Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) calls on BS Aquino
to dismantle the rice cartel and stop the importation and smuggling of rice

 

Department of Agriculture Office, QC

 

■  Protest rallies in the regions

 

June 19, 2014

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News Release
June 18, 2014
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, 09177174014

BAYAN MUNA WARNS OF MORE RICE PRICE HIKES DUE TO THE RICE CARTEL AND EL NIÑO
Says Aquino admin should jail the rice cartel even if some of them are its allies

Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate today warned the consuming public of more “cartelized” rice price hikes ranging from P2-P3, when the effects of the El Niño come in full force in the next two (2) to three (3) months.

“As it is, the rice cartel is using all and any excuse to jack up rice prices even if we have enough rice in the country. While several calls and challenges have already been made for the prosecution of those behind this cartel even if they are allies of the administration, yet, Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III is not doing anything yet on this,” said Senior Deputy Minority Leader Colmenares.

“We have been continuously receiving reports that allies of the president are involved in this rice smuggling racket; the very reason why nothing is happening to the numerous investigations being done in the past is the fact that these cartel members are connected with people with powerful positions in government,” said Rep. Colmenares.

“Kailan ba talaga aaksyunan ni Pres. Aquino ito, dahil ang mamamayan ang nahihirapan at napakalapit nito sa sikmura? Hindi uubra na ipasu-surveilance lang o magpapalabas ng rolling stores o dadagdagan pa ang mga inaangkat na produkto dahil lalo lang matutuwa ang kartel sa ganitong mga aksyon,” he added.

As for his part Rep. Zarate said that the problems the country is facing now with the onset of El Nino phenomenon “would not be as big as it is now if the Aquino administration has prepared for it years ago, considering that this phenomenon is quasi-seasonal in nature and can be foreseen because of its regularity.”

“When the first forecast for El Nino surfaced, plans for irrigation, crop planting decisions, seed selection, fertilizer application in agriculture should have already been formulated to mitigate the impact of the drought. Fluctuations in agricultural products can also be reduced by conducting crop inventories so as to prevent a food crisis and increases in food prices like what we are experiencing now,” he added.

“The Aquino administration should have learnt its lessons in dealing with climate induced disasters like El Niño and strong typhoons. The rice cartel is using these extreme weather events to greedily justify increases in rice prices and other agricultural products. If the Aquino administration will continue to do nothing about this, the conclusions that people can really think of is that it is protecting this rice cartel and that members and allies of the administration are benefiting from these rice price hikes,” ended Rep Zarate. ###
 

     
           
     
     

Bulatlat: Calling for Aquino’s ouster, farmers to march vs ‘bogus’ land reform
 
     

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For Reference: REP. LUZVIMINDA C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
REP. EMMI A. DE JESUS 0917-3221203
Jang Monte (Public Information Officer) 0917-4049119

AQUINO IS COURTING PUBLIC OUTRAGE WITH INEPTITUDE, INSENSITIVITY AMID HIGH FOOD PRICES AND HUNGER

“Panahon na ng tag-gutom. Sa taas ng bilihin, ang karaniwang pamilya, wala nang makain. Filipino families are going hungry and Malacanang has the gall to practically tell the public to simply put up with the situation and to simply not eat what they can’t afford. This is the height of insensitivity and callousness especially when most Filipino families can barely afford decent meals three times a day.”

Thus said Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda Ilagan today as she warned the Aquino government of massive protests and public disgust if it fails to immediately address the high prices of food and basic commodities. “The supposed promise to make food prices stable remains hollow and meaningless if it does not implement radical policy changes in agriculture.”

Over the past two weeks, the price of garlic has gone up to over P300 per kilo while the price of commercial rice is now pegged at P42 per kilo. This recent increase is the third wave of price hikes after rice prices went up in July and September last year which pegged rice prices at P34 and P38 respectively.

Ilagan explained that even as Malacanang tries to appease the public as it expects imported rice from Vietnam in a few weeks, this will not assure the public of low market prices.

