Bantay Bigas and KMP farmers to NFA:

Prosecute GMA and Yap, Distribute excess rice

 

Quezon City

 

July 30, 2010

 

 

   
   

Protest of farmers at National Food Authority (NFA) office in Quezon City  calling for the prosecution of former president Gloria Arroyo and former Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap for over-importation of rice. The farmers also called for the immediate distribution of over-stocked rice to victims of typhoons and extreme drought.

   
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Photos courtesy of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)
           
           

 

Bantay Bigasigas
(Alyansa ng Mamamayan Para sa Sapat, Ligtas at Abot-kayang Presyo ng Bigas)
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ ____

Secretariat office: 80-A Mapang-akit St. , Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City . Telephone #. 922-3982
30 July 2010
Press Release
Reference: Lita Mariano, spokesperson, Bantay Bigas
Mobile: 09302016879

Bantay Bigas: Rice Trade Liberalization Policy
the Culprit for the Flooding of Rice
Investigate the Sales Through Market Determined Price (SMDP)
program of the NFA

Bantay Bigas in a picket held in front of the NFA office in Visayas Avenue, lambasted the policy of rice trade liberalization as the culprit behind the flooding and rotting of rice in warehouses of the National Food Authority (NFA).

Bantay Bigas spokesperson Lita Mariano said “Since the country entered World Trade Organization (WTO), we were obligated to import from one (1) to four (4) per cent of our annual rice consumption. However, since 1995 the country imported many times over what was required from its commitment.” (Mula noong naging miyembro ang Pilipinas ng World Trade Organization (WTO) noong 1995 naobliga na tayong mag-angkat ng bigas mula isang (1) porsyento hanggang ng apat (4) na porsyento ng ating taunang konsumo ng bigas. Labis-labis na nito ang ating inaangkat sa ngayon mula pa man.)

Mariano added that “Our annual rice production deficit since 2008 is only 10-15 per cent or 1.6 - 1.9 million metric tons (MMT) but for 2010, the government scheduled to buy 2.45 MMT of rice. So we are really over importing.” (Sampu hanggang kinse porsyento lamang ang aktwal na kakulangan natin sa kabuang taunang produksyon ng bigas mula 2008 o katumbas ng 1.6-1.9 MMT subalit sa 2010 aabot na sa 2.45MMT ang tinarget na angkatin ng gobyerno. Kung ganoon ay sobra sobra talaga ang inaangkat.”

With the country’s accession to the GATT-WTO, the country although relatively rice self sufficient was forced to import rice by at least one percent of its domestic consumption until 1999. This was to increase to two percent by 2000 and to 4 percent by 2004 as part of the minimum access volume (MAV) requirement under the GATT-WTO. The 4% MAV was extended for another 10 years starting in 2005 when the Philippine government negotiated for another extension. However, according to IBON Foundation research, since 1995 the country imported an annual average of 12.5 percent equivalent of the country’s total rice consumption – the highest being in 1998 at 28.5 percent and in 2008 at 18.4 percent. Since 2000, the country has an annual oversupply of two million metric tons of rice.

Cathy Estavillo,Secretay General of the National Federation of Peasant Women (AMIHAN) – a member of Bantay Bigas, said that “The big traders are primarily the ones benefiting from this over importation of rice. They are given a yearly allocation to import 200,000 MT of rice, in a number of instances under the government’s Tax Exemption Subsidy (TES). The rice is subsequently sold to the market at a price much higher than the prevailing NFA price which was P18 or P25 per kilo”. (Ang malalaking traders ng bigas ang pangunahing nakikinabang dito, kakutsaba ng mga tiwali sa gobyerno. Pinapayagan sila ng gobyerno na direktang mag-angkat at may alokasyon silang 200,000 metriko toneladang bigas

kada taon na sa ilang pagkakataon ay walang buwis sa pamamagitan ng Tax Exemption Subsidy (TES). Ibinebenta naman nila ito sa pamilihan sa komersyal na presyo, mataas na hamak sa P18 o P25 kada kilo na presyo ng bigas ng NFA).

