The 2nd Sugar Workers Summit organized by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) held at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) in Quezon City from August 30-31 was a success.
Sugar workers from Isabela, Batangas, Tarlac, Bukidnon, Davao del Sur, Negros Occidental and Panay participated in the said summit. They came from the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) in Tarlac, KAISAHAN-Batangas, OGYON-Bukidnon, Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Davao del Sur (NAMADDS) and UMA – Isabela.
Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Pamanggas-Panay, regional chapters and the national office of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), also participated in the said activity. Representatives from progressive worker and peasant organizations and institutions such as Anakpawis Partylist, Pamalakaya Pilipinas, Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women, National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth), Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) were also present.
Barely a week after the successful activity, one of the delegates, Ariel Diaz, was gunned down in his farm in Villa Pereda, Delfin Albano, Isabela. A consolidated report on issues and demands brought up during the Sugar Summit highlights this most recent atrocity against agricultural workers. We demand justice for Ariel Diaz.
DOLE Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod welcomed the participants and encouraged them to further expand and consolidate the ranks of sugar workers acrosss the country.
Rosario Bella Guzman of Ibon Foundation gave the keynote talk on the sugar and globalization, emphasizing that the local sugar industry is in crisis because of trade liberalization and neoliberal impositions under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and ASEAN. Extreme hunger and poverty in sugar areas persist. The solution offered by the government is setting up of block farms which will reconcentrate lands back to the landlords; and promoting land-use conversion and Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects that evict and displace farmers and sugar workers.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Secretary General Antonio “Ka Tonying” Flores, meanwhile encouraged the participants to strengthen their ranks and embark on genuine agrarian reform through their collective efforts such as the “bungkalan” or land cultivation areas in Hacienda Luisita and Negros Occidental among others.
Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao on the other hand spoke on the efforts of his party, Anakpawis Partylist, to raise the concerns of the sugar workers in Congress through resolutions, hearings and others. He also discussed the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) which will hopefully be enacted as there is no existing land reform law at the moment given the expiration of the Comprehensive Agrarian Refor Program (CARP) in June 2014.
Gi Estrada, media officer of UMA then shared the results of the 1st Sugar Summit which was held on June 7, 2012 and the present issues and challenges facing sugar workers. After the input from different speakers, simultaneous workshops were conducted on four different topics, namely: (1) wages and working conditions; (2) the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), benefits and security of tenure; (3) genuine land reform; and (4) human rights issues such as trade union repression and criminalization of agrarian disputes.
After the workshops, Jerome Adonis, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) discussed how to form genuine, militant, and anti-imperialist unions. He recalled the formation of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in 1971 and its re-emergence as the broadest federation of sugar workers again nationwide.
On the second day, UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos facilitated workshops on mass campaigns. Lengthy and fruitful discussions were made regarding the minimum wage issue and the SAP. To cap the summit, the delegates forged a 12-point unity statement. This includes points on land reform, labor rights and support for the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).