Monday, April 18, 2016

Mar Roxas on Sugar Industry


“’Yung dating image ng Negros na pinagsasamantalahan ang mga manggagawa ay wala na ‘yun, burado na ‘yun. Dito sa planta na ito, they are at 90% positive!”

‘Yan ang naging pahayag ng Pambato ng Daang Matuwid na si Mar Roxas nang kanyang bisitahin ang First Farmers Holding Corporation (FFHC) Sugar Mill sa Talisay City, Negros Occidental nitong Martes (Peb. 16) bilang bahagi ng kanyang pag-uwi sa kanyang hometown sa Visayas.

Sinamahan siya ng dating Gobernador ng Negros Occidental na si Lito Coscolluela, na kaisa ni Roxas sa pagpapalakas ng industriya ng asukal sa lalawigan. Kasama nina FFHC President Nene Trebol at Vice President Junny Lizares, sinalubong ni Roxas ang mga manggagawang papasok na ng trabaho noong umagang iyon.

Dito ibinida ni Roxas ang mga naging magagandang pagbabago sa sektor ng paggawa, kung saan full-time ang trabaho, mataas pa sa minimum wage ang kinikita, at kumpleto sa benepisyo ang mga manggagawa ng planta.

“Bagong mukha ito ng pagtrabaho dito sa Negros, na ‘yung First Farmers ay pag-aari ng mga planters mismo, hindi ‘yung mga kapitalista. ‘Yung mga planters mismo, nagsama-sama sila at nagtayo ng sarili nilang mill,” ani Roxas.

“Ito ‘yung ating isinusulong. Dati ang reputasyon ng Negros ay ‘yung pinagsasamantalahan ‘yung ating mga manggagawa dito sa First Farmers at sa iba pang mga pagawaan tulad nito,” dagdag pa ni Roxas, na lubos na ikinasaya ang tagumpay na nakamit ng planta at ng mga manggagawa nito.

Ipinaramdam naman ng mga kabilang sa industriya ng asukal ang kanilang pasasalamat kay Roxas matapos niyang asikasuhin ang tuluyang pagtapyas ng 12% Value Added Tax (VAT) sa ‘raw cane sugar’ alinsunod sa Sugar Industry Development Act.

Kung hindi umano kumilos si Roxas upang kumbinsihin si Pangulong Benigno S. Aquino III tungkol sa nasabing isyu, magiging mabigat sa produksyon ng asukal ang P200.00 na buwis para sa kada 50 kilo nito.

“Pinoproteksyonan natin dito ay ang mga trabaho ng ating mga manggagawa. ‘Yan ang isinusulong ng Daang Matuwid,” pahayag ni Roxas.

Kung papalarin maging pangulo, bahagi ng plataporma ni Roxas na palawakin ang industriya ng manufacturing at palakasin ang sektor ng agrikultura upang lumikha ng mas maraming trabaho para sa mga Pilipino.

“’Yan ang tutok ng Daang Matuwid, na lumikha ng mas marami pang trabaho para sa ating mga kababayan sa pamamagitan ng pagpaparami ng mga planta, pagawaan at pabrika para magbibigay ng trabaho sa ating mga kababayan,” ani Roxas.
“Trabaho para sa bawat pamilya para may pagkain sa mesa, may panggastos sa pang-araw araw na pangangailangan, may pambili ng gamot, at merong pagpundar sa kanilang magandang buhay,”

Source: http://blog.marroxas.com/2016/02/16/roxas-pauunlarin-pa-at-poprotektahan-ang-trabaho-ng-magsasaka/







Thursday, April 7, 2016

Agricultural Policies of 2016 Presidential Candidates



With the Philippine economy experiencing unprecedented growth in the past few years, there have been observations that the growth benefitted very few. There was no “inclusivity” cited. This goes par for the course since the current drivers of economic growth were the services and manufacturing sector followed by the real estate sector. What was left behind was the agricultural sector. This sector is found in the rural areas where 60% of the Philippine population resides.

It is important that aspirants for the highest position of the land have policies and programs that will address the economic needs of the rural population and propel the agricultural sector into growth such as the services and manufacturing sectors.

