A bitter condition is an effect of trade liberalization under imperialist globalization because the Philippines is tied to a treaty in the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) where government must implement a 5-0% tariff on sugar. This trend is toward liberalization through elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. In terms of free trade it includes all manufactured and agricultural products.
Block farming and diversification became the solution of big landlords, big bourgeois compradors and bureaucrat capitalists to solve the moribund sugar industry. These are only means to worsen reconsolidation of vast lands into the control of landlords and multi-national corporations. Even billions of governments funds to support Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) were not received because the funds were deposited in the banks and sugar centrals to be loaned to landlords for the expansion of sugarcane planting.
Sugar liberalization and deregulation of sugar imports will exacerbate land grabbing from peasants. So will the conversion of sugarcane to other cash crops such as pineapple, banana, coffee, commercial trees, rubber tree, oil palm and real estate in the interest of foreign capitalists and multi-national corporations.
The sugar industry contributes more than P90 billion to the country’s economy wherein 55% or P49.5 billion comes from Negros Island. Meanwhile, several generations of farm worker families continue to be chained to a slavelike system of wages in sugarcane plantations where they work for P100-120 per day, P1,800-2,000/hectare pakyaw rate, P230-250/MT of sugarcane cut and hauled and no benefits like SSS and Philhealth. Contractuals are numerous through a contractor scheme that cuts a percentage from wages, the Social Amelioration Fund and other benefits are not provided. Grave hunger and poverty is the daily struggle of workers in the sugarcane fields and sugar centrals.
There are 1.86% or 864 big landlords owning more than 100 hectares up who control vast haciendas in Negros. The sweetness of sugarcane only goes to big landlords, bureaucrat capitalists and big bourgeois compradors while Negrosanons suffer bitterness and destitution. Based on 2015 data, hunger incidence was 38.7% in Negros Oriental and 21.9% in Negros Occidental.
In truth, sugar liberalization is the flood of imported sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup and other sweeteners that will generate the downfall of an already dying sugar industry. More than 310,000 farm workers and 18,000 sugar central workers in Negros will lose their means of living and land grabbing from farmers will surely worsen. Acute hunger and impoverishment will ignite the social volcano.
Locally produced sugar cannot compete with the deluge of cheap imported sugar. Farmers and small planters cannot keep up due to very high prices of farm inputs, taxes, low pureza (measure of sugar concentration) given by sugar centrals to small planters, backward tools of production, lack of capital and overwhelming debt.
Duterte and his economic managers pursuing the path of neoliberal economic policies do not have concrete plans in solving the crisis in Negros. The tyrant, fascist Duterte regime devises measures to threaten and bully its critics and opposition from the sugar block in order to make them kneel and consolidate its ruthless power in the island. The reactionary government suppresses the Negrosanons from opposing its anti-people economic policies.
Sugar liberalization is not the solution since it does not answer food sufficiency in the Philippines. This has already been proven in the implementation of rice liberalization that destroys the productivity of farmers.
When Duterte turned his back on the Peace Talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (GRP-NDFP) where the root cause of armed struggle was discussed and resolved, clearly the pertinent content of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms drafted by the NDFP that contains the aspiration of the oppressed masses to attain genuine land reform and national industrialization was disregarded.
The NDF-Negros calls on all people in Negros and the Filipino people to tirelessly and fearlessly struggle. To the enlightened landlords, think about the farm workers and the peasants who sow the wealth of the country. Give them just wages, benefits and do not allow yourselves to be used or do not follow the path of the fascist-dictator Duterte regime.###