The nationwide farmers’ organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that Filipino farmers are to endure worsening poverty and hunger under the Aquino government this year.  The group reacted to latest reports that the National Food Authority (NFA) doubled its allocation of rice imports to traders and poverty and hunger survey of Social Weather Station (SWS) that reported a significant increase in Filipinos who claimed to have gone hungry as they lacked anything to eat from September to November last year.  KMP said that president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino is a copycat of Gloria Macapal-Arroyo particularly on his agrarian and agricultural policies that gravely affects the lives of farmers nationwide.

“We see a repetition of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Aquino’s programs, such as the liberalization of agriculture, allowing NFA to increase allocation of imported rice.  Everybody knows that these bad tasting imported rice compete with the locally-produced thus, giving opportunities to landlords and traders to even depress the farmgate price of palay, leaving the rice farmers in deep poverty and debt,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General in a press statement.

“Aquino is a total liar when he criticized the Arroyo government of over-importing rice that rotted at NFA warehouses.  Now he is doing exactly the same,” Ramos added.

KMP said that Aquino’s moves to increase allocation to traders and the P8-billion budget cut of NFA is a clear measure of liberalization.  Instead of beefing up NFA to purchase more local rice, Aquino is geared towards flooding the loca market with imported rice from Vietnam and Thailand.  The recent move would even slash the local rice share to the NFA stock of 16% and amplify the imported rice share of 84%.

“Aquino has no plan of changing our status as the world’s number one rice net importer and the NFA is acting as a trader for imported rice,” Ramos said.

The group said that the Aquino has ignored the farmers’ grievances since it took the post as president.  Last year, the farmers opposed the P8-billion budget cut of NFA and proposed to increase the agency’s capacity to buy more local rice.  The group also condemned the NFA’s increase in retail price from P25 to P27 per kilo and suggested a rollback to its previous price of P18.25 per kilo.  Instead of stopping rice imports, Aquino is now increasing the allocation to traders.

“This is exactly the root causes of the worsened hunger Filipinos endured.  Farmers suffer landlessness, low prices of palay and high retail price, and the Aquino government seems inexistent to make a change of our state,” Ramos said.

KMP recently called for a moratorium on land rent on landslides and flood-hit provinces in Eastern Visayas, Bicol and CARAGA.  The group said that the landlords’ charging of land rent would definitely put farmers into deep poverty as their produce were heavily damaged by the heavy rains resulting flash floods and landslides.

“Affected farmers and their farms are yet to rehabilitated and here comes Aquino’s measure of flooding the local market with imported rice.  Rice farmers are facing a beating under the Aquino government,” Ramos said.

“We call on concerned sectors to oppose Aquino’s liberalization policy on agriculture, particularly rice.  The Aquino government is destroying our capacity to produce our own food and transforming us to mere dependents of imported rice,” Ramos called. #

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