A former tobacco farmer from the Ilocos region, in a press conference last week, said Ilocanos would prefer planting rice and other crops rather than tobacco if only the government provided assistance.
BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat
QUEZON CITY — A former tobacco farmer from the Ilocos region, in a press conference last week, said Ilocanos would prefer planting rice and other crops rather than tobacco if only the government provided assistance.
“Narigat a taraknen ti tabako” (It is hard to raise tobacco), said Avelino Dacanay, chairperson of the Ilocos-based Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation). He elaborated during the press conference that planting tobacco is like caring for a newborn that commands a 24-hour attention.
Dacanay said the tobacco industry is labor-intensive. He explained a tobacco farmer’s family is usually involved in the whole process from planting up to the time when the leaves are ready to be sold to traders.
He said he grew up in a tobacco-dependent household and witnessed how his father would consume at least two packs of cigarettes in 24 hours only to keep himself awake all night while maintaining the furnace that dries tobacco leaves.
Dacanay, who used to plant tobacco, shifted to other crops 15 years ago. As a farmer, he prefers food crops as vegetables and rice, and encourages others to stop planting tobacco if only given enough government attention and support.
Need for government subsidy
Government assistance to farmers is all Ilocano tobacco farmers wait for, Dacanay said. “Ikkanda kami laeng ti suporta para iti irigasyon, agmula kami met ti pagay” (If only the government extends us support for irrigation, we could also plant palay/unhusked rice), Dacanay told the national media in the press conference hosted by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance of the Philippines (FCAP).
He said palay requires too much water that Ilocano farmers could not access, thus the choice for tobacco.
Tobacco farmers do not get enough from the crop, according to Dacanay. He said a farmer could not even buy a carabao. In contrast, Dacanay said, traders get large profits from unequal trading of tobacco leaves. “They could afford to buy a Pajero,” he said, referring to a luxurious lifestyle that tobacco traders lead in contrast to the deep poverty that farmers are plunged into.
Dacanay appeared with advocates for the Picture-Based Warning Health Bill, which they are lobbying for with the Philippine Congress. He clarified that the tobacco industry would not be affected by the passing of the said bill because cigarette companies would still continue manufacturing.
Dr. Encarnita Limpin, FCAP executive director, said the present smokers might not be affected because they have been addicted to smoking. The group, however, targets and is concerned with the youth and the non-smokers, who might be discouraged from starting the habit once they see the picture-warnings on the package.
House Bill No. 3364 or the Graphic Health Warning Bill, which seeks to implement a picture-based warning on cigarettes, has been reportedly enjoying a wide support from the youth, women, religious and civic-minded individuals and groups, according to Limpin. She dismissed claims by Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson that the bill has been considered dead.
In the House of Representatives, more than 30 legislators have registered support. Its co-authors included Reps. Paul R. Daza, Anna York P. Bondoc, Arthur Pingoy Jr., Lorenzo Tañada III, and Ana Theresita Hontiveros-Baraquiel.
The Philippines is a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
FCAP launched the Death Clock, a campaign that has been monitoring the number of tobacco-related deaths since HB 3364 was filed in December 2007. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)