• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

Corona Virus looms in congested areas where the virus can easily be transmitted – thus, social distancing is imperative.  There is therefore the imperative need to decongest the urban centers.  But how? Studies have shown that for every 4 people in the rural communities, 3 are migrating to the cities, especially the youth. What are the reasons behind such migration?

Let us pause for a while and have a little reflection on some realities besetting the rural communities. What are these scenarios? First, is the loss of our ecological integrity.  Where are now the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest where our Indigenous People were living before sustainably for hundreds, if not, for thousands of years?  The forest was the source of their food (baboy damo, usa,  pharmacy (herbal medicine), etc. Because of the massive destruction of the forest ecosystem in the last 100 years, the Indigenous Peoples (about 15 million of them)  became the poorest of the poor. Even their ancestral domains were transformed into massive plantations, not for them, but to satisfy the consumerist lifestyle of the people in advanced countries.  That is a great paradox in a country that can’t even satisfy its basic food staples like rice.

Poverty is also very much glaring in the coastal communities.  Of the 13 major bays in the country. 10 are already biologically dead at the expense of the fishing communities who are also becoming the poorest of the poor.  Silts eroded in the denuded uplands are killing the bays, worsened by the pollution from the surrounding industries that are treating the bays as their waste pits.  Before, the Philippines had been described by Dr. Kent Carpenter, the Head of the UN-FAO as “the center of the center of marine life on earth.”  But the Philippine archipelago had been treated as a waste pit by some advanced countries that did earn the ire of our beloved President.

Why are the farmers abandoning farming and going to the cities to find jobs? The categorical answer is res ipsa loquitor (the thing speaks for itself). Farming has become economically non-viable and poverty is worsening in the rural areas. Very glaring is  the powerlessness of the farmers to have control over the mode of production and marketing. The Philippines is an agricultural country and any long or short term development can be won or lost through agriculture. Indeed, poverty in our country is primarily a rural phenomenon. Two of three poor persons are located in the rural areas and are dependent on agriculture income. But who controls? Who decides? Who profits?

The poor farmers are rendered powerless by market driven conventional agriculture.  Where in the world can you find farmers tilling the land not their own and using seeds and chemicals beyond their capacity to sustain.  Indeed, everyone is profiting from farming – i.e., the seed and fertilizer dealers, the compradors, the usurers —  but not those who are exposed to the excruciating heat of the sun and the outpourings of rains – the poor farmers.

Farming not becoming economically viable – this is foremost ground why four out of five people in the rural areas are leaving farming.  While other ASEAN countries have lowered down their production cost of rice, for example, to just P5 per kilo of rice, the Filipino famers are producing rice at P13 kilo.  Why? Because farming in the Philippines is so dependent on the use of chemicals.

After the 1997 signing of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in Cebu, no less than the King of Thailand showed to the Thai farmers how to farm using organic fertilizer.  He took off his robes and planted rice, telling the Thai farmers not to use tractors as the emission from tractors contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer.  He said to use carabaos as the wastes of the carabaos would fertilizer the soil.  So, the Thai farmers were able to lower down the production cost of rice to just P5 per kilo.

Now that we have allowed Rice Tarrification, our country has been flooded by rice sold at a lower price, to the detriment of our rice farmers.

Unless we regain our loss ecological integrity, unless we reverse poverty trend in the rural areas, the rural people will continue to migrate to the already congested cities.

The rural people are poor because they are powerless to have access and control over their resources.  Let us therefore empower them to regain back the loss ecological integrity and have control over their resources especially the land which are increasingly under the control of the TNCs.  Even the IP’s water rights are being violated by a few oligarchs in cohort with LGUs to have massive rakings.

People empowerment can only be had when the poor and the marginalized harness their collective potentials thru cooperativism!