Peasants, fisherfolk protest Agri sector’s dip under Marcos’ term

FEU Advocate
July 02, 2024 12:54

By Mark Vincent A. Durano

Peasants and fisherfolk groups staged a mobilization underlining heightened struggles in the agricultural sector under Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.’s two years as president on Mendiola Street in Manila yesterday, July 1.

In an interview with FEU Advocate, PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas Secretary-General Salvador "Ka Buddy” France shared his frustration over the conversion of agricultural lands into private properties.

“Ibig sabihin, mga lupa kinokompiska at iba pa dahil hindi makapaghulog sa Landbank… ‘Yung kanayunan natin na taniman ng palay karamihan ngayon subdibisyon (It means that lands are confiscated while others cannot downpay in the Landbank… Our rural areas that should be cropped with rice are now subdivisions),” he stated.

The said lands were first distributed during the early implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988.

The Department of Agriculture launched a market system, ‘KADIWA,’ which provided direct farmer-consumer trade aimed to help Filipino households access low-price quality products last 2019. 

However, France denounced its ineffectiveness to uplift local farmers due to its limited reach among other tillers.

“‘Yung KADIWA na binabanggit nila ay iilan-ilan lang ang kanilang mga paninda... Ilan-ilang tao lang ang nagbebenipisyo... Kung dito nga sa urban, malalapit dito ang mga tindahan pero walang pinag-iba ang presyo doon sa presyo sa kanayunan (The KADIWA they mention has limited produce… Only a few people can benefit from it... If here in the urban, the stores are close to each other but the prices are not that different from the rural), he claimed.

Marcos also issued Executive Order No. 62, modifying the classification and rates of import duty on agricultural products as well as lowering tariffs from 35 to 15 percent until 2028.

The agricultural sector is also eyed to suffer under the government’s Charter Change which could possibly provide complete foreign ownership in export business enterprises in the country.

“Siguro kung maaprubahan ito mawawalan tayo ng lupa dahil 100 percent titulado ito, kung sino may pera (Maybe if it were to be passed, we will lose land because it will be 100 percent titled, for those who have money),” Frances added.

The PAMALAKAYA secretary-general also expressed his dismay for the government’s lack of action amid China’s aggression and imposed four-month ban in the West Philippine Sea.

Sino mang dayuhan ang mahuli sa karagatan ng West Philippine Sea ay anim na buwan nilang ikukulong Ano bang nangyayari sa panaginip ng Tsina na ito? Samantalang malinaw naman sa ‘tin sa internasyonal artibyunal na ang West Philippine Sea ay [pagmamay-ari] ng Pilipinas (Any foreigner who will be caught in the West Philippine Sea will be imprisoned for six months. Maybe China is dreaming with it? Meanwhile, it is clear in the international arbitral tribunal that the West Philippine Sea is part of the Philippine territory),” France expressed.

Moreover, Kabataan Partylist Far Eastern University Chairperson Ryan Ferrer slammed Marcos’ incapability to fulfill his promise to lower the price of rice to P20 per kilo during the 2022 Philippine national elections which is now around P60 per kilo.

Mas lumalala talaga yung crisis na kinakaharap ng mamamayang Pilipino. Patuloy na tumataas ang presyo ng bigas, pumapalo sa halos P55 to 60 (The crisis that Filipinos face really worsened. The price of rice continues to rise which is now almost already P55 to 60),” he said.

Ferrer related the rice price hike with the commercialization of the education sector through multiple tuition fee increases in other schools and regions as well. 

He also condemned Marcos’ branding of ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ which was dubbed to mask foreign prioritization, low local agricultural production, and food economic crisis.

The protest, including members from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon, along with rural youth and multi-sectoral progressives also called for higher salaries, lower product prices, pro-farmer policies, and true land reform.

- With Reports from Maxine Alessandra B. Turiano

(Photo by Maxine Alessandra B. Turiano/FEU Advocate)