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Aquino’s agri policies ‘corporate-biased and anti-farmer’: TFFS

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Manila, Philippines – A few days before the President Benigno S. Aquino III’’s third State of the Nation Address, a broad network of farmer organizations and food security advocates criticized the administration’s agriculture policies as “corporate-biased and anti-farmer.”

 

The Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS) claimed that the Aquino administration’s aggressive push to open up the countryside to private investment will lead to deepening corporate control of agriculture and further marginalization of small farmers and fisherfolk who make up the bulk of the rural poor.

“If the president is serious about lifting millions out of poverty, he should do it by increasing funding for programs and institutions that support small farmers, not by facilitating the expansion of corporate farming and questionable agriculture investments through the Philippine Agriculture Development and Commercial Corporation (PADCC) and promoting privatization and PPPs,” said Ed Mora, a farmer leader and TFFS convener.

The PADCC is currently facilitating projects, including corporate farms and agrofuel plantations, covering close to 2 million hectares.

TFFS further argued that the current track of handing over operation and management of irrigation systems to private groups, promotion of public private partnerships (PPP) in the irrigation sector, and adoption of the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) will compromise the government’s self-declared goal of achieving rice self-sufficiency by placing control over water resources in the hands of business interests.

“Unfortunately, the current administration is again making the mistake of relying on the private sector to spur development in the agriculture, ignoring the vast potential of small farmers in generating sustainable growth if given the necessary support,” Mora said.

The group cited as example the removal of the National Food Authority’s trading function, one of the key agriculture policy reforms outlined in the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016. TFFS said that this will further erode government support for small rice farmers and make the administration’s aim of achieving rice self-sufficiency even more elusive.

“Consistent with this policy track, the measly increase in government’s palay procurement budget for 2013, from P4 billion to P4.25 billion, will only allow it to purchase 250,000 MT of palay from local farmers. Sadly, this is only 1.25 percent of the projected palay production for 2013,” said Mora.

TFFS has been pushing the government to procure from farmers at least 10 percent of annual production. The group also revealed that the government spent US$1.9 billion on rice imports during the 2008 global food crisis.

“Can you imagine how many farmers would benefit from NFA’s higher buying price if government spent the money to procure palay instead of importing rice?” Mora added.-30-

 

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