Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan lambasted today the Department of Agriculture (DA) for blaming farmers for soaring rice prices, and renewed calls for immediate and drastic changes in the country’s policies on agriculture and the enactment of a genuine agrarian reform program.
“Why pin the blame on those who do their jobs and not on those who create the policies that have stunted the growth of our country’s agriculture? Is it not enough that they are not compensated enough for their labor, that they are not given ownership of the land, now the DA has to pass the blame on to our farmers too?” the solon from Mindanao said.
Soaring rice prices in Mindanao have been blamed on the alleged “speculation” by the farmers. Rice is currently being sold in markets around the region for as much as P51 per kilo.
Ilagan lamented how Mindanao, once food and rice sufficient, is now suffering the results of massive land conversions and crop conversions, the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), as well as government policies that increased the country’s dependence on food imports such as the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).
The women’s party representative cited how big corporations in Mindanao like DOLE, Global Fruit, Blooming Petals and Upland Banana Corporation have transformed South Cotabato from a rice producing province into one now sprawling with pineapples, bananas, and asparagus all for export.
“Mindanao farmers used to be able to supply the whole island, as well as the Visayas with rice,” she said.
From 1988 to 2004 alone, around 800,000 hectares of agricultural lands have been converted to other uses. This, according to Ilagan was even encouraged to a certain extent as the existing CARP provisions allow big landowners and corporations to keep ownership of their agricultural lands if these are converted to other uses.
Ilagan proposed the non-extension of the CARP, and in its place, the enactment of a genuine agrarian reform program as embodied in House Bill 3059. She likewise proposed the junking of the AFMA and providing for increased government intervention in the procurement of palay and rice to keep big cartels from controlling the market. #