity of a changing climate. This will even worsen the peasant sector’s existing economic crisis.

Irrigation might be free but the struggle for a quality and accessible irrigation continues and so is the people’s militancy to fight for this.

#Kablas (Poor) is a series of short news feature stories depicting the alleviating poverty of the agriculture sector in Eastern Visayas

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#KABLAS: Crop infestation infesting farmers’ economy in EV

Dwarfed pale-colored abaca leaves instead of narrow glossy dark green sheets. Stunted palay instead of an abundant rice field. Lifeless tree of life instead of extant coconut trees. Crumbling stomachs, lost pennies and dying farmers. Pests does not only infest crops but also paralyze farmers’ livelihood.

Since 2011, progressive farmer groups in Eastern Visayas led by Samahan han Gudti nga mga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa SB) launched protests to call government’s attention on the worsening crop infestation in several parts of the region. But no corresponding action took place for years resulting in a significant production loss and an alleviating poverty.

Department of Agriculture confirms a 15 to 23% production loss of crops due to the worsening affliction of crops. Data reveals that about 40% of abaca plantations are no longer productive because of bunchy top virus carried by banana aphids while “cocolisap” or coconut scale insects brought a nationwide disease affecting about 338 million pesos worth of coconut as of the 2016 data.

From the 29,444 metric tons annual production of abaca in 2003, it decreased to 8,418 metric tons in 2015 causing an 8 million pesos fiber loss and forcing 31,871 farmers to either plant another crop or worse, leave their fields as confirmed by Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA). Worst case is in Northern Samar where 95% of farmlands in Catubig and Las Navas are affected by crop infestation.

The Department of Agriculture revealed that they are having difficulty in validating the cases of crop infestation in Eastern Visayas. DA Regional Executive Director U-Nichols Manalo, however, stated that the phenomenon will not affect projected production of crops despite its obvious effect to the very people who plant these crops.

Eastern Visayas is one of the major producer of rice, abaca and coconut in the country. Despite this, the government invests too little to nothing on giving our farmers immediate and long-term aid.

 

#Kablas (Poor) is a series of short news feature stories depicting the alleviating poverty of the agriculture sector in Eastern Visayas.

Intensifying Militarization in Eastern Visayas

Eastern Visayas remains one of the poorest regions in the whole country, despite its vast natural reserves. It comprises 7.14% of land in the Philippines, almost half of this is agricultural. The Philippine Statistics Authority figure shows that 91.93% of the population in the region is concentrated in rural areas, despite a relative civilization of seven cities in Eastern Visayas. This complements the figure that 69.5% of its population are dependent on agriculture in terms of economy. Although 41.90% of the region’s GDP is contributed mainly by the service sector according to government data, it is agriculture that feeds the region’s people with pennies to almost nothing as the sector is facing an intensifying poverty.

Government aid remains elusive for the peasant sector in Eastern Visayas despite the obvious need for an immediate relief and comprehensive rehabilitation program. The decreasing productivity rate of the agriculture sector reinforced through the lack of government support is  lethal – killing farmers themselves and the sector’s economic aspect.

The peasant sector in Eastern Visayas is attacked not only by the neoliberal economic policies but also by an intensifying militarization in the region. The Community Support Programs (CSP) and Peace and Development Teams (PDT) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the framework of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan did not bring peace to our folks in the countrysides but a threat to their lives.

At present, there are seven battalions (20th, 43rd, 14th, 87th, 52nd, 19th and 78th Infantry Battalions)  under the 8th Infantry Division operating in Eastern Visayas. All of these have recorded cases of human rights violations, according to Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas – Karapatan.

Since March 2017 up to the present, there have already been four mass evacuations due to the escalating number of human rights violations in four different towns (Lope de Vega in Northern Samar, Calbiga and Matuguinao in the province of Samar and Burauen in Leyte). It can be noted that the Philippine Army in Eastern Visayas launched spontaneous “offensives” against the very people it ought to protect by the time that the peace process between the NDFP and GRP was starting to fail.

There have been at least three farmers killed under the first year of the Duterte administration due to red tagging. In February this year, a farmer-leader named Bernadette Lutao of Bobon, Northern Samar was killed in what the AFP propagandized as a clash between them and the red armed group New People’s Army. But official accounts say that Lutao was shot dead and no encounter took place. Last month, another farmer leader in Albuera, Leyte was shot by two alleged military elements and passed away days after the incident.

