Feast or Famine? RP-China Farm Deals and Local Agriculture

Aside from compromising domestic food supplies, the farm deals also further weaken food accessibility in the country. The massive dislocation from the means of production of farmers and fishers means increased poverty for them and their families and will seriously weaken their ability to buy their food needs.

Behind the deals

The Philippines sees the emergence of China as a key economic force in the East Asian region as an opportunity to boost its domestic economic development. The country wants to tap investments from the Chinese government for much needed capital to finance projects in agriculture, infrastructure and industry. Such projects are seen to create jobs, increase income and enhance economic activity.
China, on the other hand, is pursuing an aggressive campaign to open more export markets to sustain its economic growth, particularly in the wake of its becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is also seeking new sources of food, mineral and fuel resources to feed its booming economy. This is the context of the dramatic increase in bilateral economic agreements between the two countries in recent years.

From only five agreements on trade, investment and finance from 1975 to 2000, the figure jumped to 14 from 2001 to 2007. Agreements on agriculture signed by both countries similarly increased from six to 21 during the same period. All in all, the two countries have forged 89 bilateral agreements on various areas from 1975 to 2007, of which 32 were signed during the January state visit of Chinese Premier Wen.

A closer look at the Chinese economy shows that since it abandoned the socialist construction in the 1970s, transnational corporations from the First World have steadily and increasingly intensified their control and domination not only of its local market but its export-import sector as well. This means that burgeoning manufacturing “giant” China, which in actuality still lacks a First World-type industrial base, is at the mercy of a global market dominated by the industrialized nations.

China’s aggressiveness in forging economic agreements with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries is thus not driven simply by its agenda of increasing its influence in East Asia. In the context of the farm deals, for example, China is looking at the Philippines to meet its domestic food and energy requirements even as the Chinese economy is being restructured into an enormous assembly hub of manufactured goods for the American, Japanese and European markets. In other words, China itself, like the Philippines and other underdeveloped countries, is a victim of the distorted concept of development and industrialization imposed by First World countries.

Toward a true partnership

The country should pursue stronger “South-South” partnerships such as its bilateral relations with China because the potential for a more meaningful cooperation and mutual benefit is greater than its “North-South” relations (i.e. with the U.S. or Japan). But such partnerships only become meaningful and mutually beneficial if they recognize common issues that beset the countries involved and from such recognition establish a cooperation program that aims to find a shared solution.

In the case of the Philippines and China, their common issue is that global monopoly capitalism has distorted their respective economic growth (although at varying levels given their respective historical development) and the logical solution is to find an alternative model of economic partnership that will truly promote their industrialization. Unfortunately, closer Philippine-China relations is being built not on this premise but to allow the further exploitation of their natural and human resources by First World-based corporations in collaboration with Filipino and Chinese capitalists and landlords.

Ultimately, only the people themselves, through direct action and mobilization, can ensure that any economic agreements that the Arroyo regime enters into in their behalf would genuinely benefit them. Even if the Chinese deals were already clinched, an informed and militant public can still avert the implementation of these agreements. In the case of the farm deals, for example, the Department of Agriculture is still in the process of negotiating with farmers who may be potential “partners” of the Chinese investors in their agribusiness ventures. IBON Features / Posted by Bulatlat

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