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  • Writer's pictureNPFSS

Communique of the NPFSS Workshop on Consumer’s Right to Food and Sustainable Development

Members of the Agroecology X Network, together with Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Konsyumer para sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan (SUKI) Network, held the “Usapang Konsyumer: Mula Gutom sa Lockdown Tungo sa Pag-unlad” workshop last April 10, 2021. The workshop had diverse participants from workers, farmers and farmworkers, MSMEs, youth, women, urban poor, religious peoples, lawmakers, representatives of government officials, people’s and civil society organizations, consumer advocates, and food advocates.

The fifth in a series of food systems workshops under the National Peoples’ Food Systems Summit, this sectoral workshop tackled the state, challenges, and prospects of consumers and the quest for food that is sufficient, safe, accessible, and affordable and how this needs to be side by side with steps to inclusive development. The sectoral workshop is part of the nationwide effort to know the plight of the different sectors in the food systems, craft an action plan, and present it in the upcoming National People's Food Systems Summit headed by Agroecology X.

The workshop started with focused group discussions on food security, agroecology, and food accessibility. Participants were assigned to their preferred breakout rooms and were given one hour to discuss each of the consumer’s aspirations for food, the state of each aspiration, and the challenges met. The participants were given an avenue to propose short-term and long-term solutions that they can pursue together.

The resource speakers in the food security FGD were Zen Soriano of Bantay Bigas and Leo Espelimbergo of the Alliance for Consumer Protection-Bulacan and moderated by Gert Libang of Gabriela. Zen Soriano said the right to accessible, available, adequate, and sustainable food is an internationally recognized right of everyone. However, because of the state neglect of farmers, our agriculture remains backward despite being a predominantly agricultural country. The neoliberal offensives, land use and crop conversion, monoculture, plantation, and anti-farmers policies of the government also contribute to the backwardness of our agriculture, and hence, the worsening food insecurity. Leo Espelimbergo added that the absence of genuine agrarian reform, on top of the rampant land grabbing of land developers such as Aranetas, Villars, and Cullats are also hindrances to attaining food security. Among the policy recommendations the group came up with are the following: implement genuine agrarian reforms and genuine fisheries, forestry, and pasture land reforms; take agriculture and fisheries out of the World Trade Organization; enact laws to stop the indiscriminate land and crop conversions; respect peoples’ rights to participate in policymaking, and; repeal anti-farmers and neoliberal laws.

The agroecology FGD was moderated by Amihan Euza Mabalay of Good Clean Cart. The resource speakers include Dr. Chito Medina of MASIPAG, Inday Bagasbas and Mimi Domingo of Kadamay, and Grace Padilla of Consumers Right to Safe Food. Dr. Medina discussed the concept of agroecology and safe food. He said safe food should be measured holistically from production, marketing, and consumption. He argued that food systems can only be genuinely sustainable if it becomes deglobalized and localized. Under a global imperialist system where food systems are captured by corporate interests, farmers and consumers must build solidarity networks and demand social, economic, and political changes from the government. Mimi Domingo and Inday Bagasbas shared their experiences with urban farming in their communities. Ms. Bagasbas said that in the absence of safe and adequate aid from the government, urban poor communities are forced to be creative in solving hunger, and one solution they came up with is through community gardens and community kitchens. Ms. Domingo added that the urban poor sector is in solidarity with the farmers in their fight for genuine land reform as they recognize its vital importance in ensuring food that is safe, accessible, adequate, and affordable for all. Grace Padilla discussed healthy and immunity amid the global pandemic. Ms. Padilla emphasized the importance of consuming locally produced, healthy, fresh, safe, and whole foods to strengthen our immunity.

The third FGD discussed the accessibility of food and how it will be ensured, especially amid the pandemic. The resource speakers in this discussion were Malou Fabella of Manila Bay Reclamation Union, Danna Gonsalvez of NNARA Youth UP Manila, Liza Adamos Cortez of Asuncion Perez Memorial Center Inc., and Genevieve Inumerable of SAKA. The discussion was moderated by Audrey De Jesus of IBON. According to Ms. Fabella, food accessibility means being able to eat three times a day. As a worker, she witnessed the massive layoffs amid the pandemic that would ultimately affect the accessibility of food to poor Filipinos. and no thanks to the militarized lockdown of the government, Filipinos are now more prone to die of hunger than of COVID-19. Ms. Fabella forwarded the workers' demand for 100 pesos wage subsidy, on top of the call for a 750 national minimum wage. Ms. Gonsalves added that healthy foods could have been made available to students in schools had the government been serious in paving the way for the safe resumption of face-to-face classes. Ms. Cortez said amid the pandemic, poor Filipinos are left with no choice but to continue working as the government's aid, if existent, is too small and too late. Ms. Genevieve said the government should support and subsidized our local food producers, from production to transportation and marketing of their products. Farmer-led innovation and land occupations should be supported as these dismantle the control of landlords and corporations on food systems and agriculture.

After the focus group discussions, the participants reconvened in the plenary session. Each group assigned a representative to report back on the discussions of each group as well as the recommendations that they will be forwarding to the National Food Systems Summit. Jaz Buncan of Asia Pacific Research Network represented the food security group, EJ Honorica of Council for People’s Development and Governance represented the agroecology group, and Danna Gonsalves of NNARA-Youth represented the food accessibility group.

Solidarity messages were played to provide a glance at food security programs and proposals from the Quezon City Food Security Task Force led by Mayor Joy Belmonte, Mayor Francisco Domagoso of the City of Manila, Bayan Muna representative Karlos Zarate, and Senator Kiko Pangilinan. Right after, the participants heard from the reactors, including Cathy Estavillo of Bantay Bigas, Dr. Susan Balingit of CDRC, and Rosario Guzman of IBON.

Lester Gueta of the Agroecology X Network discussed the updates from the network as well as the National People’s Food Systems Summit. He shared the previous sectoral workshops conducted by the network as well as the upcoming workshops. He emphasized the importance of these workshops as a response to the government’s refusal to hear the voice of the toiling masses in the upcoming National Food Security Summit on April 27 as well as to the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit, which the network believes will serve only to further corporate interests. As a response, Agroecology X is organizing a parallel national summit to drum up public awareness and support towards agroecological initiatives and towards a genuinely pro-people food system.

Prof. Reggie Vallejos of SUKI Network closed the program by providing a synthesis of the entire workshop as well as the principles and action plans of the member organizations. Prof. Vallejos reiterated the network’s commitment to people-centered sustainability that promotes social justice and participatory decision making, supporting sustainable agriculture, calling for independent and self-reliant economic policies as well as long term response to the climate crisis, and demanding for the repeal of anti-poor neoliberal laws as well as the enactment of pro-people policies such as the genuine agrarian reform bill. ###

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