Estavillo further added that “It is also to these traders that the NFA sells the surplus rice at prices lower than purchased price under the Sale through Market Determined Price (SMDP)”.(Sa mga malalaking traders din isinusubasta ang mga sobrang bigas ng NFA sa pamamagitan ng programa nito na Sales Through Market Determined Price (SMDP).

Mariano, lamented that, “The poor are not the ones benefiting from the cheap NFA rice. Why sell to traders when this cheap rice is not made available and widely accessible to the poor most especially in the rural areas? Do we have a situation here where people’s money intended to subsidize rice prices are redirected instead to the big rice traders in collusion with corrupt government officials?” (Hindi ang mahihirap na mamamayan ang pangunahing nakikinabang sa murang bigas ng NFA. Bakit kailangan pang magbenta ang NFA sa mga traders, samantalang hindi maipalaganap ito at hindi nakakarating sa malawak na bilang ng mahirap na mamamayan, laluna sa kanayunan ang bigas ng NFA sa presyong P18 at P25 kada kilo? Ang pera ba ng mamamayan na pangsubsidyo sa bigas at upang makabili ang mahihirap ng murang bigas ay napupunta lamang sa mga rice traders at mga tiwaling gobyerno?)

“We want this program of the NFA investigated and those involved punished”, Mariano said.

Bantay Bigas clarified that this problem of overimportation, also is not benefiting the local farmers. Mariano said “The flooding of imported rice is also a bane for farmers. For sure the farmers will not get a good price for their palay, especially when imported rice floods the market during harvest time”. ( Sa pagbaha ng bigas sa pamilihan lalo na sa panahon ng anihan, babaratin na naman ng mga traders ang palay ng mga magsasaka, at hindi na naman maibenta sa makatarungang presyo ang palay ng mga magsasaka).

Bantay Bigas sees importation as only a temporary measure to make up for the deficit in the country’s annual rice consumption needs. It challenges the new government to put in place a long term solution to the country’s perennial rice crisis. “Over importation is just one of the manifestations of the rice crisis”, Mariano stressed.

The long term solution that Bantay Bigas proposes involves the strengthening of the local rice industry, through the following policy recommendations:

1. Implementation of a genuine agrarian reform program, that would give rice farmers the
security and control over their own lands, and the assurance that they and their families will enjoy the fruits of their labor on the land;
2. Sufficient subsidies and support services, including the post harvest facilities to make rice farming as a viable option for farmers and their families;
3. Stop the conversion of rice lands to other uses and increase the lands devoted to rice farming;
4. Prioritize infrastructure funding for sustainable irrigation development;
5. Increase the procurement capacity of the NFA to 25% of the country’s total palay production.

“More than the corruption problem in government, the continuing monopoly over rice lands by big landowners and monopoly in rice trading and marketing by big private traders should be addressed by the government. This monopoly in rice production and trading, as well as corruption is further entrenched by the country’s accession to the WTO under which the flooding of imported rice through trade liberalization has made available cheaper rice for traders’ monopoly profit”, Mariano said.

“Rice importation has become lucrative for corrupt government officials and private traders that development of the local rice sector has taken a back seat”, Mariano said.

Bantay Bigas is a national network of farmers, consumers, and public and private organizations pushing for the realization of sufficient, safe and affordable rice for every Filipino family.

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PRESS RELEASE
July 30, 2010
Reference:
Roy Morilla, KMP Public Information Officer (0907-418-0098)
Bantay Bigas (0632-922-3982)

NFA urged to file criminal raps against GMA, Yap on rice over importation

The peasant activist group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the multisectoral alliance Bantay Bigas and the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) on Friday urged National Food Authority (NFA) chief administrator Lito Banayo to file criminal and other appropriate charges against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agriculture secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap in connection with the over importation of rice which occurred in 2004 and 2007.

