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Communique: National Peoples’ Food Systems Summit Workshop on Plantations and Industrial Workers

Members of Agroecology X Network, together with Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), held the “Workshop-Forum on Plantations and Industrial Crops” last March 19, 2021. The blended workshop had diverse participants from farmers, farmworkers, agricultural workers, and other food advocates from different provinces.

The third in a series of food systems workshops under the National Peoples’ Food Systems Summit, the workshop-forum discussed the situation of plantations in Mindanao and Palawan, Industry’s Farmers and Workers, and the Sugar Industry. The network’s critique on the UN Food Systems Summit was also discussed. Breakout sessions were held where participants crafted resolutions and recommendations on the topics discussed.

Among the speakers were Lorie Cagatulla of Palawan NGO Network Incorporated (PNNI), Ira Pamat of HUMABOL-KMP, Cris Panerio of MASIPAG, and Gi Estrada of UMA.

Estrada discussed the onerous scheme Agribusiness Venture Arrangements (AVAs). He said this land transfer scheme provides landlords and multi-national agribusiness corporations control over thousands of hectares of agricultural lands in the guise of leasehold. Estrada called for an end to these exploitative agreements and forwarded the demands of the people for food security and genuine agrarian reform.

Lorie Cagatulla discussed the continuing expansion of plantations in Palawan. Cagatulla shared that corporate rubber plantations are thriving on protected zones and ancestral domains because of the provincial government’s subservience to foreign interests. She also slammed HB 5421, which aims to declare wide areas in the Municipality of Rizal, Province of Palawan as agricultural land open to corporate control for agricultural, commercial, residential, and industrial purposes.

Ira Pamat discussed the failed palm oil industry in Bohol and the situation of farmers and agricultural workers in the industry. Pamat said the victory of Boholanos to declare the province as a GMO-free zone should serve as an inspiration for other provinces that people's movement can prevent corporate capture in agriculture.

Cris Panerio discussed the network’s critique of the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit. Panero said that the corporate control of the summit will render it as a tool to further corporate interests at the expense of our farmers. As a response, Agroecology X is organizing a parallel national summit to drum up public awareness and support for agroecology and food sovereignty.

Estrada, on behalf of Butch Lozande of the National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, led the discussion on the Sugar Industry in the Philippines and the struggle for land, wages, benefits, and rights. He said that landlessness, unemployment, poverty, exploitation, and human rights violations continue to inflict the farmers and agricultural workers in the countryside. The US-Duterte regime’s neoliberal policies, development aggression, subservience to foreign agribusiness corporations, and infrastructure program further aggravates their slave-like conditions. Estrada forwarded the call of farmers and agricultural workers for just wages and benefits, respect for human rights, and free land distribution.

Bayan Muna representative Eufemia Cullamat also participated in the lively discussions. She committed to advancing the legitimate call of agricultural workers in Congress.

After the presentations from various stakeholders, the participants actively discussed their demands and recommendations that will be forwarded to the government’s Food Security Summit.

In closing, Tonying Flores of UMA affirms that people’s movement alone can realize a complete shift of control on food systems as well as the enactment of genuine agrarian reform that will pave the way for national industrialization. #

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