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Must Be Beyond the Control of the Oligarchs

Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera 

Land, Water & Electricity Are Means to Life

The escalating prices of basic commodities such as rice which has gone up to P64.00 per kilo and rising rate of electricity are painful realities which should be a subject of some deep reflections in a country where some 20 million are now living below poverty line. Let us serve notice to one and all that the Philippines is an agricultural country oozing with blessed land especially here in Mindanao described as the “food basket” of the country. Thus, any short- or long-term development can be won or lost through agriculture. But according to Food & Nutrition Institute, 85% of the Filipino children are malnourished. Thus, many more will go hungry with the rising prices now.

Social scientists have categorically stated that in the Philippines everyone is profiting from farming, i.e. the seed and fertilizer dealers, the compradors, the usurers, the middlemen but not those who are doing the back-breaking job of farming, the poor farmers, exposed to the outpourings of rains and the excruciating heat of the sun. With the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law which has allowed cheaply grown rice to enter our country, many rice farmers have been buried in debt, some even committed suicide “Dahil baon na sa utang.”  

Indeed, our farmers known as our “unsung heroes” as they are the ones feeding the nation, are now living in extreme poverty.  In fact, three of four young farmers have already left farming, going to the urban centers to work as janitors, waiters, or drivers. According to the United Nations – Food Agricultural Organization (UN-FAO), agriculture in our country has just contributed .02 to the Gross National Products (GNP) in the last decade. Why is this so? The culprit is Conventional Agriculture as all these years, the Filipino farmers have been tied-up to the heavy use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides as our amazing native varieties have been replaced by High Yielding Varieties (HIVs). Our original rice varieties such as DENORADO, AZUCENA, TUNAWON which are grown sustainably have been stolen by global corporations which are the choice of the people in advanced countries as these are grown through sustainable agriculture, very safe being not chemically grown. 

While the Filipino farmers have been imprisoned by the Department of Agriculture in Conventional Agriculture, farmers in other countries have long shifted to Sustainable Agriculture. In 1997, for example, atter the signing of the the Asian Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) which happened in Cebu City, the King of Thailand upon reaching Bangkok, took-off his robe and crown and worked as a farmer, telling the Thai farmers never to use chemicals as such kills beneficial insects and degrade the integrity of the soi to become very acidic. The King told them never to use tractors as the emissions from the tractors deplete the ozone layer. The Thai farmers have replaced the tractors with carabaos and working animals as the wastes of these animals are used to fertilizer the soil, they were able to lower down the production price of rice to only P5 per kilo. In the Philippines, the farmers are producing per kilo of rice at about P15 to P20 per kilo. Thus, when we allowed cheaply grown rice from Vietnam and Thailand to enter our country through Rice Tariffication Law, our rice farmers AY NALUGI Some committed suicide for how can they sale their rice below the production cost? 

It has therefore become imperative for us now to do some deep reflections on the root causes of poverty, gross inequities, and social injustice in our ecologically-rich country where only a few oligarchs are in control. Why is it that in a very rich agricultural country, many are hungry and malnourished? This is because our choicest of lands are not for food but have been transformed into massive plantations to satisfy the consumerist needs of the people in advanced countries which is being done through corporate globalization. Now do you know why they want to amend our Constitution? It is because they want to allow foreign corporations to own our land which is prohibited in the 1987 Constitution.

Not only do the oligarchs and their cohort Trans-National Corporation want to control our land, after they have controlled our water and electricity. In the three episodes of the TV Program, MAGANDANG GABI PILIPINAS, the amazing journalist, Mr. Ceazar Soriano, has featured AGAW LUPA, AGAW TUBIG, AGAW BUHAY narrating how our Indigenous Peoples are being killed for resisting against illegal grabbing of their ancestral domain and for massive violations of their water-rights. An LGU in Bukidnon has established its water system, earning millions to the detriment of the tribe of Datu Ben Anoos where the outpourings of water are coming from. 

What is so painful is the existing of so-called Electric Cooperatives which are cooperatives in name only. Some 13 million member-consumer-owners (MCOs) with a mass -base of some 65 million Filipinos (in a family of five) are not being recognized as MCOs when in fact, they have already had a total contribution of some one trillion pesos as capital shares in the last 70 years. Such truism is backed-up by their monthly billings, i.e., amortization of loans and reinvestment.  Each MCO family should have at least P3,000 per month as patronage refund with free scholarship for their children and free hospitalization as what is being done in other countries but these oligarchs who are in control are so powerful When an office of government i.e. CDA tried to correct such social wrong, the then Chairman has been harassed with three attempts to his life and even found guilty in an Ombudsman case. For what? For doing his job in attending a general assembly of an electric cooperative in the Davao Region and in issuing Certificate of Good Standing after such had passed the complete staff work of all divisions under him as Chairman. Is that how powerful the oligarchs are in this country?  Having been found guilty, the former CDA Chairman is now living in financial stress without pension, devoid of whatever retirement benefit. As has been said, “economic power begets political power.” I hope that begetting power does not include judicial power. Perhaps, the Filipino people should have a deeper look of the existence of so-called electric cooperatives which are cooperatives in name only. Please revisit the `1987 Constitution, especially Sec. 15, Art.12, to quote, “The State shall promote cooperativism as instrument of social justice, equity and economic development.” Indeed, the very essence of cooperativism is one to promote social justice and the existence of so-called Electric Cooperatives is a great social injustice. Electricity is a means to life and must not be a means of so much money-making by the oligarchs. Let us therefore rectify a very glaring social wrong! 

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