Resist neoliberal policies! Assert agricultural workers’ rights and welfare!
Solidarity message of Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP Executive Director, for the Third National Congress of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Pilipinas held on 20 – 21 February 2016 in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Philippines
PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) extends our warmest greetings of solidarity to UMA Pilipinas and its members and friends on the holding of your third national congress. We remain united with your call to step up the campaign against neoliberal policies and its worsening attacks versus agricultural workers and all impoverished peoples in the world.
We recognize how big corporations have been swallowing up vast resources in the Philippines including agricultural and ancestral lands such as in Mindanao. About 79% of the total agricultural lands in the island have been reportedly transformed already into vast plantations, displacing indigenous and farming communities. This process of massive and systematic land and resource grabbing has been going on in the Philippines since time immemorial, forcing many rural people to become landless and exploited laborers in corporate plantations.
The onslaught against the rural people is bound to worsen with the continuing push of neoliberal globalization to create more profit-making opportunities for corporations, including in the agricultural sector, such as through the Trans-Pacific Partnersip (TPP) agreement. This new neoliberal agenda would push to new heights corporate control over agriculture through further monopolization of seeds, farming inputs, lands and markets and make it more impossible to get justice for workers.
The TPP also further institutionalizes the use of genetic engineering and pesticides despite the serious threat to the human health especially of plantation workers and their families as well as the environment.
Consequently, hazardous working conditions in corporate plantations would intensify and further endanger agricultural workers and rural communities. Workers in these corporate plantations are poisoned with highly hazardous pesticides and other chemicals that also take a huge toll on their health, their children’s and families’ health and well-being. To encourage greater foreign and private investments in agriculture, greater disregard to the rights and welfare – including on wages and health and safety – of agricultural workers will surely worsen.
UMA’s Congress is thus timely amid these enormous challenges facing agricultural workers and rural people in the Philippines and in the region. We continue to march with you in defense of the people’s collective rights to land and life through PANAP’s “No Land, No Life!” campaign which UMA has been strongly supporting. We firmly share your belief that the problem of hunger, poverty and injustice facing our rural communities can only be resolved by carrying out genuine agrarian reform.
Long live the UMA! Defend rights, land and life!
Resist neoliberal policies, assert agricultural workers’ rights and welfare!