Another farmer named Belinda Capacite of Can-avid, Eastern Samar was jailed last July, a day after Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), due to fabricated charges. Capacite was tagged as a collector of the revolutionary tax enforced by the CPP-NPA.

While the national and international media reports the aerial strikes in Marawi, City in the island of Mindanao, aerial bombings also occurred in the island of Visayas hitting the rural part of Matuguinao, Samar. In fact, residents of Brgy. Rizal in the said town were forced to leave their barrio and take refuge in the homes of their relatives in other places.

Some civilians were threatened by the AFP that they are included in the list of “NPAs and their supporters”. In September this year, the 87th IB based in Calbiga, Samar convened the barrio captains telling them that they should convince their constituents who actively support the NPA to surrender before “Duterte declares Martial Law”.

In Basey, Samar, nine residents of Brgy. Mabini were framed as fake surrenderees. The youngest is the 20year old Benita, Mabag, member of Kabataang Party-list Western Samar and a student of Mabini Natonal High School. According to her account, she was interrogated for days starting last October 5 by the AFP on her alleged connection to the red army which Mabag denied. Days after, the 87th IB already propagandized, through a local newspaper in Eastern Visayas, that Mabag seeks for their protection as she was recruited by a “certain Ka Monica” of the NPA. The other civilians interrogated by the AFP are Jaypee Macasadoc, Pamfilo Incenas, Rafael Sablan, Dioricio Algera and Benita’s father, Amado Mabag.

In Gamay, Northern Samar, some farmers are being asked to present their identification cards whenever they are seen by armed men in their fields. This “ID system” also exists in other parts of the Samar island.

The AFP is trying to disband peasant organizations to form other AFP-led organizations such as Kilusang Pagbabago and other groups. They are also using DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and DENR’s National Greening Program (NGP) to convene farmers and subject them in an intense interrogation and intimidation. Examples of which are those that occurred in Alang-alang and Albuera, Leyte where farmers were told not to attend mobilizations.

There have also been recorded tailings among Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas leaders and staffs. The whereabouts of  farmer organizers is being asked from the members of local peasant organizations. The latest occurred this month of October in Alang-alang, Leyte. Also, on July 23, Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas Deputy Secretary General Nestor Lebico was tailed in Northern Samar by two suspicious elements, after attending the Northern Samar Small Farmers’ Association General Assembly. A military official, in fact, went to the Regional Congress of Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas last August 23, also asking the names of the leaders of the said alliance. Suspicious elements have also been observed within the vicinity of Sagupa’s office in Tacloban City.

In sum, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is using “peace and development” to blind the public on  their human rights violations. Developing the road network in countrysides, building schools and other facilities, and providing social services to rural areas are some of their most used cards to legitimize their encampment in barrios, therefore violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

At present, the AFP is having a connivance with the local government through the Regional Development Council (RDC) and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) imposing local government units to support and uphold the AFP’s CSP and PDT projects. This occurs despite the people’s active demand to pull out troops in the countrysides.

While there is a strengthening peasant movement in the region as farmers rise against hunger and poverty, the puppet republic reinforces its military and fascist character.

Rabunos, Sinirangan Bisayas!

Tindog  Visayas!

(Surge, Eastern Visayas! Rise Visayas!)

Hear the tolls: Imperialism beyond the bells!

Bring back our bells! Respect our sovereignty! US, out now!

“Give us back those Balangiga bells,” Duterte mentioned in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 24, 2017. These bells acted as “trophies” seized by the US army to scar the infamous massacre that happened during the Philippine – American war where 50, 000 Filipinos were brutally slaughtered.

On the 116th year since the day of the Balangiga uprising against the imperialist US, progressive and patriotic groups underscored that the country should not just call for the return of the bells, but should continue forwarding the reason why the bells tolled that day – to revolt against the fascist US.

Why did the bells stop tolling?

In 1901, the bells were taken as war booty after the uprising of the Filipino guerillas where 48 US troopers died with 22 more other in Balangiga wounded during a raid in a US Army encampment. This prompted the US to send US Army General Jacob (Howling Jake) Smith to order a retaliation where he commanded the US troops to kill every male Filipino, 10 years of age and above, which led to the bloodbath of 50, 000 Filipinos.

The bells that symbolize our folks’ heroism are presently stored in US military bases, two are in a US Army base in Cheyenne while another is in the museum of a US military facility in South Korea to showcase their cruelness.

