As peasants and the people of Mindanao remember the life and struggle of their dear departed, the “killers” who are currently occupying Malacanang, high government offices and posh military quarters are indulging in opulence.
The entry and expansion of new foreign brands may have made President BS Aquino and his cabinet secretaries “very happy with their current dining options,” but agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) are clearly not amused with the President’s tasteless banter.
“While BS Aquino and his cabinet are incredibly giddy with pride for their murderous role in the wholesale sell-out of our country to giant foreign businesses, we must remind them that nearly a thousand people from Mindanao have journeyed to be here in the nation’s capital to seek justice for the victims of killings,” said UMA Secretary General Ranmil Echanis.
“Also, children are dying in evacuation centers and the lumad and peasants who are victims of corporate landgrabbing and hazardous working conditions in plantations are succumbing to hunger and disease,” added Echanis, who said that militarization and plunder are the most pressing issues put forward by the protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao.
UMA along with church people, and other peasant and workers’ groups established the Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao or the REAP Mindanao Network to address various issues linked to the unbridled entry and expansion of plantations controlled by giant multinational agricorporations especially in peasant, lumad and Moro areas.
“The lumad, Moro people and other marginalized groups from Mindanao have traveled far to seek justice, but President BS Aquino and his cabinet can be so insensitive and still have the gall to indulge and jest on their opulent lifestyle, imported designer clothes and high end restaurants. The President gloats that the arrival of well-known foreign brands is among his administration’s achievements on the economic front,” said Echanis.
UMA stressed that President BS Aquino is just being consistent as a trusted lapdog of imperialist powers by ensuring that foreign companies enter the country unimpeded or by lowering tariffs on imported agricultural produce and other products, per neoliberal policies imposed by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and other unequal trade blocs and agreements entered into by the Philippine government.
This has resulted in the steep drop of the share of agricultural production in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) from 2011-2014, which fell by almost 50% and has been its lowest in more than two decades. The country also has the lowest agricultural and non-agricultural tariffs in Asia.
Sugar tariffs used to be at 38%, but this year it has gone down to just 5%. This has resulted in yearly importations of more than 400,000 tons per year for the last five (5) years – excluding the large bulk of smuggled sugar entering the country. Mindanao hosts 21.4% of sugar production in the whole country.
The lumad come from the poorest provinces in the Philippines such as Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, and North Cotabato. Of the fifteen (15) poorest provinces in the country, nine (9) are in Mindanao. The spate of killings of the lumad and other activists in Mindanao is perpetrated by regular and paramilitary troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to make way for mining concessions and plantation expansion, most of which are foreign-owned.
President Aquino recently made the controversial remark on being elected as the “salesman-in-chief of the Republic of the Philippines” at the 17th Asia Pacific Retailers Convention and Exhibition (APRCE).
“The Filipino people must brace for the most vulgar and disgusting display of this pimping and peddling of the Philippines by BS Aquino at the culmination of the APEC meetings,” said Echanis. UMA will join upcoming people’s protests against imperialist globalization this November.
To push the campaign to stop expansion of corporate plantations, UMA supports the enactment of House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) filed by Anakpawis Partylist.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP)-Northern Mindanao will lead a People’s Street Conference resisting corporate landgrabbing and oil palm plantations in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Quezon City on November 4, Wednesday, 10 am, as part of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao.