Reclaim our Water Rights, Reclaim our Food Sovereignty

The dramatic rise of global food prices in the first half of 2008 to as high as 75% to 85% from their 2006 levels, severely affected not only the more than 800 million already hungry and impoverished people in the world but also sent 50 million more into poverty. The devastating social impact of the crisis also underscores the vulnerability of poorer countries to food price and supply volatilities – a phenomenon that has been recurring within the present context of globalization and increased economic integration among countries.

But more significantly, the global food price explosion of 2008 revealed the reduced capacity of developing countries to secure their food supply, particularly their staple grains, as a consequence of decades of neo-liberal policy making that have made them increasingly dependent on the international food market for their food security. The reason why global rice stocks were at their 30-year low in 2008 is not merely attributable to weather disturbances in food exporting countries nor to short-term factors such as the boom in agrofuels use but to a more fundamental restructuring of the economies in the Third World that reoriented their agriculture production to exports, to the detriment of domestic food production. Farmlands were converted to plantations of high value crops for exports and to industrial estates, further reducing food crop outputs. In consequence, while population steadily grew, domestic rice production has failed to meet rising consumption, leading to sharp gaps in supply and thus to dramatic increases in rice imports.

 

A call to action on World Food Day

PROTECT RICE, SUPPORT SMALL FARMERS’ LIVELIHOODS AND ASSERT FOOD
SOVEREIGNTY: A CALL TO ACTION ON WORLD FOOD DAY

In observance of the International World Food Day, we in the Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) and the National Movement for Food Sovereignty (NMFS) urge the Philippine government to adopt a sovereign food policy that rejects past administrations’ adherence to privatization, deregulation and liberalization of agriculture. Such policies have only deepened poverty and hunger while ensuring the dominance of agribusiness corporations in every stage of the food supply chain.

We call on the Philippine government to protect our small-scale food producers and consumers, assert our food sovereignty and push for agriculture modernization that is supported by and linked to national industrialization. This strategy will truly bring about rural transformation and move the mass of farmers out of poverty.

On the WTO, Rice Tariffication, and Quantitative Restriction

It is high time that government reviews its commitments to the World Trade Organization as the country faces the impending threat of rice tariffication. In compliance with the WTO, the Philippine government removed all import controls and quantitative restrictions (QRs) on agriculture products except rice under the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 (RA 8178). Allowed by the WTO for 10 years, the rice QR was renegotiated and extended twice since 2005. It is scheduled to be lifted by June 2017. Under WTO rules, exemptions have to be paid through increased imports at lower tariffs for other products.

The extension of rice QRs clearly was needed to protect our own rice farmers from cheap highly subsidized rice imports coming from neighboring countries. The QR prevents a drastic drop in domestic rice prices. The table below shows the disparity between the price of imported rice (at 35% tariff) and the wholesale price of locally produced rice. The data clearly manifests the disadvantaged position of our local farmers. Lacking the competitive advantage against the influx of the much cheaper imported rice, our farmers face increased threat not only of displacement, but even of extinction.

Table 1

Wholesale Price vs. Import Parity Price

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Contrary to the WTO’s claims, the Philippines stands to lose more from this deal than they let us believe. Let us keep in mind that Philippine agriculture remains in the quagmire of underdevelopment. Instead, only big transnational agribusiness corporations in the US, EU, Canada, and Australia have reaped the benefits of increasing food importation. WTO’s blatantly unfair trade rules restrict the ability of developing countries like the Philippines to protect their key food sectors.

The country’s continued adherence to WTO’s unfair trade agreements has weakened its capacity to feed the people while increasing its dependence on food imports. This is exemplified by the devastating impacts of the 2008 global food crisis especially on the poor population who faced the prospect of hunger amidst rising food prices and diminished supply. The withdrawal and reduction of support systems such as subsidies and price support for the country’s basic staple has already thrown our country to the mercy of the international market. We expect to see the worst if the remaining QR is finally lifted.

