At the onset of the Duterte administration, I shared the optimism of my good friends along with millions fellow Filipinos for a substantial and genuine change especially in agricultural policies.
Former Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol’s promises were actually promising back then the kind of “golden ages of Philippine agriculture”, food sufficiency, crackdown on rice cartel among others. In Cebuano we have that popular expression to describe promises “makabuhig patay” (convincing promises that enough can resurrect a dead person). Those promises are actually doable if and only if they did a radical deviation from that of the past administrations.
However, those promises turned out too good to be true, as the Duterte administration did not veer away from the same policies that placed our agriculture in the sh*thole. Thus after almost two years, I became objectively critical on the current administration’s agricultural policy.
I was accused of some good friends who worked for the Duterte government as someone being impatient with the cliché that change does not happen overnight. Of course I know that very well, after working for social movements in more than a decade now.
I do agree that change does not happen overnight and it will not definitely happen at all if we still doing the mundane bureaucracy and dim-witted PR circus like sending farmers in PGN.
Patience indeed is a virtue. But using patience to justify incompetence is another thing. Now, half of Duterte’s term, Department of Agriculture had billions of pesos and we only got mediocre results: P45.2 billion in 2016, P45.9 billion in 2017 and P53.4 billion in 2018.
Those billions of pesos are actually quite small to support all the Filipino farmers, what makes it more problematic is that with the limited budget that we have this government is funding inept and failed agricultural programs like the inefficient and dysfunctional solar irrigation, or the failed TienDA program.
We already predicted this, yet the government fails to listen. Among the few consultations that we have with Department of Agriculture.
The Filipino farmers are bleeding now, both in figurative and literal sense. Since Duterte took office at least 177 Filipino farmers were killed. Millions of Filipino rice farmers’ livelihood are also on the brink of demise, as the price of palay in the country is dropping at unprecedented rate, for example in South Cotabato it dropped to P10-12 per kilo, much worse in Nueva Ecija at P7 per kilo. Thanks to Duterte’s Rice Tariffication Law (RA 11203) for this.
I wonder where are those friends now, who told me about patience on Piñol and Duterte’s failed agriculture programs. How I wish I can tell them now — I TOLD YOU SO!