“We have been importing rice for decades now and this has not brought rice prices down. Imported rice and agricultural products continue to fall in the hands of smugglers and cartels that benefit from this liberalized economy. On the other hand, the country’s agriculture remains stunted with lack of government support and a failed agrarian reform program,” laments Ilagan.

“We will see no end to hunger and skyrocketing food prices for as long as the Aquino government continues its liberalization policies that allow cartels and smugglers to thrive while killing our food self-sufficiency.”#
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Posted by: Luz Ilagan <repluzilagan@gmail.com>\

 

           
     
     
     

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Rising prices, rice shortages and the El Niño
June 19, 2014

As I handed my payment to the jeepney driver on my way to work, his remark to several of passengers (including me) of “Singkwenta pa, singkwenta pa” initially confused me. It dawned on me that he was asking us an additional of fifty centavos on top of the usual eight-peso fare instead of fifty more passengers. Jeepney rates have increased! After fumbling around for two twenty five centavos to add to my fare, I sat down thinking silently how prices have risen for the past few years.

It is not just transport prices that have increased but also that of electricity, education and food. Rice prices have been steadily increasing since the start of the year. Looking back at the prices since the start of the Aquino government, regular milled rice prices have soared by at least 20 percent as of April this year when compared to that of July 2010 (according to data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics). Since mid-year last year, rice prices have increased by an average of 1.2 percent per month as compared to less than a tenth of a percent (0.04 %) for the same period a year before. Prices have reportedly increased recently by another 2 pesos compared to the said April prices (at 30 pesos per kilo, current prices of regular milled rice is 30 percent greater than that of 2010 prices).

What is worrisome is the still undeclared (but expected by many) El Niño cycle this year. Despite the advent of the rainy season, an El Nino event is expected to reduce the amount of rainfall in general to the country.

The El Niño that transpired more than a decade ago affected Western Luzon, Western Visayas, Northern Samar, and the southern part of Western Mindanao as they experienced less than 40 percent of normal rainfall. The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) estimated a decrease of 7.5 percent in agricultural growth during that event. Rice and corn production decreased by almost 24.1percent and 26.6 percent, respectively and damaged 292,000 hectares of corn and rice farm lands in our country.

Around 70 percent of the archipelago suffered from severe drought and the water supply crisis during that time left 27,000 hectares of rice and corn paddies severely damaged. This is equivalent to an estimated loss of 100,000 metric tons (MMT) of rice and has affected 15,000 farmer households.

Engr. Ronald Garcia, agricultural engineer at AGHAM—Advocates of Science and Technology for the People—estimates that at least 27 percent of rain-fed agricultural lands will be severely affected without irrigation systems in place. In 2000 to 2010, 73 percent or 314,115 MT of the production increase came from irrigated areas while only 27 percent or 113,815 MT came from non-irrigated areas. Productivity of rain-fed upland areas was reported to be declining by around 8000 tons per year since 2000.
 


Garcia pointed out that we must brace ourselves from the possibility of rice production shortage once the worst of the dry spell hits the country. Prices of rice and corn and other agricultural products are expected to go up due to lower production. He added that a strategic irrigation action plan is one immediate measure that must be in place for the government to prepare for the El Niño event since water will be the outmost concern during that time. During the dry period, irrigation for food production is a critical farm infrastructure that should be prepared for and managed by the government.

What makes things worse for the upcoming El Nino is that our dependence on rice imports severely puts our food security into question. A study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) by Dr. Roehlano Briones and Ivory Myka Galang blames the mid-2013 rice price increase to the reduction in imports by the government that caused a decrease in supply.

Despite the Department of Agriculture’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), which aimed to raise domestic rice production, the increase in palay production had not been enough to offset the reduction in imports. The country already imports 1.2 million tons in 2014 according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) while the US Department of Agriculture estimates this to be more than 2 million tons.

While the PIDS study points to more dependence on rice imports by lifting the quantitative restriction (QR) policy as a solution, a more basic solution would be to implement a thoroughgoing agrarian reform that would include land redistribution (unlike the CARPER system) to tillers, agricultural modernization and integration of the agricultural sector to a domestic industrial regime. Both of these are yet to be realized in our country.

