Farmers want Agriculture Secretary Alcala out

“The existence of fake NGOs in the DA’s list, the ineptitude of the DA against rice cartels, Alcala being the lapdog of landlords and agrochemical corporations, and his continuing plunder of agricultural funds have spelled his own demise.” – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

Farmers said they have had enough of the corruption and anti-farmer policies of the Department of Agriculture under Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Through social media, the largest organization of Filipino farmers, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), has called on Alcala to resign from his post. In its tweet today, the KMP or @kmp_phl called on netizens to “Support the Filipino Peasantry’s Call for Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s Resignation.”

In its statement, the KMP enumerated what it called as Alcala’s sins against the Filipino farmers.

The group’s first tweet was “@procyalcala stumbling block to food security #alcalaresign.”@procyalcala is the Twitter account of the agriculture secretary.

“Alcala and his gang’s plunder of agricultural funds are the biggest stumbling block to food security,” the KMP said on the eve of the World Food Day.

Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general, said the existence of non-government organizations linked to Janet Lim Napoles in the DA’s list of accredited NGOs is a “crystal clear proof of the continuing plunder of taxpayer’s money in the DA. “Worst, Alcala himself placed fake NGOs under his own control,” Flores said, referring to the Isa Akong Magsasaka Foundation, Inc. led by Alcala’s head executive assistant and AgriPinoy program director Arnulfo Manalac.

Early this month, the KMP filed a plunder case before the Office of the Ombudsman against President Benigno Aquino III, Alcala, and several top ranking officials of the DA.

Farmers hold a protest action in front of the Department of Agriculture to demand the resignation of Secretary Proceso Alcala. (Photo by Jhun Dantes/ Bulatlat.com)
Farmers hold a protest action in front of the Department of Agriculture to demand the resignation of Secretary Proceso Alcala. (Photo by Jhun Dantes/ Bulatlat.com)
The complaint cited that the DA accredited three bogus NGOs linked to Napoles — Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI); Gabay at Pag-Asa ng Masa Foundation Inc. (GPMFI), and the Kaupdanan Para sa mga Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KPMFI)– and implicated in the P10-billion ($230.41 million) pork barrel scam. The complaint also included several memorandums of agreement signed between DA and several local government units amounting to millions of pesos.

“Those involved in the scam were using the hapless farmers and their miserable situation as justification for the release of the public funds they have squandered. Equally revolting is the fact that the agencies of the government, one way or another, facilitated, abetted and even directly twisted rules and regulations to ensure the successful pillage of public funds,” the KMP and its affiliates said in the complaint.

The KMP also named Alcala as “the prime coddler of rice cartels who were responsible for the recent skyrocketing rice prices.”

The group said Alcala supported the claim that there is a “shortage of palay.” The KMP said the so-called shortage in supply only meant to justify the massive and corruption-ridden rice importation. In April this year, the DA was implicated in the importation of Vietnam rice allegedly overpriced by P457 million ($10.627 million).

The group noted that under Alcala, the price of the National Food Authority (NFA) rice increased from P17 per kilo to P30 per kilo ($0.395 to $0.697).

In desperation, the KMP said, lies have been fed continuously as DA-National Food Authority (NFA) claims of a 65 day buffer stock of rice when in fact they only hold an 18-day stock, allowing rice cartels to get hold of the rice supply and controlling its market price. “Alcala’s DA has not only burdened the farmers but the rest of the Filipinos who could not barely afford the staple food,” the group said.

The KMP also said that the agriculture chief attempts “to dip his hands over the multi-billion coco levy funds.” The DA plans to establish “agri-industrial estates” that would have at its core a coconut-processing center, at least five of which would be established in major coconut producing areas. The coconut-processing center would cost P50 million ($1.162 million), with financing to come from the coco levy fund.

The KMP said the Aquino government granted Alcala’s wish by including in the proposed P2.3 billion budget of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for next year a P305-million allocation for the establishment of “Agro-Industrial Hubs” in five regions, namely, Region IV-A – CALABARZON, Region V- Bicol, Region VI – Western Visayas, Region VIII – Eastern Visayas, and Region IX – Zamboanga Peninsula or P61 million for each region.

The KMP also criticized Alcala for allowing the entry of genetically-modified crops, particularly the golden rice. The group said it appealed to Alcala not to allow GMOs in the country but their call “fell on deaf ears.”

In August, farmers in Bicol uprooted golden rice plants at the field testing site of the DA in Pili, Camarines Sur.

“Deception and treachery have been a habit of this Department. And to claim that the Golden Rice is an extension of a humanitarian endeavour is a pure lie. Farmers have had enough of genetically modified (GM) products,” the KMP said.

“Alcala has only proven his loyalty, not the Filipinos, but to his landlord boss,” the group said.

The KMP said the DA, in connivance with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is pushing for the sugar block farming project in Hacienda Luisita.

“Contrary to its claim to be of help to the DAR beneficiaries, it is nothing more than a scheme to perpetuate the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s control over the lands,” the group said.

The block farms, between 30 and 50 hectares each, will be managed by the Aquino government to align small individual farms to the plans of the whole sugar block. “This requires the so-called beneficiaries to not plant anything but sugar cane. And, Alcala have been well aware that controlling the cycle of production is tantamount to controlling the lands,” the KMP said.

The KMP said Alcala has a tainted record before he assumed the post in the DA.

Alcala was charged in the Ombudsman in 2008 for disbursing P3.5 million ($81,395) in pork barrel funds to a dubious NGO. During his term as representative of the second district of Quezon province, the KMP said, Alcala released the funds with the help of his former congressional chief of staff, Claron R. Alcantara. It was channeled to Alcantara family’s NGO, the Sir Pelagio Alcantara Development (Spade) Foundation Inc., which made a commitment to give P50,000 ($1,162) each in capital assistance to 65 farmer-families, a number of whom have denied receiving the amount.

“The existence of fake NGOs in the DA’s list, the ineptitude of the DA against rice cartels, Alcala being the lapdog of landlords and agrochemical corporations, and his continuing plunder of agricultural funds have spelled his own demise,” the KMP said. “It is in our hands to make Alcala and his mob accountable for plunder and for betraying the Filipinos.” ()

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