This World Foodless Day, National Democratic Front – Negros reiterates call for genuine agrarian reform to ensure food self-sufficiency especially in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Ka Bayani Obrero, spokesperson of NDF-Negros, echoes the sentiments of farmers for free distribution of land to the tillers and enough agricultural support to ensure food security and sufficiency.
World Food Day is celebrated every October 16 after the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It is ironic how the food producers, farmers and fisherfolks, are the ones who suffer most from chronic hunger and poverty. Hence, it is also dubbed as World Foodless Day.
“The recent survey of the Social Weather Station (SWS) which recorded 7.3 million Filipinos who experienced hunger in the past three months clearly exposes how the Duterte government’s response has fallen short in ensuring food production and supply to the detriment of both producers and consumers,” explained Ka Bayani Obrero.
The Duterte government blames the farmers’ lack of capacity and technology as the culprit. One even had the gall to say that Filipino farmers aren’t competitive. Ka Bayani points that state neglect to the agriculture sector and continued agricultural liberalization as the reason why food self-sufficiency is not viable under Duterte.
In terms of government funding, the 3.5% average share of agriculture and agrarian reform in the 2017-2020 budgets is the lowest in two decades. For the proposed 2021 budget, the Department of Agriculture (DA) only gets 1.5% share of the P4.5 trillion national budget. Due to lack of government support, the agriculture sector lost 1.4 million jobs in 2017-2019 which further impoverishes rural communities.
“The agriculture sector has been weakening due to long-time government neglect. Food sustainability is impossible in a neoliberal framework. Instead, this will only weaken agriculture further. The Duterte administration continues to undermine domestic agriculture and our long-term food security,” stated Ka Bayani Obrero.
The burden of Rice Tarrification Law (RA 11203) is heavily felt by rice farmers and consumers alike. Unable to compete with cheap imports, it is estimated that there are 2.5 million rice farmers in the country who are displaced by rice liberalization. The incredible low price of palay pegged at P10-P14 per kilo makes it impossible to cover for the costs of production. The promised cheaper rice for consumers also did not come about. Supply of rice on world markets are tight and in view of a pandemic, some countries like Vietnam already imposed a rice export ban.
Ironically, an agricultural country like the Philippines is heavily dependent on food importation. It has become clear that the Duterte regime plans to maintain the backward and underdeveloped character of Philippine agriculture. His agrarian reform declarations are but empty rhetorics. He remains servile to the interest of the landed elites, capitalists and foreign corporations.
“In order for an agricultural country like the Philippines to not rely heavily on food imports and ensure food security, the Filipino peoole must link arms with the peasant masses struggle for land. We must intensify our call for agrarian revolution which entails free distribution of land to the tillers. The realization of the national democratic revolution will resolve hunger and food self-sufficieny,” ended Ka Bayani Obrero.