Garcia notes that it should be a lesson to the government that food security and self-sufficiency cannot be realized overnight unless there is necessary support for the farmers such as their own land, subsidies, policies to support to enhance agricultural productivity and upgrade our post-harvest facilities and ways to ensure a market for their produce.

The total wasted funds from the PDAF scam, the fertilizer fund scam, and misuse of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund is a staggering P10.744 billion. This is more than 12 times than the allocation for El Niño contingencies. Such funds should be made available to farmers to allow them to cope with climate variability instead of going into the pockets of those enmeshed in the web of corruption that pervades our government today.

Author:
Agricultural Engr. Ronald Garcia, 0932 866 4497
Author Description:
Food Security and Self-Sufficiency Committee Head of AGHAM

     
     
 
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Government should be held liable for its blatant neglect resulting to massive coconut damage caused by “cocolisap"
June 13, 2014

“The current widespread problem of coconut scale infestation (CSI) could have been prevented five years ago,” said Ms. Finesa Cosico, an entomologist and Secretary General of AGHAM- Advocates of Science and Technology for the People. According to the update reports prepared by the local government unit of the Municipality of Agoncillio, CSI was detected in 2009 by the Regional Crop Protection Center of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Brgy Ulango, Tanuan City, Batangas. By 2010, the infestation spread to three additional barangays, namely Natatatas, Santor and Balele. “If only the government, led by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), took serious attention to reports of the initial infestation, we would not be dealing with CSI on such a massive scale right now,” adds Ms. Cosico.

“Immediate action from the government could have accurately identified the pest early on so that appropriate pest management is implemented to stop it from spreading,” adds Ms. Cosico. It was only in 2012 that coconut scale samples collected in Batangas were initially identified as Aspidiotus destructor (Signoret). Further confirmation revealed that the species is actually Aspidiotus destructor rigidus (Reyne), a subspecies of Aspidiotus destructor. University of the Philippines Los Banos scientists Drs. Celia Medina and Barbara Caoili verified through morphologic and DNA analysis that sample specimens of CSI from Sangli Island in Indonesia is similar to those found in Batangas province.

To date, about 338 million coconut trees are threatened by CSI. Losses have reached P179.6 million in Calabarzon alone. The severity of the infestation forced the BS Aqunio Government to declare a state of emergency with the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 169. EO 169 enforces emergency measures for the control and management of CSI.

Biology of Aspidiotus destructor rigidus Reyne

Aspidiotus destructor rigidus Reyne (A. rigidus) is a subspecies of coconut scale that was originally identified in Indonesia. Unlike other cocolisap species, they live 1 ½ times longer and the females lay only 10-12 eggs (compared to the average 90 eggs for most other species). They form dense colonies at the bottom part of coconut leaves. The pests suck the sap from the green leaves and excrete toxins through their salivary glands. Because of this, an affected frond or leaf will dry up and turn yellow. If the infestation is severe, the yellow leaves will turn brown and wilt until the entire tree dies. Wind can then spread CSI to other trees.

According to Dr. Candida Adalla, a professor from the College of Agriculture, UPLB and co-convenor of the UPLB Volunteers of CSI Program, coconut and mangosteen are the only identified host plants of A. destructor rigidus.

Another distinct characteristic of the CSI is their ability to withstand high temperatures. El Nino can trigger more favorable conditions for CSI breeding,” said Ms. Cosico.

Measures of Control

“Because the infestation is already there, coconut farmers are left with reactive, stop-gap, and almost futile measures proposed by the PCA such as leaf pruning, the cutting of infected trees, use of organic pesticides, and utilization of biological control agents’” adds Ms. Cosico.

“Early detection and identification of the pest are crucial to mitigate the problem. But if there is already manifestation of infestation, physical method such as leaf pruning will only be effective if done before an actual outbreak happens. Cutting down infested trees is heartbreaking for coconut farmers who have toiled on their plants for at least six years. Pesticides are difficult to apply for very tall plants like coconuts. Introducing predators or biological control agents is just a short term solution to a serious problem of infestation, explains Cosico.