Long-time call answered with rhetoric

There has been a consistent effort of the Philippine congress to recover the bells. Bayan Muna Party list, in fact, is one of the firsts to submit a resolution calling for the recovery of bells, to recover the bells. This year, President Duterte himself “begs” US to bring back the bells to Balangiga.

US, however, gives this nation no single bell, but rhetorical statements we heard for years. Former US officials and US war veterans think that they should not return the bells as they consider it as a proof of their “bogus victory”. Not even an official statement recognizing their brutal act and apology was ever released. Worse, they’ve maintained their economic, political, military and cultural influence in the country through strong ties with the state and its ruling elite.

Rebelling puppet?

Duterte’s call for the return of Balangiga bells does not necessarily mean that he is either patriotic or anti-US. His “shallow militancy” to project a false rebellion against his bosses is plainly for his self-interests.

Let us be reminded that the administration continued the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty along with the unequal military treaties just like Visiting Forces Agreement. In fact, the U.S., just this year, is trying to restore its military bases here in Eastern Visayas specifically in Guiuan and Ormoc, strategic places for naval skirmishes, as it continued its annual Balikatan exercises with the Philippine Army in these towns this year. As it happened, a fisher folk community was demolished for the construction of a US base in Ormoc according to official accounts.  These constructions will be free of cost and no rent will be collected from them. These actions only deflect the image the administration is portraying – that the Duterte administration is against the imperialist US.

Duterte, known for his profanity and comical statements usually addressed to Obama and China, occasionally challenges the U.S. to stay away from the Philippines during his early times. But after a year of submitting his self to US through initial pronouncements of suspending peace talks, promoting neoliberal economic policies, and waging a war against the farmers and his very own people, it could be drawn that Duterte is using the bells to toll his own demands for US – to fund his militarist vanity.

Beyond the bells is its tolls

While we call for the return of Balangiga bells and US’ admission to the crimes they perpetrated, we should also remember for whom those bells tolled – it was, above all, for the imperialist US. It was our heroes’ cue to their uprising against the US troops. And today, those bells continue tolling for US and their puppets – for Duterte and his cronies.

The call for the return of Balangiga bells speaks more than the bells. It also calls for a nation free from its top oppressor, a nation free from imperialist US. A Balangiga uprising yesterday is a nation rising today.

Kwarenta y singko

Usa nga diktadur han pasista nga estado
Duha na nga parag-uma an ginpatay ha rehiyon otso
Tula nga gerra tumong an pagpuo
Upat nga bungto an may nagbakwit ha ira mga baryo
Lima pa katuig an iya ha aton pagmangulo
Unom nga sibilyan gindetina tungod han pulitikal nga pagtuo
Pito nga batalyon han militar dinhi ha aton nakatrangko
Walo, 8th ID peste ha mga parag-uma ngan tawo
Siyam ka bulan la, gintugutan na an langyaw nga magkampo
Napulo ngan sobra pa nga kaso hin panalapas
han katungod pantawo
 
Kwarenta y singko na ka tuig
ngan posible na liwat magdeklara
Sanglit yana, balikan ta.
 
Traynta y sais,
ka tuig tikang ginmasaker Sag-od nga baryo
 
Traynta y syete,
ubos na an pasensya nga ginhatag ta kan Rodrigo
 
Traynts y otso,
panahon na hi paggios, panahon na hin pag-ato
 
Traynta y noybe,
daw kuno namatay dinhi han gerra kontra droga
 
Kwarenta,
ikaw nga apektado, nakikit-an mo ba?
 
Kwarenta y uno,
tipaunan-o gintitiyupi kita hini nga bulok nga estado?
 
Kwarenta y dos,
waray ginpamati-an ungara han tawo
 
Kwarenta y tres,
ginhuhuthutan kita hini nga papet nga gobyerno
 
Kwarenta y kwatro,
diri na angay tugutan pa pamatay nga wala-tuo
 
Kwarenta y singko,
na yana nga tuig, pakusgon an pag-ato!
 
(Photo from Eastern Vista)

Pagbalik han kasisidman

Nababati-an ko an nagtitikahirani nga martsa

Adi, nagtitikang na liwat an paglubog han sapa

Puno hin kahadlok an ak dughan ngan mata

Kwarenta y singko ka tuig an naglabay, mabalik na liwat hira.

 

Waray na liwat kami makakadto ha umhanan

Gintamak-tamakan pa nira an amon kapinyahan

Pira ka adlaw nga gutom amon aantuson

Kahadlok ngan kabaraka, amon iilubon.

