Category Archives: News & Updates
FARMERS from Bulacan, Quezon, Nueva Ecija and Southern Mindanao held a protest rally at the gates of the Department of Agriculture to denounce the prescriptive programs pushed by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
Around 200 protesters denounced Piñol’s programs such as the Masagana 6000 and the commercialization of genetically-modified (GM) crops.
The farmers also gathered in commemoration of the 57th anniversary of the International Rice Research Institute, the supposed leading public research agency in rice production, based in Los Baños, Laguna.
“From Masagana 99 and high-yielding varieties in the 1960s, to Masagana 6000 and Golden Rice today, it seems nothing has changed,” said Antonio Flores, a farmer from Mindanao and secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
“Both programs and technologies are prescribed to supposedly improve farmers’ production, but in reality, they merely serve to bolster corporate control in agriculture and genetic erosion,” Flores said.
The DA has announced its intended program Masagana 6000 which it said will focus on increasing rice yields to 6000 kilos per hectare through the use of hybrid rice.
The program also supposedly aims to address the improvement of seed quality, conversion of farmers from traditional farming to high-yielding hybrid rice seeds, lack of irrigation, and lack of fertilizers.
Loan programs will also be promoted so that farmers can have the financing to buy off external inputs supplied by huge agrochemical corporations.
“This is reminiscent of the Masagana 99 program instituted in the 1960s,” said Cris Panerio, national coordinator of MASIPAG (Farmer and Scientist Partnership for Development).
“The program, under the Green Revolution made use of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) developed by IRRI, and introduced a package of technology with seeds, chemical inputs and loans,” said Panerio.
“History, however, have shown that any benefits from the program were short-term, and that the MASAGANA 99, the HYVs and IRRI all have failed their promises of better production,” said Virginia Nazareno, a farmer from Infanta, Quezon.
“The seeds and the fertilizers are too expensive for poor farmers like us, that we become buried in too much debt while our yields began to decline because of the failure of the HYVs,” said Nazareno.
“Monocropping of the HYVs exposed the rice plants to various harmful pests while the excessive use of chemical fertilizers have stripped off the soils of its nutrients essential to plant growth,” added Panerio.
“The numerous traditional rice varieties that farmers have cultivated for generations were also lost, because IRRI and the government then only prescribed the use of a few IRRI rice varieties,” said Panerio.
Aside from Masagana 6000, the production and commercialization of Golden Rice is also being revived.
The genetically modified rice was developed by IRRI to supposedly address Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) in poor and developing countries, including the Philippines. IRRI, along with DA and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) conducted five multi-location field trials back in 2011 in preparation for its commercialization in 2014.
In 2013, more than 400 farmers uprooted the Golden Rice field trials in Pili, Camarines Sur as the calls to ascertain safety to peoples’ health and the environment remained unheeded by IRRI.
“The farmers’ uprooting and continued resistance is justified, especially now in the light of new findings on Golden Rice which shows the weakness of the technology, the brunt of which will be shouldered by the farmers,” said Sharl Lopez, Executive Director of Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP).
“Recent studies found out that the Golden Rice have unintended effects when the gene constructs affected the plant’s own genes which now affects the plant’s growth,” Lopez said.
Lopez is referring to the study released by Test Biotech which states that the samples of Golden Rice were found to have lower yields due to the ‘substantial reduction’ of chlorophyll in the rice plants. This increases the contamination threats to other rice varieties and might have other unintended environmental effects.
“IRRI’s rice science and technology program has only contributed in aggravating the state of food insecurity and agricultural underdevelopment in the Philippines and other Third World countries,” said Finsa Cosico, secretary-general of AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People).
“IRRI has become an active agent in reconfiguring world rice production consistently in accordance with the predatory profit motives of multinational corporations and the general political and economic imperatives of imperialist powers,” Cosico added.
“Small-scale farmers have developed initiatives and alternatives that embody a farmer-led and farmer-centered agricultural system that not only ensures food security, but also resists the control of agrochemical corporations,” said Nazareno.
“Masipag farmers for instance, have developed, improved and shared traditional and farmers’ rice varieties which are better suited to the farmers’ needs and farm conditions. The practice of diversified farming and local innovations save the farmers from buying synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”
Flores added that, “prior to IRRI, farmers were growing more than 100,000 varieties of rice. Unfortunately, IRRIs technologies have disregarded the local wisdom, traditional knowledge and innovation of rice farmers accumulated over centuries. IRRI’s technologies and DA’s programs are doomed to fail because they are designed for profits and does not address the root of the farmers’ problems, and that is landlessness.”
“We must push for genuine agrarian reform where farmers will have control over the land, and other necessary resources for food production,” Flores added.
“IRRI’s Green and Gene Revolution failed because they do not serve the interests of the farmers; rather it served to perpetuate the systemic exploitation and oppression of the toiling masses,” said Flores.
“What we need is a true social revolution like the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917, which served to emancipate the workers and peasants that also proved to the world the possibility of socialist development in agriculture, industry and other human spheres,” Flores said.
Flores said the mass action in front of DA will be followed by a public forum on the impacts of monopoly capitalists to the agriculture sector titled “Going Against the Grain: Resisting the Neoliberal Attacks on Agriculture and the Way Forward to a Food-Secure Future.”
KMP said the forum will also highlight how the peasant sector, through decades of monopoly capitalist onslaught and feudal and semifeudal exploitation, effectively harnesses its collective and militant strength in asserting its democratic rights and in struggling for genuine land reform and national industrialization.
