Jose Maria Zubiri, provincial Governor of Bukidnon, earlier pronounced that the province will be affected in the country’s undergoing rice crisis. According to him, he is planning to purchase 50,000 sacks of corn grain to be disseminated to the stricken family. These corn, forsooth, are varieties of round-up ready (RR), which are only supposed to be fed to animals, and are hazardous to consumers due to its genetically modified organism (GMO) content.
On the other hand, despite of the gradual land-use conversion of multinational corporations – from rice and root crops to bananas, pineapples, oil palms, and other ready-to-export crops, Bukidnon remains as the primary source of rice in the region. Vast ricefields are found in the towns of Quezon, Kalilangan and Maramag, and cities of Malaybalay and Valencia, which aggregates to more than 50,000 hectares. Major rice depots of the National Food Authority (NFA) are also located in Maramag, Valencia and Malaybalay, where beaucoup of rice supplies are stored. Local rice millers and traders, such as Helen Bernal, Agbayani family, etc., also have these depots and rice supplies in the province.
Still, the governor’s band-aid solutions could not alleviate famine in the province. Unimaginable agricultural oppulence can be found side by side with the prominent inhumane condition of peasants. They are almost working at no cost due to the cheap price of their products and expensive farm inputs. It is also an affront that these farmers cannot afford to eat rice and most of them settle for poridge and corn. Adding insult to the wound, wage remain impoverish, amounting P200 only, to workers and farms workers in sugarcane, pineapple, banana and oil palm plantations, in poultry farms, in the service sector, and P220 for job order and contractual workers in the province. Uncertainty to perpetual and subsistent job also perpetuates as labor contractualization scheme prevails.
Furthermore, lumads and peasants in the countryside consistently suffer from the perduring militarization and legal displacement from their ancestral lands, in the guise of ‘development’ through mining operations in San Fernando; expansion of pineapple, banana and oil palm plantations in Talacag, Pangantucan, Cabanglasan and Impasug-ong; dam projects in Kitaotao, Dangcagan, Kibawe and Damulog; and the on-going Airport construction in the 200 hectare land of Don Carlos. Hence, the land-use and crop conversion
in Bukidnon, under the green-light of Zubiri himself, will only disrupt the farmers due to the dearth of land to till.
It is then becoming more obvious that the local government’s economic program is not for the people, but instead for giant corporations and foreign investors. Zubiri could not deny this actuality, when in fact, this is felt by the lumad, peasants and workers in Bukidnon. The intensifying people’s resistance against the existence and supposed entry and expansion of mining and plantations is just a manifestation that the people discern that these are anti- people, anti-environment and anti-poor. As of this writing, 2,000 lumad are having their Bungkalan campaign in San Fernando, asserting their right to till their own land. Hence, declaring Bukidnon “ready for further development” and is “conflict manageable” is highfalutin, because in materiality, their is no such development in the first place, and the bona fide stakeholders, the people, infer.
From these situations, it is blatant that the pronouncement made by the 4th Infantry Division and the provincial government is a big illusion. Unlikely, out of desperation, the state imposed a militarist solution, under Oplan Kapayapaan, the martial law to suppress the people’s civil and political rights. State forces are occupying baryos, forcing residents to capitulate and violating other people’s rights. This is just fanning the flame of armed resistance.
Just like the other parts of the country, it is more justifiable for the people in Bukidnon to persistently resist the anti-people policies and laws of the US-Duterte regime. The implementation of genuine land reform and national industrialization, independent from foreign intervention, is the just path for a lasting development and peace that have long been aspired by the Filipino people. More than ever, it is always a challenge to relentlessly support the revolutionary movement, for it is peerless with its clear direction and program for the people.