 

Ginlingi ko an akon mga pinaura

Nga waray makakasulod usa na ka semana

Ngan tigda la dumaop an usa ha ira

Humangkop ha akon ngan nagpakiyana

 

“Nanay, tubtob san-o pa ini?”

 

Waray kapugngi an pagturo han akon mga luha

Tigda ko nanumduman an akon mga gin-agian

An nakalabay nga nagsunit han akon dughan

An mga adlaw nga puno hin kasisidman.

 

“Diri ako maaram. Diri ako maaram, anak ko.”

 

Ginbaton ko an akon anak hini nga pamaagi

Sugad han pagbaton han akon nanay han hadi

Hiya nga waray kaluoy nga gin-awat an kinabuhi

Han kasundaluhan nga ha amon baryo nakaka-peste.

 

Nanumdom ako nga hadto nga mga takna

Ginguli-at ko nga ibubulos ko hiya

Ngan yana, naglalarab na liwat an akon kasubo

Naglalarang hin pag-ato hini nga mapaniyupi nga estado.

 

Kwarenta y singko ka tuig na an naglabay tikang hadto

Nagsurit na liwat hin kasina ini nga estado

Kwarenta y singko ka tuig an naglabay, kami na in mas mabaskog

Katawhan nga tiniyupi, yana makikigbisog.

Sagupa SB on Mariano’s rejection: “No lose for farmers nationwide”

Duterte’s appointment of Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano as Agrarian Reform Secretary a year ago is a manifestation of the iron-willed peasant movement in the country who, for a long time, fought against the puppets and puppeteers behind landlessness and land monopoly.

But today, members of the Commission on Appointments (CA) reached an appalling decision for the farmers in Eastern Visayas and in the whole country. In a voting decision of 13-5, Mariano was officially rejected by the CA as DAR Secretary. Nonetheless, is his rejection a declaration of a relatively weakening peasant movement? Or isn’t it telling us that the landlords and bureaucrat capitalists are once again threatened by the farmers’ uprising?

Mariano was known as one of the leftist cabinet members under the current administration – not because he was appointed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) themselves but because, just like them, he is for free land distribution and national industrialization. He, along with former DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and NAPC Lead Convenor Liza Maza, gave us a more vivid picture of what the media often tag as the “Philippine left”, that they promote a clean and just governance.

Unlike the past agrarian reform head officers, Mariano maximized his position in the bureaucracy to impose orders in favor of the farmers. To defend and assert farmers’ rights through the creation of three major task forces – National Land Acquisition and Distribution Team, National Task Force for Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Installation and National Task Force Against Illegal and Premature Conversion of Agricultural Lands – was the thrust his office upheld.

It was under Mariano’s time when the land use conversion program was suspended. It was under his time when a part of the Hacienda Luisita has been finally awarded to the farmers. It was under his time when the agrarian reform office from the national up to municipal levels saw the importance of partnering with the local people’s organization. It was at his time that the government-ran agrarian reform office also supported and pushed for the passage of the bill that will implement free land distribution – House Bill 555 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill. He sure has implemented a lot more orders which addressed farmers’ immediate needs and he could have implemented a hundred more.

But the rejection of his appointment as DAR Sec is not, and will never be, equal to the farmer movement’s downfall. No rejection of any demand or call will stop the farmers all over the country from surging the streets, occupying their land, breaking the land monopoly, and advancing their struggle.

Mariano’s rejection gives us an idea of how the 1% of the population in the country, the landlords, use their political power to maintain their economic power and vice versa. And now we get to connect the series of events: informal termination of peace talks just in time for the possible signing or agreement of free land distribution, intensifying fascism against the farmers and activists, and Taguiwalo and Mariano’s rejection. The wealthiest and most politically powerful individuals in the country, along with their masters in the US, will never favor the poor, the oppressed and the exploited.

While we strongly condemn the members of the CA for the farmer-leader’s rejection as DAR Sec, we also extend our warmest congratulations to Ka Paeng Mariano and the whole peasant movement in the country who didn’t fail to register their calls and demands to the public.

Ka Paeng’s service as Agrarian Reform Sec ends today, but the struggle for a genuine agrarian reform program continues. In the next days, he will still be with uonin the streets and picket lines – probably in front of his former office – rallying against the anti-farmers program. And stronger, even more determined and committed, we will remain.