Peasant leaders Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson, Bantay Bigas convener and Amihan peasant women federation spokesperson Zen Soriano and Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin led some 30 farmers outside the NFA outlet in Visayas Avenue in Quezon City in asking the NFA chief to charge Arroyo and Secretary Yap before the regular court.

The three farmer leaders said aside from Reps. Arroyo and Yap, the charge sheet should include former officials of the Department of Agriculture and NFA who played key roles in the over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007 which cost Filipino taxpayers some 171.6 billion pesos.

In 2004, the Philippine government imported 900,000 metric tons of rice, while the country at that time only lacked 117,000 metric tons to fit the demand of the population, while in 2007, the government only needed 589,000 metric tons to fill the gap in rice supply, but DA and NFA pursued the importation of 1.827 million metric tons or about 1.2 million metric tons more of the required volume to augment the shortage in rice supply.

KMP’s Flores said aside from bringing the perpetrators of over importation of rice in exchange for fat or juicy commissions, the NFA and the DA should impose a six-year moratorium on the importation of rice and instead pursue measures that would increase domestic rice production, stop land use conversions of rice lands and assure irrigation for more than 3 million hectares of lands devoted to rice production.

Flores said, instead of reducing rice lands, the government should promote and increase rice lands devoted to rice and food production.

For her part, Soriano of Bantay Bigas urged Aquino government to increase the buying capacity of NFA to 25 percent of the total domestic produced palay by local rice farmers to stabilize rice prices and ensure good dividends for rice farmers.

Soriano lamented that while NFA is mandated by law to buy 10 percent of the locally produced palay from farmers, the authority only managed to buy one percent, and the rest of the funds of the NFA are allocated for unbridled importation of rice.

She said the NFA should increase not only its buying capacity, but also the price of palay per kilo. At present, Bantay Bigas wants the NFA to procure palay at P 15 per kilo, instead of spending taxpayers money to rice importation at the expense of Filipino farmers and consumers.

Bantay Bigas said rotten rice should not be distributed to poor Filipinos, saying the poor do not deserved rotten and unsafe rice for consumption. She said it would be grossly insulting and highly revolting to feed the poor with unsafe and health risk rotten rice. The alliance said the unused and undistributed stocks of rice in government warehouses which are sound and still safe to eat should be given instead to communities affected by typhoon, including calamity stricken areas hit by Ondoy and Pepeng, and the El Nino and La Nina affected areas.

Earlier, the KMP and other rural based groups demanded Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to conduct joint or separate congressional inquiry on the over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007. The groups said in aid of legislation, the rice inquiry will be able to draft policies to stop the government from anarchic importation of rice which are hinged on the liberalization policy and on the agenda of corrupt officials for juicy and fat commissions sourced from over importation and over pricing of rice imports. #
 

     
     
           
     
     
     
     
           

 

Prosecute Arroyo and Yap on rice over-importation, peasants urge Noynoy 07/28/2010

The left-leaning Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) urged president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino to prosecute those who benefitted from over-importation of rice, particularly Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agriculture secretary Arthur Yap who pushed the over-importation of rice in the last years of the Arroyo administration.

“We have campaigning for the past government to support local rice production instead of over-spending for rice imports. In September 2008, when the P18.25 per kg National Food Authority (NFA) rice hiked to P25 per kg, we called for NFA to buy local palay pegged even at P17 per kg as it would only reach P34 per kg as rice compared to P45 per kg landed price of imported rice NFA employees reported,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General said in a press statement.

Based on government data, KMP said that the government has been importing rice though there were sufficient annual end stock of rice. In 2006, the country had an end stock of 2.25 million metric tons of rice or nearly 20% of the year’s gross supply, but the following year 2007, the government still amplified its importation to 1.8 million metric tons, a 5.2% increase from its 2006 level. At the end of 2007, the country had an end stock of 2.17 million metric tons but the government further boosted imports by 34.74% in 2008, reaching to 2.43 million metric tons. Last year, rice imports reached to 1.75 million metric tons, resulting a 2.63 million metric tons or 23% of the gross supply. But government has already dealt an importation of 2.47 million metric tons for the 2010 requirement.