The forum will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the SOLAIR Auditorium in UP Diliman, Quezon City.#
KIDAPAWAN CITY—A year after the infamous Kidapawan Massacre justice remains elusive for the victims despite of senate hearings and other investigations. In April 1, 2016, more than 5, 000 farmers that experienced severe hunger due to El Nino phenomenon asserted their right to food by demanding rice subsidies from the local and national government agencies. The Massacre claimed the life of Darwin Sulang, injuring dozens and detained hundreds of farmers in North Cotabato.
“The people’s right to food is one of our inalienable right, and in times of calamities such as El Nino it is the state’s role to provide immediate relief yet the local government of North Cotabato failed to provide. Worse the legitimate demand for food was met by state brutality by Kidapawan police and justice for those accountable were not yet served.” Farmer-Scientist group MASIPAG said in a statement in commemoration of the Kidapawan Massacre.
According to Leo XL Fuentes MASIPAG Mindanao’s Regional Coordinator, “El Nino is a natural phenomenon that occur between two to seven years, the 2016 El Nino was predicted as early as 2014. But the agriculture programs of the past administration apparently failed to address this. If we are going to look closely, Kidapawan and North Cotabato farmers are victims of mono-cropping of big rubber and banana plantations. Mono-cropping exposes the soil surface allowing faster transpiration rate and reducing moisture, in the context of rubber plantations the rubber tappers suffered most since there is a significant reduction of moisture there is a dramatic decrease in sap supply of rubber trees.”
“Now, that being the case when rubber trees are not productive during drought season, this will translate to hunger for those farmers that depend on tapping rubbers. One of the saddest reality in mono-cropping. It is the role of the state to interfere amidst these disasters.” Fuentes added.
The local and national agencies failed to release the 15,000 sacks of rice demanded by the farmers and keep on insinuating and maligning the people’s legitimate demand for food. The local government of North Cotabato were hell-bent in denying despite of the glaring reality of hunger among the farmers.
“Justice was still elusive for the Kidapawan Massacre victims, and the greatest injustice being done to our farmers is the continuation of failed and disastrous agricultural system of mono-cropping, plantation expansions that is subservient to the export-oriented and import-dependent agricultural economy. The promise of change of the current administration will remain to be a mere lip-service if we will not depart to these market-oriented agricultural system of big corporations. It is high time now as we call for justice to struggle even harder towards food, land and sustainable development.” Fuentes ended. ###
Farmer-scientist group calls for the protection of farming communities from clashes, hopes that the peace process continues
Los Baños, Laguna – Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura) calls for the protection and respect of human rights amidst the raging war between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after the termination of the unilateral ceasefire of both camps. Presently, government forces are now pounding on areas in Mindanao and Luzon believed to be areas where the NPAs operate after President Rodrigo Duterte announced to the AFP to intensify operations against the longest-running communist revolution in the world.
In a statement addressed to the AFP, President Duterte ordered the military to ‘go ahead, flatten hills’ prompting government forces to use fighter jets and rockets in pursuit of the armed rebels. Reports state that several bombs are dropped in province of Compostela Valley and Abra, where unfortunately is also home for hundreds of farming families and indigenous peoples. Communities are fleeing their homes for fear of their lives, classes are suspended and some seeking medical attention. Documentation coming from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) state that one farmer gets killed every three days due to heightened military campaigns.
“It is us who suffer the most during these intensified military operations. Bombs do not discriminate rebels from civilians, and these are being dropped in areas we live or where our livelihoods are situated. The lives of farmers, producers of our food, should not be a collateral damage in this war. Of the Filipino population we believe that it is us, the farming communities and indigenous peoples, who will greatly benefit if the clash between the military and the NPA ends” said Marlinda Indao, a Lumad woman farmer from Bukidnon and member of the Regional Management Team of MASIPAG in Mindanao.
The intensified military operations has also affected farming activities and livelihoods, thus worsening the already dismal state of our agriculture and contributing to further hunger and starvation of rural communities. The provision of programs and services being rendered by non-government organizations working closely with farming communities and indigenous peoples are also being affected. “The heightened military campaign will only make matters worse for the farmers, who are already burdened by the present problems on agriculture such as lack of land, loss of control on seeds and knowledge and dirt-cheap selling price of their produce” added Tranquilino Pillado Jr, farmer-leader in the province of Antique and Board of Trustees member of MASIPAG.
The network also reiterated its support on both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) to continue the peace talks to finally address the root causes of armed struggle. “Every effort must be extended to deeply understand the problems besetting the nation and finally make terms on how we can all move forward. We in MASIPAG reiterate our stand that true development and genuine agrarian reform should cater the needs and aspirations of the small and resource-poor farmers and farm workers. Farmers should have free access and control over resources such as land, water, seeds and appropriate knowledge for them to produce food for the people. Lasting peace can only be met if we uplift the farmers’ lives and livelihood” said Cristino Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG.
A fourth round of peace talk negotiations between the GRP and the NDF is scheduled on April 2-6 in Oslo, Norway.###
MASIPAG has joined the calls for the confirmation of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who has been staunch in her stand in protecting the environment against destructive mining operations.
MASIPAG Regional Coordinator for Mindanao, Leo XL Fuentes Jr. has been quoted in a MindaNews article expressed support, as well as the significant role of agriculture:
Leo Fuentes Jr., regional coordinator of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), highlighted the agriculture’s role in providing potential jobs for workers who may be displaced.
“Before mining companies came to mine the communities, people used to be in farming. Agriculture can provide alternative jobs,” he said.
To read the complete article, click here.
Alliance against GMOs STOP OGM Pacifique interviews Dr Chito Medina during the People’s Tribunal against Monsanto regarding GM crops in the Philippines and its impacts to lives and livelihood of Filipino farmers, health and environment. Dr. Medina is an environmental scientist who has served as MASIPAG’s National Coordinator from 2007-2016. He now works as a technical consultant to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and remains a staunch and active partner-scientist of MASIPAG.
Watch the interview here.