Explanation of Vote Promoting Corporate Farming House Bill No. 6073 3 June 2009

Mr. Speaker,

One cannot disagree with the general objectives that HB 6073 espouse – increasing the productivity of our rice and corn lands, food security, a bit of corporate social responsibility but I have to strongly vote against this measure for the following reasons:

First, it lacks an overall framework on the kind of production technology it will promote in the production of our staples. The incentives that we shall be giving to these agribusiness corporations, in terms of income tax holidays, duty free importation of all types of agriculture inputs, etc., would have been a bit more acceptable to this Representation if these corporations would be promoting organic or sustainable agriculture practices but sadly, it does not.

Second, corporate farming intends to give full and extensive control to owners of corporate farms, more likely mega-corporations, not only over the farms but over the whole chain of functions involved in the rice and corn industry. This is so clear with the provision found in Section 2-b which reads, “Corporations/ partnerships may purchase or lease on a long-term basis, public or private agricultural land suitable for rice/corn production, whereby the corporations/partnerships are given full management and production control over the purchased or leased lands or may enter into contractual arrangements, or joint ventures with landowners, farmers’ organizations and ARCs.”

It is highly likely that mega-corporations especially those coming from China maybe the first to be allowed to purchase or lease lands in the country as they have already been negotiating on leasing thousands of hectares of lands for food production. Efforts on Charter Change will in fact hasten this process of allowing foreign corporation to lease farmlands under the auspices of this Corporate Farming Program.

Third, one can just imagine the reversal in agrarian justice that our farmers have been clamoring for. The 2nd paragraph of Section 2-b can be just as insidious. “Agricultural lands purchased or leased for the purpose cannot be converted to other uses within a period of seven years.”

Though silent, if we read the intent of this provision in another way, conversion of corporate farms may already be done after the contract period of seven years. If the corporations do not want to surrender ownership of the now less productive lands to the farmers, they can be allowed to convert farmlands including prime agricultural lands into other uses thereby depriving agrarian reform beneficiaries with ownership of the lands that they have long fought for and won.

Fourth, uninformed about the causes of global warming and the contribution of conventional agriculture to greenhouse gas emissions, the bill even includes timberlands and pasture lands that are suitable for rice/corn production in this Program and even compelled DENR to follow suit!

Finally, Mr. Speaker, it saddens me to see a reneging of responsibility from the government. Clearly, with this bill, government chooses to pass on to private corporations the needed investments to develop the local rice industry. In that case, the government has also released itself of its responsibility to the most marginalized sector, the rice and cornfarmers.

Lest I be misunderstood, Mr. Speaker. I am all for private sector participation and corporate social responsibility. But government must set the overall policy direction so that our corporations will indeed be socially responsible. It should not just be for profit, but also for people and for the planet. Not doing so might even worsen the problems of food and livelihood insecurity and environmental degradation that our people and farmers face.

Mr. Speaker, the Corporate Farming Program of the Marcos Era failed. What difference does the Corporate Farming Program now has to ensure that it will not repeat history? There is nothing new. I urge the GMA administration to listen to the voices of many a small rice farmer, as well as, pay attention to the minds of progressive civil society organizations that have long been engaged in the battle for sustainable organic farming.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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