Hereunder are the policies of the 2016 presidential candidates:

Jojo Binay

1.    Transfer  some of the functions of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to a new Department of  Natural Resources (DNR).
2.    Promotion of new high yielding crops and introduction of new seeds
3.    Abolition of Irrigation Fee
4.    Widen the coverage of crop insurance
5.    Subsidy for fertilizers, farm tools and pesticides
6.    Establish community seed banks
7.    Easier access to loans by farmers
8.    Continuation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)

Rodrigo Duterte

1.    Priority of agriculture in the national budget
2.    Crop plan for every region
3.    Mindanao railway system
4.    Construction of more farm-to-market roads
5.    Abolition of irrigation fee
6.    Post harvest facilities and “Bagsakan” terminals
7.    Establishment of Credit Cooperatives for farmers
8.    Continuation of the 4Ps

Grace Poe

1.    Priority of agriculture in the national budget
2.    Establishment of agro-industrial zones
3.    Establishment of community seed banks
4.    Post-harvest facilities
5.    Abolition of irrigation fee
6.    Scholarships for children of farmers
7.    Continuation of 4Ps

Mar Roxas

1.    Continuation of policy in clustering of farmers
2.    Post-harvest facilities
3.    Construction of bridges and farm-to-market roads
4.    Easier access to loans for farmers
5.    Continuation of 4Ps

Miriam Santiago

1.    Invest in research and technology for agriculture
2.    Introduction of new seeds and new farming tools
3.    National Flood Insurance program for farmers
4.    Improve water impounding facilities
5.    Continue 4Ps









Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Demand for Sugarcane Farmers Up!



Ever since the 1970s, the Philippine sugar industry has been in the doldrums. And when one thinks about sugar workers, one imagines the 1980s image of emaciated, hungry and malnourished sacada. But this is no longer so. Stable prices of sugar in the world market has enabled the sugar industry to recover from its nadir during the past decades.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), sugar cane farming is the second most in demand job in the country. Demand for sugar farm workers is second only to demand for call center agents with 28,000 job openings. 

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said there were 12,400 job openings for sugarfarmers and 100 vacancies for sugarcane grinders as of the end of March.

“This is the first time that sugarcane farmers figured in the top 20 most in demand jobs. The development is a welcome surprise since agriworkers are not normally included in the list,” Baldoz  said.

“The industry has not been affected by any development so it is stable and that means good investment whether as planter or miller,” Secretary Baldoz said.

According to Sec. Baldoz, DOLE is giving focus to agricultural jobs since unemployment is highest in the rural areas. There are 19 sugar producing provinces in the country and an estimated 700,000 workers in the sugar industry sector.

The sugar industry employs about 700,000 workers in 19 sugar-producing provinces in the country. Noting that there is a need for jobs for non-skilled and semi-skilled workers who comprise the bulk of the unemployed, agribusiness will be able to absorb such workers.







Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Whatever Happened to the Lease of 1/10 of Phil. Agricultural Land to China?



The Philippines has about 10 million hectares of arable land devoted to and classified as agricultural lands. Although geographically such agricultural lands are not used in cultivating a single crop due to geographical circumstances such as availability of irrigation all year round, these lands are the main capital in the Philippine agricultural system. Thus, the ownership and utilization of agricultural land remains a contentious social, political and economic issue in the Philippines.

Way back in 2007, the Department of Agriculture decided to lease 1 million hectares of Philippine agricultural land to the Chinese. Yes folks! No need for an invasion! The DA leased 1 million hectares to Jilin Fuhua Agricultural Science and Technology Development Co., Ltd. (Fuhua Co.). That is 1/10 of available Philippine agricultural land.

Fuhua Co. Planned to plant hybrid rice, corn and sorghum in these lands. This was to meet the Medium Term Development Plan which is to develop 2 million hectares of agricultural land. The contract is expected to bring in about US$3.87 billion in investments.

The MOU with Fuhua Co. was one of 18 agriculture- and fisheries-related contracts that was signed in the presence of then Chinese Premier Wen Jianbao when he visited MalacaƱang in January 2007.

The 18 contracts covered agriculture and fisheries research, the provision of facilities for fishery and agriculture, the investment of Chinese entities in local agribusiness, and other trade-related matters. This was signed during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Whatever happened to this MOU and is it operational until now?





Farm Mechanization: Boon or Bane?


Philippine economic activity still revolves around its agricultural sector. This is highlighted by the performance of the Philippine economy wherein it posted high gains as indicated by its GDP that has been unprecedented for decades. Only that it has failed to be “inclusive” enough with growth being posted in manufacturing, services and even in the real estate sectors. But the agricultural sector continues to wallow below expectations and is even blamed for dragging down Philippine economic growth indicators. The rural areas of the Philippines account for 60% of its population and that poverty incidence for is naturally 60% of the whole country. The agricultural sector has suffered from declining employment rates and has been the subject of past articles here in Agriculture Philippines.

There have been decades of proposed solutions to cure what ails the Philippine agricultural sector from Land Reform to mechanization and yet the agricultural sector continues to be the laggard among Philippine economic sectors. This is the reason why there has been no inclusivity in recorded Philippine economic growth.

