Pinoys hungrier if charter “overhaul” pushes—Anakbayan

Antipolo City, Rizal Province — As Congress’s session opens this July 27,  youth group Anakbayan forewarns the public that if Charter Change pushes through, hunger incidence in the country will rise as it proposes a 100 percent ownership of agricultural and industrial lands and basic utilities in the country.

According to Anakbayan chairperson Ken Ramos, the recent sale or lease of hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmlands in Ilocos and Mindoro are “portents of things to come”.

The president wants us to eat Jatropha, animal feed

“It seems that Mrs. Gloria Arroyo has a novel way to address the Philippines’ hunger problem: substitute rice with bio-fuel and animal feeds as food, because the price of the commodity is already high,” Ramos said in a statement.

There were reports out in the media that the government has permitted the lease of 500,000 hectares in Northern Luzon, intended for bio-fuel crops production for export in Japan; and some 94,000 hectares in Mindoro for corn plantation, intended for animal feeds, to be supplied in South Korea.

Bio-fuel crops include sugarcane, Jatropha or tuba-tuba and non-food type cassava.

Detrimental to the country’s economy, food supply

The militant youth leader said the Filipino people would not benefit because the sold or leased land would not be planted with food crops and were not even for local consumption.

He explained, since many countries in Asia and elsewhere have devoted most of their farmlands to food production so they can achieve self-sufficiency, the foreign investors see the Philippines as a potential area for these non-food crops.

This, he insisted, will be a threat to the country’s food supply.

Last year, the country had suffered from rice price crisis. The National Food Authority (NFA), the State grains agency said on April 2008, the registered growth in palay [paddy rice] production is not enough to meet the combined effect of an increase in demand and the need to maintain the required buffer stock by July 1 (2008), the start of the traditional lean supply months of July to September of each year; thus the importation of rice is inevitable.

That is why, in 2008, the government has imported an additional 500,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to augment the allegedly “decreasing” supply of rice in the country and to make the price of the staple food of the 80 percent of population, stable.

State’s job generation argument, deceptive

The government sees the lease as a job generation opportunity for the agricultural sector, but the youth leader belies this, calling it “deceptive.”

The agricultural sector remains the leading employer in the country, followed by the service sector.

“It is deceptive as agricultural workers in the Philippines are paid even less than industrial workers,” he explained, referring to the job-generation argument used by the government to permit the lease of the said lands.

The National Statistical Coordination Board’s (NSCB) Officer-In-Charge (OIC) and Assistant Secretary-General Lina V. Castro reported on June 25, 2009, that the fishermen, farmers, and children comprised the poorest three sectors in 2006 with poverty incidences of 49.9%, 44.0%, and 40.8%, respectively.

She also admitted, on that presentation at Users’ Forum on the 2006 Poverty Statistics for the Basic Sectors and 2006 Child Development Index, held at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Manila, that all sectors—women, children, etc.—posted increases in poverty incidence between the period of 2003 and 2006.

*More mass actions needed *

The answer to Mrs. Arroyo’s folly, says Ramos, is mass action.

“Together with other cause-oriented groups, we will hold protests in campuses and communities nationwide, which will culminate in class walkouts on July 24 and 27, as Anakbayan’s contribution to the ‘Pambansang Bigwas sa Con-ass’ multisectoral campaign,” Ramos told the media.

Last Wednesday, Anakbayan-High School members, had their first blow against Cha-Cha and other issues, as they have marched in front of the House of Representatives, last Wednesday, July 22. (Dateline Philippines)