For peasants and farm workers, genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization are their top demands for the incoming Aquino administration.
Anakpawis Representative Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano said, “Genuine agrarian reform that aims to distribute for free agricultural lands to millions of farmers who are landless and national industrialization that creates job opportunities for Filipinos in the country are the two primary requirements for a real and genuine development of the national economy”
He added, “The implementation of the P125 ($2.77) Wage Hike Bill, P3000 (66.66) increase in the salary of government employees and workers, the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law, EPIRA Law, and the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVat) are also part of our agenda.”
Peasants also demand for the cancellation of the conversion and transfer of fishing areas that affect the lives and source of income of small fisher folks, as well as unequal treaties in the economy, trade and industry, and even military agreements, like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty for being one-sided and anti-Filipino.
Also, they insist that sufficient budgets for education, health, agriculture, and housing must be provided. They are also calling for the prosecution of President Gloria Arroyo after her term expires.
Violations on the Rights of Toiling Masses Worsen
Mariano shared that the workers’ situation continues to worsen. “Violations of the workers’ right to form unions, and to self-organization, the denial of their right to a decent salary and security of tenure continue to worsen.”
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) Deputy Secretary General Willy Marbella said “Seventy-five percent of farmers remain landless because of the monopoly control of big landlords on vast tracts of land in the country. Also controlling the land are the big multinational corporations.”
Challenge to the Aquino Administration
Aside from the implementation of a genuine agrarian reform program, Marbella is also challenging the next administration to rescind the agreement on agriculture with the World Trade Organization.
“Our agriculture produce could not compete with that of First World countries such as the US, the European Union and Japan. The trade in agricultural products kills local farmers,” said Marbella.
Mariano, on the other hand, is challenging the next administration to end poverty and hunger. He also said the Aquino government should end rice importation.
“Primarily, we are an agricultural country. The Philippines is host to the International Rice Research Institute, and has established its own Philippine Rice Research Institute. Why has the country become the number one rice importer in the world? Clearly, there is something wrong with the priorities and program of the government. The number one reason for this is the absence of a genuine agrarian reform program,” said Mariano.
Mariano added, “The conversion of agricultural lands to other uses must be stopped. Agriculture must be given sufficient budget in order to improve irrigation facilities, provide credit support, build the necessary infrastructure, and distribute the lands to farmers. And of course, the government should provide marketing and pricing support to local agricultural produce.”
“With enough income, farmers would be able to provide for the raw material needs of industry and purchase products from it. Thus, industrial production would increase and this, in turn, would create jobs. With the improvements in agricultural and industrial production, the country’s products would be able to compete more in the global market.
Likewise, the increase in the productivity, income and purchasing power of farmers and workers would result in further improvements in agricultural and industrial production, which, in turn, would generate capital for the nation and taxes for the government. This would then free the country from its reliance on foreign loans and foreign investments,” Mariano concluded. (Bulatlat.com)