Why ‘partnerships’ with transnational companies are ‘pests’ to Filipino farmers

This, they said, has only been used to virtually rob them of their lands and turn the supposed “partners” under what appears to be a lopsided deal to a mere employee, receiving pittance.

By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — In a recently-concluded two-day gathering, Filipino farm workers belonging to the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura discussed the impact of the supposed partnership deals with transnational agricultural companies to their livelihoods.

Ironically, the very same state-sanctioned policy that would supposedly improve their living conditions are killing their livelihoods instead.

This, they said, has only been used to virtually rob them of their lands and turn the supposed “partners” under what appears to be a lopsided deal to a mere employee, receiving pittance.

What is AVA?

Agribusiness venture arrangement (AVA) is a state policy that enables private investors to enter into partnerships with Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs). Under AVA, agricultural lands are used to plant high value crops that are then used for export by big agri-corporations.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) recognizes AVA and considers it as a way of promoting engagements between private sectors and the ARBs. They also claimed that AVA is a way to utilize awarded lands to be more productive and sustainable by producing high value crops that sell at a higher price on the market, especially as exports.

Local farmers, however, think otherwise. According to most the farmers who gathered in Quezon City for their two-day congress, AVA is a “pest” to their lives.

Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform (CARP), guised as a joint business venture that would give prosperity and relief to agricultural workers, AVA is a non-land transfer scheme enabling agri-corporations to grab lands that are supposed to be for the farmers.

According to National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) 1.2 million hectares of land all over the country are under AVA since 2013, majority of the land are from Mindanao where 782,116 hectares are being used as “export crops backyard” by agri-corporations.

A big portion of the land used to be sources of food products such as rice, corn, cassava, and other root crops that local farmers plant for the local market.

Currently, AVA is targeting to venture into Palawan, Bohol, Ilocos, and Negros, a total 1.6 million hectares of agriculture land that would be used for plantation expansions.

How AVA affects farmers

According to UMA, farmers have no control over the lands they have leased under AVA, making them land owners only in paper.

Transnational Corporations (TNC) have been profiting for over 75 years. They decide what happens to the land, leaving the farmers no choice but become mere employees of their agricultural business, instead of business partners as what was agreed upon under AVA.
Almost 350,000 farmers in Mindanao have been robbed of their lands, and according to a study conducted by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on 2014, 8 out of 10 farmers are landless.

Moros and Indigenous people have also been greatly affected by AVA. After being pushed out of their ancestral lands; effectively destroying much of their culture and community, Moros and IPs have turned to revolting against landlords, only to be answered by force.

Despite being the “export crops backyard,” 35 percent of the population or a total of 8.86 million people in Mindanao are poor.

The income ARBs receive after selling their crops and leasing their lands are not enough to sustain the farmers and their families. Farmers tied under AVA are forced to find other jobs just to provide decent meals for their families, sometimes even the farmers’ young children are forced into labor in order to produce more.

What do farmers want

Local farmers are continuously asking for the abolishment of AVA, urging the government to give attention to the minority and ancestral lands, and to stop the land-grabbing of agri-corporations that pushes farmers further down to the poverty line.

They also push for their rights for fair wages, job security, and humane working conditions.

What farmers want is true land reform that would not only give them land, but also give them enough support to sustain, maintain, and utilize the lands awarded to them. (http://bulatlat.com)

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