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Group to next president: Industrialize agriculture in the face of climate change, El Niño

Published on 15 February 2016 Philippines

MANILA - The next president of the Philippines should adopt an agriculture-based industrialization program to ensure the social protection of farmers,especially in the midst of natural disasters brought about by climate change and the ongoing El Niño phenomenon, a broad alliance of grassroots organizations and civil society groups said in a news release Sunday.

"Farmers and rural communities are among the poorest sectors in Philippine society. Government programs and support services from past and present administrations have been highly inadequate. With the El Niño phenomenon and increasing climate change disasters, these communities are rendered even more vulnerable," said Dr. Rene Ofroneo, a spokesperson of the alliance Buhay na may Dignidad para sa Lahat (DIGNIDAD), and former Dean of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations in University of the Philippines-Diliman. 

DIGNIDAD, a newly-established broad platform of grassroots organizations, labor groups, non-government organizations, academics, and other citizens advancing an agenda that will ensure a life of dignity for all Filipinos, noted that the state-run weather bureau has said that as of end-January 2016, 17 provinces experienced actual drought as a result of El Niño.

Of these 17 provinces, 11 are in Mindanao, home to among the poorest provinces in the Philippines. These provinces are Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Basilan, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi. In Luzon, Palawan also experienced drought while in the Visayas, drought areas included Aklan, Antique, Northern Samar, Samar (Western Samar).

"Candidates who dare offer themselves to uplift the lives of the marginalized must address the rights and concerns of the agriculture sector, particularly in the face of El Niño. This phenomenon has real and devastating impacts on production as well as on the lives of farmers who have to make do with the oppressive conditions of their livelihood."

‘Address inequality, achieve development’

DIGNIDAD stresses the need for the next administration to have a clear program of agricultural industrialization if it were to address inequality and achieve genuine development.

"There should be a comprehensive program to upgrade and modernize agriculture. These must be supplemented by programs supportive of increased processing or industrialization of agricultural products – in situ or in their original location," said Ofreneo who also heads the Integrated Rural Development Foundation.

"The Constitution envisions just, balanced, and industrially-developed rural communities. Yet, the country’s experience with the 25-year-old comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) has been dismal." He added that "land transfer is still a work in progress while joblessness is widespread in the countryside because no agri-based industrialization has taken place."

He said that as of now, "the country still has to strategize ways by which it can regain self-sufficiency in staple crops, vegetables, and other agricultural products."

Obvious solutions

Ofreneo said that if only government leaders had the mind and heart for the farmers, the solutions are obvious.

"The solutions are definitely not the structural adjustment programs that have been imposed on us for decades. Rather these solutions are: hastening the completion of CARP, transforming CARP beneficiaries and small farmers into modern agribusiness producers with full support from government, strengthening research and development and extension work in agriculture, and promoting rural industrialization."

These demands of DIGNIDAD are part of the agenda and challenge to candidates in the 2016 elections: to focus their program of action towards the realization of a life of dignity for all.

DIGNIDAD calls on the country's next leaders to legislate and implement policies for universal and comprehensive social protection.

“In general, social protection consists of policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability during economic shocks, natural disasters, old age, sickness, and disability. But what we seek is transformative social protection that goes beyond these traditional concepts. We want transformative social protection that strives for the realization of fundamental rights in order for everyone to live a life of dignity” said Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, co-convenor of DIGNIDAD and Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay (KAMP).

Nemenzo said these rights include: work, essential services (health care, housing, education, water, electricity), food, and social security (income guarantee for the child and in times of old-age, disability, unemployment and disaster).

The coalition DIGNIDAD will be formally launched on February 22, and will persevere in engaging candidates in the elections and leaders after the election to adopt a transformative social protection agenda.

DIGNIDAD members include: Akbayan, Alab Katipunan, Arya Progresibo (Arya), Ating Guro, Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), HomeNet-Philippines, Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD), Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF), Katipunanng Bagong Pilipina (KABAPA), Kilos Maralita (KM), KILUSAN, Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay (KAMP),

Metro Manila Vendors Alliance, Pambansang Tagapagugnay ng mga Manggagawasa Bahay (PATAMABA), Pambansang Koalisyonng Kababaihansa Kananayunan (PKKK), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights), Sanlakas, Sarilaya, Sentro, UmalabKa, WomanHealth Philippines, and numerous sectoral and community-based networks.


Source: Interaksyon | 14 February 2016