MASIPAG On Marcos Jr’s first SONA: No real solutions unless immediate problems in agriculture are addressed

January 16, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

MASIPAG On Marcos Jr’s first SONA: No real solutions unless immediate problems in agriculture are addressedAmid President Marcos plan to revitalize agriculture, development aggression, rampant land conversion, and backward policies hindering genuine rural and agricultural development remain untouched.

In his recent State of the Nation Address, President Marcos Jr. mentioned the urgent need for land reform, specially the condoning of loans for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) grantees, as one of the structural solutions amid the impending food and land crisis brought by the pandemic and global recession. However, such pronouncement, although welcomed, remains a question in implementation as policies and practices supporting and maintaining the backward status of agriculture in the Philippines remain at large.

In hindsight, what happened in Hacienda Tinang, where almost a hundred farmers and land advocates were jailed for asserting their right to cultivate their land under the more than two-decade old ruling of CARP, is one of the problems Marcos Jr. need to solve first in order for his eyed solution to be an actual solution. This means that more than the condoning of loans, he must also ensure the beneficiaries will continue to reap the mandate of CARP and protect them from the land grabbing schemes of private entities such as what happened in Tinang.

This also means that Marcos Jr. must also include not only the to-be distributed land owned by the state under CARP but also to the Haciendas and other large parcels of private lands under it. Moreover, he should focus on ensuring a system that would efficiently monitor and justly implement these land distributions if he really is indeed serious in his planned solution.

The enduring legacy of the highly destructive Green Revolution and MASAGANA 99 implemented by Marcos Sr. that buried farmers neck-deep into debt and capitulated them into unsustainable conventional farming also still sips deeply into the present system of our agriculture with the prevalence of GMO and chemical-based farming and the now plan of Marcos Jr. to relaunch the MASAGANA 99 under a much wider and aggressive approach.

Rice Liberalization, massive importation of agricultural products, landlessness, the Hacienda system, development aggression of agricultural lands through large mining operations and construction of large dams are also major reasons why Marcos Jr.’s land reform and agricultural revitalization will remain in question.

Marcos Jr. resolve to also boost the production in agriculture and food sufficiency remains questionable if his solution would rely on loans and importation of agricultural inputs such as hybrid and genetically engineered seeds, chemical herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides and not on boosting local sustainable agricultural production. Currently, the price of oil-based fertilizers such as urea, one of the most used and important fertilizers in conventional farming, have been drastically increasing (from P1700 last November to almost P3500 per sack now) due to the steady increase of oil prices in the global market brought by the pandemic and the war on Ukraine and Russia.

Despite the amendments in Organic Agriculture Law and the efforts of organic farmers practitioners to forward farmer-led sustainable agriculture as the holistic solution for food security and sovereignty, the entry of dangerous GMO technologies in agriculture such as The Golden Rice project that he inherited from the Duterte administration remains untouched and is still in full implementation. Scientists, organic farmers, and consumers have long been reitariating that the propagation of Golden Rice in the Philippines is a threat both in rice biodiversity and livelihood of the farmers and a danger to consumers due to the lack of meaningful safety tests and nets.

MASIPAG also worries about the lack of priority in Marcos Jr. speech with regards to peace and human rights as attacks toward farmers and development workers remain rampant. Moreover, Marcos Jr. plan to also boost the economy through the tourism and continuation of infrastructure projects in rural areas, where most of the human rights violations in the rural areas were committed, under the Build Build Build program is a direct contradiction to genuine agricultural and rural development. Adding the fact that it is already hindered by the worsening effects of climate change accelerated by development aggression, genuine agricultural and rural development under Marcos Jr. remain an undoable promise.

In light of President Marcos first ever State of the Nation Address, rather than bold and captivating promises, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura demand for a comprehensive plan for the agricultural sector that forwards the interest of the farmers and peoples first. The President’s “solutions” uttered in his first ever SONA would only be actual solutions if and only if he had already created an environment that would allow its genuine implementation.