Threats of NFA Abolition and Privatization

Under present laws, the National Food Authority (NFA) is allowed to manage the importation of rice, effectively barring private traders to import rice. By taking away its function to regulate the rice supply by means of its rice procurement, the NFA would be unable to support the small rice farmers and the Filipino consumers in need of affordable rice. Stable rice prices are crucial – especially in a country like the Philippines where it is the primary staple food. It cannot be understated that the stability of rice prices can directly affect whether a family goes hungry or not. Unfortunately, proponents of this abolishment seem to completely ignore the grave costs this proposal entails on our poor farmers and consumers.The proposal by Finance Secretary Carlo Dominguez III to ‘restructure’ the NFA, which means to separate the agency’s regulatory function from that of its procurement and stabilization function to streamline government spending is essentially tantamount to NFA’s outright abolition. Past administrations have repeatedly attempted the privatization of the NFA, under pressure from multilateral financial institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Together with the removal of rice QRs, the privatization of the NFA will pave for increased private sector role in a public good that is essential to ensuring the country’s food security.

Instead of making moves to abolish the NFA by undermining one of its key functions, policymakers should rid the agency of corruption and strengthen its functions in assisting poor farmers. Policymakers should remember that this institution was established in order to empower and assist the small Filipino food producers. Hence, we urge this government to uphold NFA’s mandate and make it function effectively and efficiently.

Food (In)Security, Importation, and the Looming Food Crises

If this government is truly sincere in its promise to bring this nation to progress and to alleviate poor Filipinos from poverty, the welfare of our poor farmers which make-up the majority of rural poor must be prioritized. After all, they are the ones that feed the nation. But looking at these trends, what this government promises to achieve and the framework through which it seeks to deliver its promise are directly in contrast.

The push for tariffication and the removal of the QR stems from the problematic view of our policymakers on the concept of ‘food security.’ According to this framework, the main goal is ensuring enough food for the country, regardless of its production — whether it’s imported or GMOs. This type of thinking is short-sighted, problematic, and puts the entire nation at risk.

The current market has China and Indonesia ranking the highest in terms of dominating the demand side of the rice trade. Their rice demand is projected to go up over the coming years. Taking the predictions on rice supply in the coming years, and juxtapose them to the data presented to this fact, it becomes clear that to rely on the world market for our rice supply is problematic, to say the least. In fact, it would be downright reckless for our policymakers to put the fate of our country’s food supply, and the welfare of our people, in a market that has been proven to be unstable.In its study on the impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) clearly showed that the food crisis of 2008 will not be the last. It reports that at least 20 million hectares of the world’s rice growing areas are at risk of experiencing the negative effects of the changing climate. Particularly, these areas include the countries of India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. It projects that rice yields will incur losses of 10-15%, and rice prices will rise by 32-37%. Today, our country is importing rice from Vietnam.

Fight for Food Sovereignty

We in the IRDF and NMFS firmly believe that our agricultural sector is in the sorry state it is in now because it has been decimated by neoliberal policies precisely like this one. It is no secret that we have gone from a rice-exporting country to a rice-importing one in a span of a few decades as local farm productivity has been on a downward spiral while rural poverty still remains a perennial problem. Undoubtedly, removing the QR and abolishing the NFA will only result in the exacerbation of the long-standing ills of the Philippine agricultural sector, and further expose the country to the anarchy of the world market. Hence, the imposition of a so-called free market ideology on our food system must stop!

We therefore intensify our call for food sovereignty. We must take control of our own food system. This certainly is a challenge and we need to take concrete steps in order to achieve this. Instead of pursuing liberalization, we urge the Philippine government to invest in the development of the countryside and the agricultural sector. Let us break away from anti-people trade agreements. Provide the subsidy and support needed by our food producers. Promote organic farming, instead of false solutions. Give farmers their land, instead of protecting the vested interest of big landlords and multinational corporations. Stop the proliferation of GMOs that will only put our nation’s health and environment at risk. These are the first steps we urge this government to make to ensure that the country sufficiently grows its own healthy affordable food in a sustainable way.