The traditional and romantic metric of Philippine agriculture has long been rice production. It is the main contention in ideological, economic and social debates for decades. The Philippine rice farming sector is romantically idealized in Amorsolo paintings during the pre-WWII period and is the poster for Philippine rural culture.

Philippine rural economy and culture revolves around the planting and harvest season of rice. The fiestas in rural Philippines is mostly scheduled around May of each year with May 15 with the most fiestas for its San Isidro de Labrador, patron saint of farmers. Each harvest time is the time to celebrate since this is the period where everybody is replete with cash and thanksgiving is given for the harvest that will tide the rural community until the next harvest of around September to October of the same year.

It is not only the land owners and farmers who till the land who have the money and largesse at this time. Planting and harvesting season usually requires additional labor from those who do not actually work the farms in between planting and harvest. There is a whole downstream industry dependent on such periods, especially of harvest. The additional labor hired will also get paid so as there is a surge of sales even in the pondahans (sari-sari stores) in the community. Demand for sugar, coffee, canned goods and even gin is at its highest during this agricultural phase.

Like any economic activity, the drive for higher income and revenues is also applicable in farming. Thus new varieties of higher yielding rice variants are introduced, more extensive irrigation and farming practices are developed and implemented.  This includes mechanization.

Although having been available for decades, rice harvesting/reaper machines in the Philippines went into wide use after 2013 after Congress passed the Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization Law. This law gives incentives to farm owners to minimize their reliance on manual labor and utilize “cost-effective” machinery. The law’s objective is to maximize output in order to achieve National Food Security.

An invasion of reaper machines that started in 2014 has quickly deprived farm laborers of work during the harvest season. These reaper machines cut the rice stalks, winnow the grain from the stalks, and then bag the grain in cavans, completely replacing manual labor during the harvest season. As a result, unemployment and hunger have worsened among farm workers.

By 2014 these harvesting/reaper combines did what manual labor used to do. Its functions ranging from cutting the rice stalks, sorting the palay all the way to bagging/packaging the palay. Naturally, these machines did away with labor and had the unintended consequence of contributing to unemployment among farm workers. This has increased poverty in the rural areas.

With the loss of income from manual labourers, the downstream industries such as the sari-sari stores, market vendors and even those who provided threshing and winnowing services. The only beneficiaries are the farm owners used to pay the manual labourers 15 cavans of palay and 8 cavans for the owner of the thresher machines. 15 cavans are saved by the farm owners wherein an additional income of Php11,000 is earned by the farm owner out of a gross output of 100 – 120 cavans per hectare. This brings a net income of Php30,000 – Php35,000 per hectare. Filipino farm owners have an average landholding of 1.29 hectares. Without mechanization, it is already subsistence farming for them. For the landless farm workers, mechanization does not give them subsistence but threatens to wipe out their very existence. Unemployment will bring poverty and poverty is the fertile ground for crime.

The lack of foresight by Congress in formulating such a law, although with the intention of raising productivity only added to the poverty of the rural sector. What must be done for the 12 million that is affected by mechanization?

There must be a law that will provide a safety net for those directly affected by farm mechanization. Livelihood trainings, skills upgrading programs, access to capital for small enterprises or provide them land of their own to plant.

Otherwise, this is another step in the Invisible War on Philippine Agriculture.







Friday, April 1, 2016

Raffy Alunan III bats for Philippine Agriculture


Rafael M. Alunan III is currently a candidate for the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines. Among the host of candidates, Mr. Alunan is one of the very few who have the vision needed for Philippine agriculture. The 60% of those who live below the poverty line in the country liove in the rural areas and having a comprehensive program for the agricultural sector will ensure that economic growth will be “inclusive”.

Raffy Alunan III intends to  file is a comprehensive agriculture development bill that:

1.)    Incentivizes farmers to shift to modern farming technologies with the goal of maximizing productivity and minimizing cost for profit optimization;

2.)    Provides capacity building, financial and technical assistance to land reform beneficiaries, with disincentives to public and private institutions that do not fulfill their expected responsibilities;

3.)    Provides incentives for agro-eco tourism area development inclusive of ecological protection, farm-to-market roads, storage and distribution centres, transport facilities and trouble-free environment in the highways;

4.)    Provides incentives for joint-venture marketing, from farm produce to finished products, for the local and global markets.

5.)    Provides incentives to learning institutions that will provide a comprehensive course dedicated to the revival of the agricultural sector as powerful engine of growth and sustainable development.

According to Raffy Alunan III “we need to expand our wealth creation capabilities and reduce our economic risks to reverse the diaspora and wrestle down the poverty problem. Only when our families are reunited and have enough in their pockets can we accelerate the task of nation-building for our children”.





 

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