BACOLOD CITY – Tiempo Muerto (dead season) or the annual off-milling season in the sugar industry spells extreme hunger and bitter suffering for the thousands of affected farm workers and their dependents here in the country’s reputed “sugar bowl.” During this lull between planting and harvest, workers are left without any source of income.
Danilo Ramos, Secretary General of the national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), joins sugar workers from different Negros Occidental municipalities in protests here in Bacolod City today, as they demand immediate aid from concerned government institutions such as the Departments of Labor (DOLE), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Provincial Government.
“Sugar workers bear the brunt of tiempo muerto every year. They try to look for other modes of decent employment or livelihood but these are obviously scarce because Negros – in this day and age – is still dominated by a decrepit monocrop industry and by centuries-old feudal oppression,” said Ramos. Land monopoly and the traditional reign of hacienderos is still very much pronounced in Negros Region, where around 48% of Philippine sugarcane is produced.
The protest actions which will run until August 12 are led by the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), UMA’s local affiliate in Negros, and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Negros.
Since June, or since the waning of the sugarcane harvest and milling season, farm workers have begun staging local protests and campaigns to ease the effects of tiempo muerto in various Negros municipalities and sugar districts such as Murcia, Don Salvador Benedicto, Talisay City, Silay City, EB Magalona, Manapla, and Escalante City. Tiempo Muerto will last until mid-September, when some of the haciendas begin cane harvest.
NFSW Chairperson Roland Rillo said that the protests are for the sugar workers’ very survival, as the dreaded tiempo muerto crisis period has “had a double whammy effect on sugar workers this year.” Like many other Philippine provinces, Negros Occidental was also hit by drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon since late last year until the first quarter of this year.
According to NFSW, the sugar haciendas can only offer “budgeted work” during tiempo muerto, usually non-productive tasks with fixed rates of only P500 to P1,000 every 15 days on average. “It redounds to a measly P8.33 to P16.66 budget per head per day for a family of hacienda workers with 4 members,” said Rillo.
On the other hand, sugar barons and mill owners who belong to the so-called “old rich” profit from the sweat and blood of their workers. A recent survey conducted by NFSW shows that sugar planters – or the usual hacienderos and their‘aryendador’ (lease agents or financiers) scions — amass an average of Php 80,000 net income from a 1-hectare sugarcane farm.
Sugar workers demand that the provincial government’s Php 40 M calamity funds, and the multi-million Social Amelioration Fund (SAF) handled by DOLE, be utilized to provide immediate relief to affected sugar workers.
Aside from immediate aid, UMA also called on the Duterte administration to heed the farmworkers’ demand for genuine land reform and national industrialization. “Tiempo Muerto will continue to be a season of hunger and death for sugar workers every year, if the country’s fundamental land problem is not seriously addressed,” ended Ramos.
Reference: ROLANDO O. RILLO
Chairman, (MP No. 09462134157)
National Federation of Sugar Workers
August 10, 2016, Bacolod City
SUGAR WORKERS HOLD PROTEST FOR SURVIVAL
Hundreds of hacienda workers belonging to the National Federation of Sugar Workers and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Negros will troop to the Department of Labor and Employment, the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office and to the Provincial Government starting today until August 12, 2016 for this year’s “Tiempo Muerto”.
“We will ask the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that the unclaimed and undistributed Social Amelioration Fund (SAF), which already accumulated to millions of pesos, be used to aid us in this period”.
“Budgeted work in many haciendas now earns us an average of only P500 to P1,000 every 15 days”. It redounds to a measly P8.33 to P16.66 budget per head per day for a family of hacienda workers with 4 members.
A recent survey conducted by NFSW shows an average of P80,000.00 net income for planters from a 1 Hectare farmland planted by sugar cane.
This year’s Tiempo Muerto had a double whammy effect on the sugar workers as it coincided to El Nino Phenomenon that hit the province late last year until the first quarter of this year.
In fact, the provincial government declares state of calamity last April 2016 due to drought brought by the El Nino Phenomenon which authorized the Governor to use the Quick Respond Funds amounting to P40M. “We will ask the Governor where now this fund goes.”
“We will also call the attention of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office for food aid in this time of crisis”.
The irony is that Tiempo Muerto is realities that even our government officials and government agencies knows it occurs every year but did nothing seriously to root out its cause.
Tiempo Muerto or Dead Season is an annual calamity to the families of 385,000 sugar workers in Negros. It is a phenomenon since Spanish period that firmly tied up to hunger and poverty of the sugarworkers.
The 28 years implementation of the government land reform program failed to break the socio economic set-up of land monopoly and hacienda system which gives birth to Tiempo Muerto Phenomenon every year.
“If the government is sincere enough to help us, they should pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill in Congress and initiate economic programs that truly break us free from perennial poverty in many haciendas”.
“We call on the Governor of this province and other concern agencies to release food assistance to the Sugar Workers”. “Stop Tiempos Muertos!”
(Bacolod City, Negros Island, August 10, 2016)