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Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Philippines Has No Excuse for Rural Poverty

Kim’s Dream  Orlan Ravanera

Gov’t Must Eradicate Roots of Rebellion Than Kill the Rebels

In my sorties around Mindanao prior to ending my term as Usec/Chairman of the Cooperative Development Authority, it was so amazing to have met brave MILF, MNLF & NPA Commanders who have declared cease-fire and requested that they be organized into cooperatives. This took place in Kora-Kora, Lanao del Norte when the 15,000 combatants of the MILF under the command of Kumander Bravo, now known as Member of the Parliament, Hon. MP Macapaar,  were organized into 115 cooperatives.  The same also happened in Lantud, Talakag when some 1,500 combatants of the Special MILF Command Force under Sultan Abdul Amoran appealed then to no less than former President Rodrigo Duterte that they be organized into the IGPANADAYUG TA ABAGA SA BAYUG (Protect Mindamora Falls Cooperative).  It was also so astonishing to meet the over-all chieftain of the 10,000-member Manobo Tribe in Sibagat, CARAGA, former NPA Commander Subang who became a passionate environmentalist, who established environment training centers for the Tribe and was awarded by Malacanang as Most Outstanding Environmentalist.

 During the onset of the 21st century, several NPA and MNLF commanders surrendered, organized themselves into cooperatives and joined thousands of cooperative members in a Mindanao-wide Summit with no less than then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as our Guest of Honor. Being politically and ideologically neutral, the cooperatives have shown to Her Excellency that all warring forces can come together in the spirit of unity.  In fact in Mindanao, we have cooperatives of the military, of the MNLF, MILF and cooperatives in “red areas.”  In that Summit, a cooperative blueprint for peace was presented to Her Excellency, manifesting the truism that when the marginalized sectors are drawn into the mainstream of development processes, the government will be the one to champion the cause of the masses. I recall those wonderful messages during the two-day Summit manifesting the truism that where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they mobilized to bring their situation to the attention of people in power.  There were those who asked, “What, are you dreamers?” And we answered, yes, we’re dreamers.  We want peace.  It’s nonsense Filipinos killing Filipinos.  Peace, Love, Harmony. Those are our dreams for our country especially here in Mindanao as Filipinos are not only freedom-loving people but peace-loving as well. Indeed, eradicate the causes of rebellion than merely killings the rebels. 

There is no question on the truism that the Mindanao War, the second longest war in the world, can be stopped NOT THROUGH KILLING THE REBELS but to uproot the causes of war which is poverty, gross inequities and social injustices. Killing the rebels will breed more killings because in the Philippines, there is no excuse for rural poverty.  Our country is an agricultural country and any short or long term development can be won or lost through agriculture, Yet, poverty in our country is primarily a rural phenomenon. Two of three poor persons are located in the rural areas and are dependent on agriculture for income.  The poor farmers are rendered powerless by market-driven conventional agriculture.  Where In the world can you find farmers tilling the land not their own and using seeds and mode of production beyond their capacity to sustain. In fact, according to the UN-FAO, agriculture in our country has only contributed .02 percent to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the last decade, the reason why three of four young farmers have already left farming.  They went to the urban centers to work as janitors, drivers, waiters and what have you.

Where does power in agriculture lie? Some contend that it lies with the rich agri-business corporations that pursue the dominant market-oriented industrial agriculture. Based on studies, “the principal charge of economic incompetence against previous administrations was the mismanagement of Philippine Agriculture.  Agriculture, including livestock, forestry and fish, provided all or part of the income of three-fourths of the nation’s workforce and almost half of its export earnings, yet it accounted for only .02 percent  contribution to the  gross domestic product.  Rice and corn were the main subsistence crops, yet, our country is the biggest rice-importer country in the world because our vast tracts of choicest of land have been transformed into massive plantations, not for us but to earn millions of dollars to satisfy the consumerist needs of the people in advanced countries. With our vast area of mineral lands, with rich reserves of gold, silver, copper, nickel lead, manganese, and zinc, and the world’s largest deposits of chromite, the Philippines has no excuse for rural poverty.”

WHO CONTROLS? WHO PROFITS? WHO DECIDES?  Based on studies, “ a few elites and oligarchs.  While coconut, for example is a billion-dollar industry but the poorest of the poor are the coconut farmers.  History could manifest the truism that Danding Cojuanco and then Defense Minister Enrile were in control.  How about sugar? Well, it was then Bobby Benedicto who was formerly Ambassador to Japan and was called to head the sugar monopoly.” 

Indeed, everyone is profiting from farming especially the seed growers, the chemicals companies, landlords, compradors, etc. but never those who do the back-breaking job of farming, the poor farmers.  Where does power in agriculture lie? Some content that it lies with the rich agri-business sector that pursue the dominant market-oriented industrial agriculture. Its drive is to promote conventional agriculture which is anchored on promoting cash crops to satisfy the market.  Increase production, through chemical farming using HYVs (high yielding varieties) including genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Their objective is to produce food not for self-sufficiency or to meet the needs of local communities but to produce crops with market value to sell in the world market.  This is the reason why until now, despite our vast agricultural resources, the Philippines must import some 2.5 million metric tons of rice annually to feed our hungry people, our country being the biggest rice importer in the world. Don’t you know that ninety-nine percent of our milk supply is imported?  This is the reason why 85% of Filipino children are malnourished, based on the data of the Food & Nutrition Institute. 

While our country is so rich ecologically not only above the ground but more so, beneath the ground, the richest on earth with regards to minerals.  When an environmentalist from California, USA, Mr. Larry Heaney visited Mindanao in the nineties and stayed for three months, he was so amazed to see that the number of flora and fauna in the 5,000-ha. Mr. Kitanglad Range is far greater in number compared to those found in 1 billion-ha. continent of North America.  But our ecological wealth does not stop at the shoreline. The Philippine Archipelago is the “center of the center of marine life on earth,” to quote Dr. Kent Carpenter, the President of the UN-FAO. 

So, there is no reason for the Filipinos to be poor;  liberation from poverty, gross inequities and social injustices should not be through rebellion as killings beget more killings.   Indeed, it should be the  government who must champion the cause of the masses, not the insurgents.  Let notice be served to one and all that as constitutionally mandated, OURS IS THE GOVERNMENT OF, FOR AND BY THE PEOPLE. The interest of the sovereign Filipino people must prevail because in a DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN STATE, SOVEREIGNTY RESIDES WITH THE PEOPLE AND ALL GOVERNMENT POWERS EMANATE FROM THEM! SIGAW NG SAMBAYAAN:  KAPAYAPAAN HINDI PATAYAN SA BAYAN NAMING MAHAL! O PANGINOON, YAN PO ANG AMING DASAL, NAWAY MABIGYAN PO NG KATUPARAN! 


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