Law on genuine agrarian reform and free land distribution needed to address perennial unemployment in and decline of agriculture – farmers

As the House Committee on Agrarian Reform hears House Bill 239 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) for the first time during the 18th Congress, farmers said Congress is doing a great disservice to Filipino farmers by delaying the passage of GARB. The bill, first filed by Anakpawis Partylist on November 2007 have been sitting in Congress for the past 13 years despite overwhelming support from farmers. “Now is the high time to approve GARB. The rural economy is in peril and farmers are enduring a serious setback due to the rice liberalization law. GARB could be the rural sector’s only chance for recovery.”

“This proposed measure that would benefit millions of farmers and the entire rural population and agriculture sector should have been passed by now. Instead, Congress pushed GARB to the back burner and chose to legislate anti-people laws such as the TRAIN tax measure, the amendments of the Public Services Act, and the new anti-terror bills,” says KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.

“Unemployment in agriculture is perenially rising while the growth of the agriculture sector is on steady decline for several years now. GARB that supports free land distribution, is an important legislation that could jumpstart the rural economy, boost employment, and uplift the state of PH agriculture sector and farmers,” Ramos added.

In 2019, as much as 1.4 million jobs were lost in agriculture, with employment falling from 11.1 million in 2016 to 9.7 million in 2019. This translates to an average annual job loss of 455,000 in this period. Agriculture’s share in the gross domestic product (GDP) has been consistently declining from 8.8% in 2016 to 8.5% in 2017, 8.1% in 2018, and 7.8% in 2019. This is a far cry from its over 40% share in the economy in the 1960s. “These figures are disturbingly alarming. The Philippines is predominantly an agriculture country, and yet our domestic agriculture is in a chronic crisis and our farmers are buried deep in poverty and indebtedness,” added Ramos.

“The Committee on Agrarian Reform chaired by Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao must seriously consider the passage of GARB . In the past decade, Congress have exhausted all the arguments for and against GARB during numerous committee hearings and public consultations. Farmers want GARB approved and legislated as the new agrarian reform law to replace the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program,” Ramos ends. #

(Featured image from Panday Sining)

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