Farmers’ initial reaction to Duterte’s SONA

As we expected, Duterte made grandstandings about the free irrigation services law, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act and the Rice Tariffication Law.

However, Rodrigo Duterte is only convincing himself with his so-called accomplishments in the agriculture sector. As far as farmers and the peasant masses are concerned, his administration and his policies are always epic failure when it comes to addressing the just demands of farmers.

First off, the Coconut Farmers Industry and Trust Fund legislated this year is a renewed plundering of the 100-billion coconut levy fund. The law will only privatize and invest the fund while depriving the rightful owners — coconut farmers, of their right to control and utilize the fund. Hindi pa naibabalik ni kusing ng coco levy fund sa mga magsasaka sa niyugan.

With regards to free irrigation, the law was passed in 2018 but remain an elusive dream for farmers. Despite the enactment of the Anakpawis Partylist’s co-authored Free Irrigation Services Act (FISA), many farmers also continue to pay irrigation fees.

What we actually have are rain-fed farms and sluggish irrigation development. Almost all farms in the country still depend on rain for irrigation. Irrigation systems in the country cover only two (2) million hectares, which is only equivalent to 16% of the total area of ​​farms. There are at least 1.1 to 3 million hectares of irrigable lands that are still unirrigated and vulnerable to drought.

The expansion of irrigation systems under the Duterte regime has been very slow. From 2015 to 2019, total irrigation in the country grew by only 3.3% or less than one percent per year. If it stays at the same speed, it will take another 29 years before the paltry target of only 3.1 million hectares can be irrigated.

The much-reviled rice tariffication law only led to the collapse of the domestic rice industry. It is considered as among the worst man-made disasters ever to hit the rice industry.

The import dependency ratio (IDR) of rice increased by 304%. In 2019, a year after the Rice Liberalization Law, 20% or 2 out of 10 sacks of rice are imported – the highest rate since 1998. In the same year, the Philippines also became the largest importer of rice in the world. Rice farmers also incurred Php90 billion in losses of rice farmers due to rice liberalization. Anakpawis has also reported a decline in rice production in 27 provinces nationwide.

Para sa mga magsasaka, puro kasinungalingan ang SONA ni Duterte. It’s a SONA full of lies and delusions. #

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