“There has been over-stocks of rice annually, but the past administration continued to intensify importation, this is a clear betrayal of the Filipino people, particularly the rice farmers. The government favored foreign interests than the interests of Filipino farmers. This is a form of treason and economic sabotage, systematically destroying the country’s food security. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agriculture secretary Arthur Yap should be held responsible for this man-made disaster,” said Ramos.

The group urged Aquino to prosecute those who profited, including the rice cartels close to Arroyo. They have also called for Aquino to reverse the effects of Arroyo’s agricultural program by ending the liberalization of agriculture and focus on supporting local production.

“We urge Noynoy to stop the liberalization of agriculture, Arroyo favored foreign interests over the country’s and Filipino farmers. He should issue orders on stopping massive importation and commence on subsidizing local rice production. He should change our country from being a rice net-importer to being self-reliant,” Ramos called. #
and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.

           
     
     
     

 

Hacienda Yulo farmers asked Aquino: Don’t evade land reform in SONA 07/23/2010

Fifteen Hacienda Yulo farmers in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna now on their second day of fast today urged President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III not to evade the issue of land reform in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, saying farmers from all over Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon provinces who would join the mass action in Batasan complex on Monday.

“Noynoy did not mention anything about land reform and social justice during his inauguration on June 30. This coming SONA, the President has no option but to tell his government land reform policy, call a spade a spade and get ready for intensified agrarian unrest if he fails to institute corrective measures on agrarian injustice in this country,” said the 15 hunger striking Yulo farmers identified with the Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK).

Hacienda Yulo farmer leader and hunger strike organizer Nestor Villanueva of Kasama-TK noticed that President Aquino being a big landlord himself from Central Luzon courtesy of the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita has become very accommodative to big hacienda owners like the Yulo family.

“The Yulo has become more aggressive than ever in killing the land rights of the farmers to the extent of mobilizing the Philippine Army and the special action groups of the PNP in Southern Tagalog. In the name of land monopoly and land use conversion for super profits, the Yulo sourced the help of state security forces to able to cut 1,000 coconut trees inside the Hacienda and pave way for the grandslam land use conversion,” the Yulo farmer leader said.

Villanueva added: “What we want from hear from him are three statements. The first one is a commitment to distribute the 7,100 hectare to all farmer beneficiaries. The second one is the urgent halt on all land use conversion activities in the Yulo estate and last but not the least is the immediate pull out of all Army and police forces inside the hacienda, nothing more, nothing less.”

The three demands were submitted to Malacanang by peasant groups Kasama-TK and its mother organization, the left wing peasant activist group—the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas on July 1, a day after Aquino’s inaugural address at Luneta.

But for Axel Pinpin, secretary general of Kasama-TK, President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Yulo farmers and it is the real score at the moment and the days to come.

“Until now, there is no presidential instruction from the Office of the President for DAR to act swiftly on the demands submitted to Aquino’s office early this month. How long it would take him before he makes a decisive move in favor the Yulo farmers? One year? 50 years?”, said Pinpin.

Pinpin said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 41 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“So far this is the concrete step taken by Aquino as far as the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Yulo is concerned and for the farmers the act is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” the Kasama-TK official said.

At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented on July 16 to newly installed Agrarian reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

Among the land dispute cases involving land use conversions, cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and eviction of farmer beneficiaries include the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas which has been primed for eco-tourism projects and the 7,100 hectare prime agricultural land in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna province.

The other cases of agrarian disputes presented during the dialogue with DAR secretary include land reform reversals and land use conversions in Dasmarinas and Silang in Cavite province, the seedling projects in Montalban, Rizal and the conversion of Araneta owned lands in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

“The Southern Tagalog region has become the laboratory for land reform reversals, land reform denials and land use conversions since the Calabarzon days of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Hundreds of thousands of prime agricultural lands have been subjected to automatic control of big landlords and were primed for land use conversions at the expense of land reform beneficiaries and other land tillers across the region,” Kasama-TK noted.