No to lifting of rice QR!

Increase farm subsidy and price support!

No to liberalization of agriculture!

Pursue agricultural modernization and rural development!

Fight for food sovereignty!

26 October 2016

Photo from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/777314/1-killed-13-hurt-after-police-open-fire-in-north-cotabato-farmer-protest

Food, land not bullets

Aquino will be accountable for violence, dispersal of farmer’s protest in Kidapawan City

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) strongly condemns the heinous, violent dispersal of protesting farmers in North Cotabato affected by drought who are demanding for food aid and immediate government assistance.

“This violence against farmers and Lumad people will be the mark of BS Aquino administration. Farmers are demanding for food and land but the haciendero government responded with bullets,” said KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano.

“We are calling for nationwide peasant indignation protests and barricades to condemn this violence and injustice towards farmers and the Filipino people,” Mariano said.

Before 11AM today, combined forces of the North Cotabato police and soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, violently dispersed the barricade and fired shots at the protesting farmers and Lumad. Shots from M-16 rifles were allegedly fired.

According to initial information from Kilab Multimedia, at least 30 protesters were injured. Mayor Joseph Evangelista ordered the PNP to disperse the barricading farmers.

KMP and Anakpawis Partylist will lead an indignation rally at the Department of Agriculture Office in Quezon City at 1PM today.

The protest in Kidapawan City, led by the Kilusang Magbubukid sa Kotabato (KMK), local chapter of KMP in North Cotabato, are on the third day of their barricade at the local National Food Authority to demand the release of 15,000 sacks of rice subsidy to farmers severely affected by drought.

They are demanding North Cotabato provincial governor Lala Talino-Mendoza to immediately release the food aid and provide immediate assistance to farmers. ###

For references:
(In Kidapawan City) Pedro Arnado, KMP Vice President for Mindanao, 0909-6457494
(Manila) Antonio Flores, KMP Secretary General, 0921-2726682

Image from http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Indonesia Civil Society Coalition for ASEAN Community Condemns the Government of Malaysia on Deportation of Mugiyanto Sipin

PRESS RELEASE

Indonesia Civil Society Coalition for ASEAN Community Condemns the Government of Malaysia on Deportation of Mugiyanto Sipin

[Jakarta, January 7, 2016] Indonesia Civil Society Coalition for ASEAN Community condemns the Malaysian Government for the deportation of a democracy and human rights activist from International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Mugiyanto Sipin by the immigration officers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia today. Mugiyanto was supposed to be the keynote speaker at the session of the People’s Movement Can Bring Change along with Maria Chin Abdullah of BERSIH 2.0 in a series of events of Yellow Mania which should be held from 6-10 January 2016 in Malaysia.

Unfortunately, upon his arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) this morning, Mugi was not allowed to enter Malaysia and even was deported back to Indonesia immediately. The Malaysian Government action is contrary to the spirit of the new era of ASEAN Community, especially those who have threatened of their freedom of movement, freedom of thought, freedom of speech and expression. (more…)

The great climate change swindle

PSI comments on the newly released TiSA text that limits state control over natural resources
 
As Heads of State prepare to negotiate an international accord in Paris against global warming, their trade negotiators are meeting in Geneva to secretly forge a new free trade agreement that could expand fossil fuels’ exploitation and cause further climate change.

Wikileaks released yet another raft of leaked texts from the secretive Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Public Services International (PSI) and International Forum on Globalisation today released the first known analysis of the proposed Annex on Energy Related Services to inform the COP 21 climate summit.

The 23 TiSA negotiators, from Australia to Switzerland and including the US and the EU, are discussing binding clauses “denying regulators the right to distinguish solar from nuclear, wind from coal, or geothermal from fracking” by establishing the principle of ‘technological neutrality’. The meeting in Geneva – from November 30 to 4 December – will likely continue discussion on the agenda item called “Environmental Services”, discussed in October.

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