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Unions & Retailers Rally On Fil-Am Day Against
FARMERS, retailers and government employees led by the Coalition of Farmers, Organizations, Unions and Retailers (C-FOUR) and the National Food Authority Employees Association (NFAEA-Courage) from Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, and the National Capital Region (NCR) converged for the first time yesterday at the Department of Finance (DOF). Together they launched a protest rally against the privatization of the National Food Authority (NFA) which is being imposed by foreign multilateral financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund-World Bank-Asian Development Bank (IMF-WB-ADB) with the DOF as its spokesperson.
The impositions are contained in the ADB-Grains Sector Development Program (GSDP) Loan package which contains among others the de-coupling and eventual privatization of the NFA.
Amidst heavy rains and strong winds, the rally dramatized its disgust and growing discontent on the DOF for actively pursuing the foreign-dictated de-coupling and privatization of NFA.
The privatization of NFA, through the GSDP loan, will require among other things, rice importation by the private sector, the setting of procurement prices at current levels while rice price is increased by 45%, a limitation of the procurement volume to 30 day buffer stock, and the elimination of cash incentives to farmers as well as divestment from non-grains facilities and services. Meanwhile, the de-coupling of NFA will result to the privatization of its trading functions and transfer of its regulatory powers to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The protest action coincides with the commemoration of the so-called Filipino-American Friendship Day. The C-FOUR led-protest later joined a big protest action led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition & Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) in front of the US Embassy.
The protest action at the US Embassy is to protest a lopsided "friendship" between the Philippines and the US where the other party, the US, is dictating policies that is inimical to the interest of small farmers, consumers and employees.
The said rally aims to show its strong opposition to the US foreign policy as being implemented by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the US-dominated IMF-WB-ADB. These agencies are avid advocates of policies on privatization, deregulation and import liberalization wherein NFA is one of those strategic agencies to be privatized.
The dictates of the US continue to exists even in the food security program of the Philippines. The US interest is being represented by the IMF-WB-ADB-WTO. The said US dictates impose vital policy reforms in agriculture in order to ensure the dominant role of the US Big Businesses in Philippine agriculture and local business.
Even the before the creation of WTO, the privatization of the NFA, the deregulation of the grain industry and the import liberalization of agricultural products such as rice policy reforms being imposed by IMF-WB-ADB will only result to displacement of small farmers, dependence on importation, cartelization of rice and uncontrolled prices of the staple food, just like what happened after the privatization of Petron.
It is very clear that the sovereignty of the nation is at risk here because these impositions show the omnipresent influence of the US-led multilateral financial agencies in the affairs of our country. It also exposes their primary objective of fully dominating our economy.
Not surprisingly, loan impositions of clipping the corporate wings of NFA began during the Marcos regime and a year after Aquino assumed the presidency. It is very ironic that this is still being continued up to this time because it is a known fact that the centerpiece program of the present Erap administration is "food security".
Rice is a political sensitive commodity. Being the staple food for millions of Filipinos is crucial from the standpoint of food security. Its violent distortion in price will have violent response from the people who will feel aggrieve that the government virtually abandoned them. Leaving our food needs to the vagaries of the world market as it is being pushed by the US-led new world economic order of globalization will mean food insecurity for the nation. One must bear in mind that the grain volume available for trade in the world market is minuscule.
As late as 1996, world grain stocks were described to be dangerously low that prices were near-record levels. Given the scenario where the local rice farmers will shift to other crops because of reduced or eliminated government subsidy and failure of foreign suppliers to honor their commitments to the Philippines due to low exportable surplus or for political reasons, will have dire consequences on the food security of the country.
We in C-FOUR believe that in struggling against NFA privatization and foreign intervention, we are not only fighting for the interest of the farmers, rice retailers and employees but rather for the interest of the Filipino people, the sovereignty of our country and peaceful co-existence among nations, including the US. #