By: Winona Claire Sebastian
The El Niño phenomenon spares no one. As temperatures rise, so does the problems it bring. Crops are greatly affected by drought spells. Consequently, as the farmers and their families are all dependent upon them they too are affected.
On April 1, tensions turned into a full blown crisis as the Philippine National Police (PNP) fired upon protesters composed of leftist groups and farmers who organized a roadblock at the Kidapawan-Davao road, demanding for the local government for aid and support. The incident caused the deaths of three farmers and fifty, more or less injured.
And now, the blame game has started. Both sides blame each other for escalating tensions. The protesters say that the police fired first while the police say that some of the protesters were armed. The local government says that it has exercised all measures for aid and support for the farmers.
On the other hand, the farmers say that those measures were not enough. The incident that has recently occurred is indeed a picture perfect representation of the agrarian situation in the Philippines. Most farmers do not farm for their income. They farm for their stomachs. How grossly underdeveloped agriculture in the Philippines is seen in the numbers themselves.
According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes to 12 per cent of the Philippine’s gross domestic product (GDP). This is grossly disproportionate to what the agricultural sectors of most countries where they consist at least 40 per cent of their GDP. More so, it is ironic that the very farmers that deliver their crops and livestock to our table and that allow ourselves to fill our stomach cannot fill theirs.
In a country like the Philippines which aims to transform its economy, the focus must be placed on developing our agricultural base instead of taking an ill-advised and blind leap of faith into the abyss. What is needed before we take that leap is to ensure that farmers are well-off and self-sufficient.
This is done through improving agricultural infrastructures, ensuring the completion of agrarian reform projects, and investing in the research and development of sustainable agricultural practices.
Even national and local economists do not deny this fact, insisting that they must all be aimed not only to pursue the Philippine’s economic growth but to ensure the farmer’s economic well-being. We can all agree that the services and industry sector will surely help our GDP.
However, we must acknowledge that, in the end, it is the agricultural sector that determines whether we go full or hungry. In the first place, this violent dispersal would have not happened if the national or local governments have invested fully in their agricultural and rural development programs.
The tide could have been stemmed and the table could have been turned. Yet, both have not. Kidapawan was no isolated case but rather, it joins the Huk Rebellion, Mendiola, and Hacienda Luisita as one of the many parts of the symphony of suffering farmers have been hearing all over the decades.
Aside from looking at the surface of the problem, why not dive deeper into its causes to avoid the recurrence of such outcomes?
Photo courtesy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Inquirer.net