From: appasec <>
To: asia-apec listserve <>
Subject: [asia-apec 848] Solve the sugar crisis, junk Apec (fwd)
Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998 02:42:14 +0800
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>Date: 04 Nov 98

Farmers hit solons' grandstanding for Anwar Ibrahim

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), News Release, 3 November 1998

Junk trade lib and APEC to stop sugar woes


If President Estrada wants to make his attendance to the APEC summit in Kuala Lumpur meaningful, he must first ease the sufferings of the Filipino farmers and consumers.

The challenge was hurled before Estrada by the militant peasant movement Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in calling for the solution to the crisis in local sugar production and trading. KMP demanded the MalacaƱang to junk the neoliberal economic and agricultural policies of import liberalization, deregulation and privatization imposed by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Reacting to reports of anomalous hoarding of sugar by cartel traders and the doubling of retail prices with alleged connivance of the Sugar Regulatory Authority, KMP chairman Rafael Mariano said that the government intentionally implemented simultaneous actions and policies that tied the local market more to the vagaries of the international market, at the expense of local consumers.

Mariano averred that the SRA is merely one of the many tools monopolists take advantage of when news and fears of a global shortage makes favorable their blatant manipulation of sugar prices and supplies, like with rice shortages. It is merely one of the consequences of the government's anti-poor and anti-people liberalization policy, in blind compliance with its committments to the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade—World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO), the APEC and the Asean Free Trade Agreement, Mariano said.

Despite strong opposition from peasants and small food producers, the Agricultural Tariffication Act was passed by Congress to make market rules supposedly fair and competitive for small farmers, he added. Instead, it is feeding a vicious cycle where the big comprador-landlords, with tie-ups to big foreign agro-corporations, gained huge profits to buy up ever larger areas of plantations from small planters, then to evict the peasants and farmworkers from CARP-covered sugarlands, thus completing the monopoly's grip over the entire sugar industry.

According to the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), sugarlords owning above 50 hectares comprise only 4% of the total number of sugar planters, but control 78.6% of more than 500,000 hectares, of which only 375,000 are presently planted to cane, the rest lying idle for future bonanzas or temporarily planted to other crops. NFSW claims that the 9,000 hectares in Negros awarded its members under CARP were repossessed violently by hacienderos.

The comprador-landlords found it more profitable to import finished sugar for which they have a monopoly in distribution and pricing,explaining why the cartel has lobbied President Estrada to request Congress to approve the additional import of 154,000 metric tons, way over the 45,000 allowed by the Act, rather than modernize their operations.

In 1996, then president Ramos issued Memorandum 358, allowing them to import duty-free as much as 125% of their export commitments to the United States. Acquired duty-free at US$0.10 per pound, the sugar was resold to the US at US$0.22 per pound. The overzealous buying spree by the big players that year caused a glut in local supplies, which further drove small planters into bankruptcy, while the consuming public were still made to pay high retail prices.

Early last year, local wholesale prices fell from 750 to 450 pesos per 50-kilo bag when imported sugar flooded the market. The KMP said sugarlord-traders passed the burden of falling prices to 556,000 farmworkers in Negros and Luzon who lost jobs or worked for little or no pay. Also threatened by the collapse of the local sugar trade are the 36,000 industrial jobs at the sugar centrals.

The KMP says the myth that free trade fostered by globalization levels the playing field is utterly exposed in this setup of the sugar industry, where monopoly control over land and trading in an industry already strangled by a few is intensified.

In other developments, the families of peasant leaders who have been languishing in Camp Crame for a year now criticized the lawmakers out for publicity who flew to Kuala Lumpur purportedly to act as part of an international watchdog team to assure a fair trial for Anwar Ibrahim but are blind to widespread human rights violations in their own country.

Just like Estrada, they are after grandstanding for celebrities, but they have not lifted a single finger for our husbands and children who have been jailed, kidnapped, tortured and killed by the military because we simply fought for our lands, cried Cora, wife of Lito Matricio, a peasant leader from Mindoro.

Matricio and five other peasants were implicated together with former representative Jose Villarosa in the murders of the Quintos brothers in Mamburao last year. Mrs. Matricio said that Congress continues to ignore the pleas of victims human rights violations who are demanding the halt to the killing spree of military forces in Palawan and South Quezon