On World Food Day Gov’t policies cause “World Hunger Day” in Ph

Manila, Philippines – The Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes (PNSFP) marked the World Food Day by raising the alarm against government policies which are causal for the worsened state of hunger, undermining food-producing capacity and unbridled violation of farmers’ rights to land. PNFSP is a network that advocates the attainment of food security in the Philippines by pushing for government programs and policies towards genuine agrarian reform, self-sufficiency and regulation of food market to make it accessible to the marginalized sectors.

“The continued in-existence of fundamental policies to attain food security in the country generates worsened hunger among poor sectors, hence, this day is nothing but World Hunger Day,” Renmin Vizconde, PNFSP Advocacy Officer said in a statement.

The group criticized that the absence of a genuine agrarian reform program or security of farmers on land leads to their systematic displacement, thus, undermining the food-producing capacity of the country. It is also the principal cause that more than half of the population in the rural areas are engrossed in unimaginable poverty, including state of hunger.

Vizconde said that the previous land reform program, that is Republic Act No. 6657 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) expired in June 2014, and the mandated agency, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is helpless to cover more lands for distribution to farmers, supposedly a major contribution in food production in the country.

“Filipino farmers who are cultivating rice, and other food crops are being ejected from their lands, and big landlords and agri-corporations are grabbing them to convert them into plantations for oil palm, banana and other for export-cash crops,” Vizconde said.

The case of farmers on land previously controlled by Lapanday in Mindanao, clearly depicts how the Philippine government put more weight in export-oriented agriculture than for food security and self-sufficiency. Lapanday maintains hundreds of thousands of hectares for its banana and pineapple plantations to be supplied to the foreign monopoly corporation Del Monte. They were able to sustain their control over vast lands through agri-business venture arrangements (AVAs) with agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), which was actually sanctioned by CARP and promoted by DAR, or the government in general. Initial data from DAR that lands under AVAs ranges to 2 million hectares across the country, including those contracts with non-ARBs.

“With millions of hectares of lands dedicated for export-oriented agriculture, that displaced many farmers who were cultivating their own food, fundamentally undermined food security in the country,” she added.

At present, more than a hundred farmers from Bukidnon are camping out in front of the DAR office in Quezon City are demanding land distribution as their lands were covered as educational reserve by the Central Mindanao University (CMU). The farmers are cultivating rice and other food crops on the 514-hectare lands, even before it was declared as such reserve as early as the 1960s, but they are now being displaced by CMU administration. This contradiction was caused by the CARP’s loophole provision exempting educational reserves from land distribution.

In the agriculture sector, the present and past administrations continue to veer away from attaining food security and self-sufficiency by promoting its liberalization by including foreign monopoly corporate interests in government programs. The heavily funded National Rice Program (NRP) even failed to contribute in attainment of rice self-sufficiency as it promoted rice varieties commercialized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as they are designed to be cultivated with costly agro-chemical inputs which farmers across the country could not afford. The NRP was funded by at least P35 billion from 2011 to 2015.

During the same period, the National Food Authority (NFA) was also funded by near P20 billion, hence, adding that to the NRP Budget, would amount to at least P55 billion for the rice program, both in production and distribution. With the huge budgeting, it still failed to take the road to food security. Based in 2009 government data, utilization per capita reached to 119.92 kilogram per year, but in 2013 it sharply fell to 116.48, or roughly 3.5 kg. For a family of five, it is a fall of near 50 grams per day. With huge budgeting and expectation of improvement, the indicators revealed the opposite.

“It is clear that government program in rice failed, it used up a gigantic fund from the people’s money, but in return, still failed to contribute in attaining food security in the country,” Vizconde said.

Under the Duterte administration, the Department of Agriculture is bragging about updating the mapping of agricultural lands in the country, but with the aim of identifying more lands for plantation production. It has continued the Oil Palm Road map of the previous government, targeting 1 million hectares across the country for its production.

The new NFA administration also adopts the neoliberal framework of abandoning the regulation of the rice trade in the country or leaving them to the hands of the private sector and focus heavily in importing rice, as stated on the Philippine Development Plan 2017 - 2022. The said plan states its decoupling of its regulatory powers and focus on buffer stock via importing rice.

The NFA also cried malevolently of food shortage last year, in a crafty way to justify more rice importation via exacerbated liberalization through private sector-to-private sector (P2P) importation. Beneath this, the agency’s palay procurement ranged from 27,000 to 365,000 metric tons, which were actually 0.1% to 2% of the total country’s palay production. Moreover, NFA stock share drastically fell from 1.7 million metric tons in January 2011 to 906,000 metric tons in January 2016, or from 50% of the stock to the minority 28%. But the commercial stock, from only capturing 16%, almost doubled to 30% of the 3.2 million metric tons rice stock in January 2016.

“With the NFA accomplishing its neoliberal mission, it abdicated its mission to secure the rice supply and with its integrity to raise alarm for a food shortage, as it endowed its supposed powers to the private sector,” Vizconde claimed.

PNSFP asserted, that with agrarian reform remaining unfulfilled and agriculture sector shaped into serving the demand of the world market via neoliberal programs and not geared towards attaining food security in the country, “World Food Day” is actually “World Hunger Day” for marginalized Filipino sectors. ###

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