In the 17 years that the Philippines has been a member of the World Trade Organization, from being a net importer of rice, it became a net exporter as production fell considerably and land grabbing became rampant. Now, even vegetables are being heavily imported and soon imported fish products would flood the country, all in the name of the WTO.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
The Philippines should get out of the World Trade Organization before it’s too late.
Peasant and fisherfolk organizations renewed this call recently during the 2nd Rural People’s Conference and Action against WTO and Imperialist Plunder in Quezon City. The activity was led by Anakpawis party list, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the Amihan peasant women federation and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA). The groups signed a manifesto asking the Aquino government to take Philippine agriculture out of WTO.
The anti-WTO conference was held this morning at the KKFI gym in Sampaloc, Manila and was attended by some 200 farmer and rural folk leaders. The first Rural People’s Conference against WTO was held in December 2001 in front of the United States Embassy in Manila.
In the manifesto signed by their respective leaders, the organizations said the country’s continuing involvement in the WTO has wrought irreparable and irreversible damage to local agriculture, as well as promoted massive landgrabbing.
KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said it is high time for the Philippine government to make a decisive stand against the 17-year old membership of the country in WTO.
“The Philippines has suffered 17 years of global and domestic landgrabbing, 17 years of dismal performance of local agriculture and 17 years of food insecurity, and extreme hunger and poverty. Our membership in the WTO has brought us nothing but hardship,” he said.
Ramos, who recently attended several conferences held in India and Republic of Korea this last quarter of 2011, campaigned for the abolition of WTO and convinced other farmer groups in Latin America, Europe, the African continent, South Asia and Southeast Asia to support the global demand for the junking of WTO and neo-liberal globalization policies.
He named several controversial cases of global land-grabbing in the Philippines under the WTO regime: that of the lease made by South Korean company Jeonnam Feedstock Limited over 94,000 hectares of land in Occidental Mindoro for corn production; the conversion being made by the Japanese firm Pacific BioFields Corp. and local firm BioEnergy Northern Luzon Inc. of over 600,000 hectares of public and non-disposable timberland in Pagudpud town in Ilocos Norte into coconut plantations; and the implementation of a $300-million banana export project of the NEH company of Bahrain and AMA Group facilitated by the government agency Philippine Agriculture Development and Commercial Corp. (PADCC) in 2010 covering 10,000 hectares.
“There are also reports that Qatar holds a lease of over100,000 hectares of Philippine water areas for agrofishery ventures. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia’s East Asia Development and Agricultural Investment Co. is eyeing a 500-hectare agricultural venture. They want to plant the area in Central Mindanao with basmati and jasmine rice varieties, as well as with high-value tropical fruits and vegetables,” he said.
Protests against the WTO’s 8th Ministerial Conference
In the meantime, KMP media and campaign officer Jim Fernando joined other anti-globalization activists in Geneva, Switzerland where the 8th Ministerial Conference of the WTO was being held. The activists denounced the WTO as “the chief instrument of developed nations in exploiting the people and resources of developing nations.”
In a paper prepared for the anti-WTO protest in Geneva, the peasant group asserted that although rice production increased in the early years of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), it soon suffered significant declines in recent years through 1997 to 1998, dropping to -24.1 percent in 1998. The production of palay or unhusked rice also fell for three consecutive years, from 16.8 million metric tons in 2008 to 16.3 million in 2009, and finally down to 15.8 million in 2010.
The Philippines was a net exporter of rice in 1992, but the WTO-AoA period also saw a record of increasing volumes of imported agricultural products.
According to IBON Foundation, the country became a net importer of rice beginning in 1995 and since then has registered a chronically negative status in its balance of trade. Rice became the top imported agricultural product in 1998. Since 1995, the country imported an annual average of 12.5 percent of the country’s total rice consumption, the highest being in 1998 at 28. 5 percent and in 2008 at 18.4 percent. Since then, the country has been increasing rice importation quantities: in 2010 the government imported 2.45 million metric tons.
This increase in the volume of rice importation is way beyond the Philippines’ minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons under the WTO-AoA. and led to the massive flooding of imported rice in the country.
Corn production also posted negative growth rates in recent years. Corn productivity decreased from 88 percent in 2005 to 78 percent in 2008. While corn production in 2010 was pegged at 6,376.8 thousand metric tons , this was still lower by 9.34 percent compared to its previous record in 2009. In contrast, corn imports increased during the same period following the implementation of the WTO obligations. In 2009, the country imported 303 thousand metric tons of corn.
As for vegetables, the country has been importing also in massive quantities. Total vegetable imports rose to an average of over 94,000 metric tons from 1995 to 2000, and reached 100,000-150,000 metric tons by 2001 This was equivalent to 13 percent of locally sourced supplies in 2000. From 1995 to 2000, vegetable imports already made up 10 percent of the total local supply of vegetables and were equivalent to 11 percent of the local production.
By 2006, the country’s vegetable imports totaled to 327,847 tons in 2006 valued at $101.3 million. Imports on selected vegetables such as garlic, onion, cauliflower and headed broccoli and potatoes amounted to 278.07 thousand metric tons valued at $62.83 million from 2007 to 2009.
Import dependency on other key food commodities has also increased such as pork from 0.1 percent to 3.5 percent; dressed chicken from self-sufficiency to 5.2 percent, beef from 11.4 percent to 18.3 percent; onions from 0.1 percent to 25.4 percent, coffee from self-sufficiency to 27.5 percent, carabeef from 2.7 percent to 38.7 percent; mungbeans from 35.5 percent to 54.2 percent; a garlic from 1.9 percent importation to a shocking 80.3 percent import dependency.