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PNFSP Statement on the 5th year anniversary of Global Day of the Landless

Ensuring the country's local production in the midst of the crisis caused by COVID-19 in the Philippines is of utmost importance now. An important aspect of the medical solution against COVID-19 is the strengthening of the immune system of every Filipino.

With the implementation of enhanced quarantine in the communities (enhanced community quarantine), hunger and sickness of people in the communities is at greater risk. Despite the Duterte administration's order for the Local Government Units (LGUs), especially the barangays to ensure food ration for the people, it is uncertain how long the barangays will be able to supply their constituents with food. This is due to the one-sided development in the communities and majority of the barangays have limited resources or funds for the Quick Response Fund (QRF). RA 10121 or DRRM Act of 2010 states that the allocation for immediate disaster response is only 30% of at least 5% of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF).

Even before the pandemic hit the country, Philippine agriculture was already facing a severe crisis especially with the implementation of the Rice Liberalization Law (RA 11203). Imported rice flooded the local market while rice farmers suffered losses due to plummeted farmgate price of their product. It will be recalled that up to P7.00 per kilo of rice ran aground last year and once again, farmers face the risk losing their lands due to the entrenched debt.

This will only add to the statistics of farmers who lost their land as a result of so-called "development projects" such as the New Clark City and Balog-Balog dam projects that evicted indigenous Aeta and Tarlac farmers. There are also other projects that are part of the Duterte administration's Build, Build, Build program.

As farmers have not yet recovered from the effects of the Rice Liberalization Law, the restrictions imposed by the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) aggravated their sufferings. It is undeniable that it has a tremendous impact on the overall economic activity of a major island where the country's so-called Rice Granary, Central Luzon, is located.

Vietnam’s policy of halting rice exports to the Philippines as part of their food security measure in the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic may contribute to the possible worsening of the rice crisis. Vietnam is one of the major exporters of rice in Asia. 85% of the more than 3 million metric - tons of imported rice came from Vietnam last year.

The government more then ever needs to increase the ability of the National Food Authority's (NFA) to buy at least P20 per kilo of rice. It is also necessary to ensure affordable and accesible agricultural products for the majority of farmers. ##

(Organizations of farmers, farmworkers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, women and youth in the countrysides declared March 29 as Global Day of the Landless, an initiative of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) noong 2015. It highlights the people’s struggle for land in Asia.)

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