NFA EA Independence Day Statement
June 9, 2000
Genuine Food Security is Food Sovereignty
ON June 12, we are again commemorating Independence Day. On this occasion, it is but fitting to reflect if we are really that independent as a sovereign country. As things stand now, the government which is supposed to have the leading role and exclusive domain in charting the destiny of our country is condescendingly relegated to mere implementers of the impositions of the multilateral financial institutions like the International Monetary fund (IMF), World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and trade bodies like the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trades-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO). But the interest of these global financing and trade bodies is adverse to our national interest, as unfortunately proven, because it is but natural for them to protect the industrialized countries which controlled them, led by the United States (US).
To further open up the economy of indebted countries, these financing agencies forge agreements in the guise of "free trade" espousing globalization but in reality, it is a lopsided agreement in favor of capitalist countries. This globalization is also in the form of privatization, deregulation and liberalization as evident in the structural adjustment programs (SAPs) which are rammed down on the throats of hapless Third World and developing countries like the Philippines. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), even the US Congress, the academe and various sectors roundly criticized the same SAP as hurting the poor.
The Philippine experience of privatization is a miserable failure as what happened to Petron, Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage System (MWSS), Philippine Airlines (PAL), and National Steel Corporation (NSC). Aside from the cruel mass termination of workers, its result was the utter helplessness of the government in effectively checking the onslaught of nine immoral oil price increases last year as what is continuously happening now, the deterioration in the supply and distribution of water, and increased water rates, and the unexpected financial hemorrhage of PAL and NSC leading to their eventual bankruptcy.
Because of their earning capacity and/or strategic nature, multilateral financial institutions demanded that top corporations and state institutions in our country like the National Power Corporation (Napocor), National food Authority (NFA), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), hospitals, colleges and universities, ports, and other firms performing vital and strategic functions in our economy and social life be privatized. What is sad is that the government refuses to see the ill effects of this privatization. In fact, in addition to the deepening poverty of the people owing to this privatization, the government is even a willing accomplice in the creation of private sector (local & foreign) monopoly, if not oligopoly, where the wealth of the country is further concentrated in the hands of the few. And it is even virtually surrendering on a silver platter the delivery of vital services to the people in the hands of the private sector.
The privatization of the National Food Authority (NFA) is one of the conditions demanded by the ADB under the US$175 M Grains Sector Development Program (GSDP) loan of the Philippine government. This could well be the mortal blow not only to the farmers and consumers but to the entire Filipino people as well. On the part of the farmer, the NFA privatization will be disincentive for them to plant more since they cannot be assured of a fair return of their investment as the private sector will dictate the price to their own advantage. The consumers will fall prey to the maneuverings and price and supply manipulations of the private sector. This happened in the 1995 rice crisis when the NFA then did not have sufficient buffer stock for effective market intervention. From the then prevailing commercial rice price of PhP16/ kilogram, the private sector, in an unholy alliance with the rice cartel, immediately jacked up the price to the range of PhP25/kg PhP30/kg nationwide.
As it is, the government is only interested in the short-term purpose of that measly loan amount, unmindful of its long-term disastrous effect on the lives of the people. This is, notwithstanding, the fact that as a loan, it is even adding more burdens to our gargantuan debt problem and the further stranglehold by the foreign multilateral institutions in the affairs of our country.
No self-respecting government would ever subject its people to the untested food sector privatization regime that would wreck havoc not only on the livelihood of the farmers but on the lives of the Filipinos as well. Nor would it ever allow the private sector much less these foreign institutions to have a decisive participation in such a highly sensitive policy as food. It could be a betrayal on the part of the government to surrender its primary obligation to take care of the welfare of the people in terms of affordable, accessible and available food for all.
A framework for genuine food security implies that we have to depend on domestic production for our food sources, provide the farmers the necessary production and marketing support, and truly empower them by implementing genuine agrarian reform. Unquestionably, privatizing the NFA will only endanger the food security of the country, as the governments grains market intervention is thus weakened much less abolished. We will also have to rely on imports for food supply, as our farmers will consequently disengage from further farming activities, as it is only a losing proposition.
Genuine food security is food sovereignty and without food sovereignty there is no national sovereignty. The fight for national sovereignty is also the fight for our peoples sovereignty. For that matter, a country without genuine food security from within is vulnerable to unwarranted intervention from without, because it depends from foreign sources the very survival of its own people.
We can only claim that we are truly free if we are totally liberated from the clutches of the domineering intervention of foreign multilateral institutions, trade bodies and agreements that are only proven to be detrimental to the interest of the Filipino people.
The Estrada administration is falling prey to the dictates of multilateral financial institutions like the IMF-WB-ADB as sources of loans. For the second time since his inaugural as the centennial president of this country, President Estrada will again preside at the commemoration of Philippine Independence on June 12, yet we are still groaning under the clutches of our foreign masters.#