The PCA has released 24,000 coccinellid beetles in 2013. Quezon province alone has 335,091 infected coconut trees. “PCA does not even have a beetle for every infected coconut tree in Quezon. In each infected tree you will find colonies of the cocolisap. You will need a swarm of these predators for every tree,” adds Ms. Cosico.

Government Accountability

“If not for the blatant neglect of the PCA and DA under the auspices of the BS Aquino regime, 3.5 million of our coconut farmers would not be facing the threat of losing their livelihoods,” according to Ms. Cosico. “These coconut farmers stand to lose more if the government will continue to provide paltry solutions to the problem of CSI infestation,” adds Ms. Cosico.

“Executive Order 169 is nothing but pa-pogi propaganda by the BS Aquino regime and his friend, newly appointed Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Kiko Pangilinan, to say that the government has acted upon the problems of the coconut farmers. ”

“The 400 M fund for the eradication of CSI should be used to provide farmers with farm inputs for cultivating alternative crops. DA should now realize that a proactive Integrated Pest Management must be institutionalized, which includes all pest control measures such as the introduction of natural enemies, application of organic pesticides to ensure effectivity of pest control strategies,“ ends Ms Cosico. #

Reference: Maria Finesa Cosico, Secretary General, AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People
Contact details: 0917 811 5445
 

 

     
     
           
     
     
     

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Aquino clique earning billions from rice importation amid soaring prices
June 17, 2014

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the ruling Aquino regime and its slew of corrupt bureacuratic officials for pocketing billions of pesos in overpriced rice importation contracts amid its failure to address the continuing rise in the price of rice that has resulted in grave hardships for the people.

The CPP called on the Filipino people to hold the Aquino regime responsible for entering into anomalous rice importation contracts while failing to extend substantial support to the peasant masses to help increase domestic rice production.

The average price per kilo of rice has risen by at least two pesos over the past several days. This comes on top of the sharp P8-10 increase in the average price of rice under the Arroyo regime. There has also been a sharp increase in the prices of garlic, as well as a steady increase in the prices of sugar, ginger and other food items.

“Contrary to claims that his regime will work for rice self-sufficiency, Aquino has, in fact, perpetuated the Arroyo policy of rice importation as this has proven to be one of the biggest source of bureacrat capitalist profit,” said the CPP. Philippine rice imports are set to reach 2 million tons for 2013-14, up by 33% from 1.5 million tons during the previous period.

“The Aquino regime’s claims that the rise in the prices of rice and other commodities is only ‘temporary’ is a vain attempt to defend its agricultural liberalization and deregulation policies,” said the CPP. “The increase in the prices of rice puts to the fore the failure of the Aquino regime to deliver on its declared objective of attaining rice self-sufficiency and ending dependence on rice importation.”

“The Aquino regime has instead chosen to continue to carry out massive rice importation in order to pocket scandalous amounts of kickbacks,” said the CPP. It cited the contract signed by Agriculture Sec. Prospero Alcala with VINAFOOD II of Vietnam to supply the Philippines with 800,000 tons of rice from May to August this year. The Metro Manila Vendors Association noted that the contract sets freightage rates at $54 per ton ($30 above prevailing rates). Secretary Alcala is set to pocket P1.048 billion in kickbacks from this contract. He is also accused of pocketing P457.2 million in a similar rice importation contract with Vietnam in May 2013.

“Secretary Alcala remains among Aquino’s most trusted official despite having been involved in several corruption cases,” said the CPP. Aquino has refused to heed widespread clamor for Alcala’s removal from the agriculture department.

“The liberalization of agricultural trade has led to rampant rice smuggling, much of which is controlled by big compradors in the rice cartel, which have long controlled rice supply and trade in the Philippines,” said the CPP. “The local rice cartel, in collaboration with the Aquino regime, has insidiously manipulated the supply of rice in the domestic market in order to push up prices, and in turn, provide the government with justification for further importing rice.”

“The continued rise in the price of rice and other basic food items will further push up the basic costs of living and cause greater hardships for the toiling masses of workers, peasants, the semi-proletariat and the middle class of ordinary income earners,” said the CPP.

 

 

     
           
     
     
     
           
           
           

 

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