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said as of December 2006, DAR has cancelled at least 108,141 CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EPs) involving 204,579 hectares. CLOA and EP cancellations are increased by 3,790% from 1995 data of 2,780, while land area increased by 1,162% from 16, 213 hectares. Of the cancellations, majority or 87% were due to subdivision of mother-CLOAs into individual CLOAs. It involved about 82% of the lands to 167,486 hectares.#

     
     
           
     
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Peasants can’t find the text “land reform” on Noynoy’s SONA transcript 07/27/2010

After hearing the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, peasants belonging to the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and its Southern Tagalog chapter Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) said that they never heard the phrase “reporma sa lupa” or “land reform.” The groups said the Aquino said the word “lupa” just once but it was referring to a proposal to lease lands within military bases.

“This is really new or this is the ‘pagbabago’ Aquino is talking about, ridding off land reform as a legitimate issue and agenda, escaping from the centuries-old problem of landlessness and ‘iwas-pusoy’ on the issue of Hacienda Luisita and other haciendas controlled by rich and powerful landlords,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General in a press statement.

“We somehow expected something like this, especially when he zipped his lips on the land issue on his inaugural speech. Also, we all know that he belongs to the powerful landlord clan of the Cojuangco-Aquinos,” Ramos added.

KMP and Kasama-TK are the organizers of the 100-Day Peasant Camp-out for Land and Justice, which began July 1 to press the new administration to include the peasant agenda on his first 100 days of governance. The groups were able to send their demand letters to Aquino but until now they have yet to hear anything from the president.

“We sent our legitimate demands to the new president with the hope of him being open and transparent. Some of our calls included the pull-out of military from farm communities especially in Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna and Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. We also demand that agri-products of farmers be allowed to be transported out from Hacienda Yulo. Those were simple legitimate demands, but the president who claims ‘Pagbabago’ has yet to send feelers that he would heed our grievances,” added Ramos.

“There is nothing shocking about Noynoy’s SONA speech, no mention of land reform, no concrete plans of prosecuting Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He sounded like being interviewed on a showbiz program, claiming of exposés without actual plans to do anything about it,” said Axel Pinpin, Kasama-TK Secretary-General.

The groups said that Aquino only said the word “agrikultura” once referring to programs similar to Arroyo, the word “bigas” just twice regarding excessive importation of the National Food Authority. He mentioned the three victims of extra-judicial killings but not Pascual “Tatay Pascual” Guevarra, the 78-year-old farmer who is struggling to keep his land inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija. A part of his farm was converted by an extension of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) towards Aurora province. Aquino was involved on the SCTEX project when he led its construction piercing through Hacienda Luisita without consulting the agri-workers who are supposedly co-owners of the lands affected.
In addition, Aquino discussed majorly on irrational government spending but never mentioned the P728-million Fertiizer Scam, prosecuting former agriculture officials Joc-joc Bolante and Cito Lorenzo and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. None was also stated about P217.8-million Rice Scam raked up by fly-by-night foundations close to Arroyo and former NFA and Dept. of Agriculture official Arthur Yap.

“There is also no mention of prosecuting Arroyo of her implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya, which killed more than a thousand activists, where 561 were peasant victims, 129 peasants were victims of enforced disappearances and many where accused of fabricated charges, the recent is former SAGUPA-SB (KMP Eastern Visayas) leader Dario Tomada who is now at Camp Karingal,” said Ramos.

“We see him allergic of the Filipino peasants. The road his leading is crooked away from genuine land reform and justice. The more he ignores us, the closer we would get as we are to protest at Mendiola tomorrow morning pressing him to resolve land disputes all-over the country by distributing the lands farmers have dreamed of for decades,” Ramos called. #

 

     
     
           
     
 
     
     
     
     
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