How MASAGANA 99 Destroyed the Spirit of Bayanihan

January 20, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

In just a little over ten years, 1970 to 1981 when the Marcos Sr. ‘s MASAGANA 99 project was implemented, Philippine farming practice changed dramatically to worse.

A study conducted by Centre for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia or CENDHRA during MASAGANA 99 implementation revealed that the three most frequently cited reasons for the decline of bayanihan or mutual cooperation in the countrysides were: 1) the introduction of IRRI’s high yielding variety in the countrysides; 2) the need for timely completion of farm tasks; 3) and fewer employment opportunities which lead people to charge for their labor.

In the four barrios covered by a study made by the now defunct ACES Foundation Inc. during the implementation of MASAGANA 99, 100 percent of the farmers interviewed shifted to the High Yielding Variety (HYV) rice of IRRI during those years whose distinct characteristic is their short-livedness.

Farmers interviewed frequently changed the variety of IRRI seeds they used because after two or three seasons of use IRRI varieties often lose their resistance to pests and diseases.

In contrast, before the advent of HYVs, farmers in the studied areas would use the same rice varieties for eight to ten consecutive years, simply exchanging seeds with other farmers when they wanted to try other traditional varieties.

Farmer-to-farmer seed exchange has been a millennia old practice by farmers around the world, in the Philippines, this activity is one the epitome of bayanihan.

Due to MASAGANA 99, farmers back then and even today have to buy new seeds every so often from the seed growers, at high prices. Seeds, therefore, have become a major and expensive farming input.

When farmers are unable to purchase new seeds and persist in using the same variety, it will lose its resistant characteristics and succumb to massive infestations.

During the early stages of MASAGANA 99 in the 1970s, the planted HYV IR-20 and IR-22 in Central Luzon were observed to succumb to massive infestations.

In 1970, three years before MASAGANA 99’s implementation, in the same four barrios covered by the study, 93 percent of farmers had a carabao. By 1981, only 45 percent owned a carabao, which was before the symbol of small farmer.

In some ways, carabaos do a better job than tractors. They cost less, in terms of maintenance, and they reproduce themselves, giving farmers extra income to look forward to over the years. Carabaos also provide milk for the farmers’ families and serve as inexpensive modes of transportation for marketing the farmer’s farm produce.

Loans given in connection with the MASAGANA 99 program made possible the proliferation of small mechanical power-tillers and threshers. The not holistic introduction of mechanical power paired with an intensive cropping system (which demands timely completion of farm tasks) have combined to force many farmers to sell their carabaos.

In contrast, tractors, in the long run, rust and become either unusable or very expensive to maintain after a few years’ use.

With this, the practice of bayanihan during MASAGANA 99 was largely supplanted by cash payment for work done.

Moreover, farmers interviewed from the four barrios reported an average saving of Php 82 per season through bayanihan methods such as collective farming and land management in 1970.

By 1981, at the end of MASAGANA 99, no one from the farmers reported such savings.

The spirit of bayanihan, which was common before MASAGANA 99, has almost vanished in the four barrios studied. During MASAGANA 99’s implementation and up to now, extra labor is hired and is in demand during the transplanting and harvesting seasons, but largely goes idle the rest of the time.

Today, the son of the mastermind of MASAGANA 99, President Marcos Jr. plans to revive and intensify the MASAGANA 99 project under the name MASAGANA 150 and MASAGANA 200.

Almost 50 years since his father’s implementation of MASAGANA 99 and its fatal and lasting consequences to our farmers and environment health, had he not learned the lessons of it? Or is it still the same profit-over-people scheme for the son of the late dictator?

Makialam! Magbahagi!

Reference: Modina R.B., Ridao A. R., IRRI Rice: The Miracle That Never Was. ACES Foundation, Inc.