A SMALL farmer from any part of the country couldn’t long watch the heartbreaking video feeds and television footage of the severe Tropical Storm Maring that hit farming areas in northern Luzon. The standing rice valued at over a billion pesos turned into flattened, soaked and tangled straw.

Standing yellow corn worth hundreds of millions of pesos is collapsing due to the force of the floods. A farmer trying to save what he could of a bumper corn yield in a drying area with the help of volunteers and internet users, largely for nothing.

The grief of the affected farmers, faced with six cursed months, was truly overwhelming. But what was most depressing was the news of lives lost, as the La Union couple engulfed in floodwaters as they climbed the frail, aging roof of their pigsties. Across the banks of the swollen river, their panicked children saw the dying light of a flashlight projected up into the darkening sky – the last flash of light and life. Saving an endangered pig herd is instinctive in any animal farmer, even in the midst of a calamity. And there are occasions, like that tragic scene in La Union, that result in loss of life.

The son of a small farmer and a small farmer myself, I am all too familiar with the shipwreck feeling farm families get after the savagery of a mighty storm. The wasted harvest, the harsh summons of the informal creditor, a full semester of lost economic toil, the uncertainty that the farmer could recover funds for two things – food on the table and a little capital to replant. Most nights after a particular severe storm had passed, a farmer kid would wake up at midnight to hear the choked sobs of the father, his own primitive way of pondering life and loss and perhaps the tragedy of his father. ‘to be born a small farmer and to be born. poor.

Okay, I’ll add this: the sad finding that a small farmer has no supporting institutions to turn to to post the savagery of natural calamities. No support back then and even more so now. Unlike other countries where there are institutions that support agriculture and smallholder farmers, in a strong and sustained manner, Filipino governments, past and present, all pretended to support agriculture, but all were actors. dishonest.

Small farmers believed that nothing could beat the indifference of the late former President Benigno Aquino 3e to agriculture in general and small farmers in particular. Only to realize that the government of Mr. Duterte has nothing but abject hatred and contempt for small farmers amplified a thousand times. The central legislation is the Rice Pricing Law (RTL), which since 2019 has mainly benefited importers and traders, according to data from the Federation of Free Farmers. And has made the Philippines, a country of glorious and proud rice cultivation, the number 1 or number 2 importer of rice in the world.

The knee-jerk reaction to a shortage of any food commodity is reckless importation, backed by tariff cuts. Even though this shortage was caused by an epidemic that could have been brought under control by the government. True to our status as a laggard in everything, we are now lagging behind in the control of African swine fever. And we’re going to import 500,000 tonnes of pork this year. From October to March next year, we will import 200,000 tonnes of fish, while our fishermen will be hunted by Chinese fishermen in our own territorial waters.

And as Tropical Storm Maring ravaged much of northern Luzon, Mr. Duterte’s finance and agricultural mandarins are plotting to turn the crop insurance program into a corporation to develop a so-called “business model.” for crop insurance for the purpose of limiting or completely eliminating crop insurance. subsidies.

Look at the two contrasting images. For the rich, a tax cut that would soon bring corporate tax to 20%. For poor and struggling small farmers, always at the mercy of whiplash caused by natural disasters, a “business model” for crop insurance. In terms of unbridled cruelty to small farmers, no administration in our contemporary history has done it on the scale of Mr. Duterte’s stewardship.

The government’s version is that over the past two decades it has spent heavily on crop subsidies, around 29 billion pesos. Government finances have bled from crop insurance subsidies and reforms need to be undertaken.

Crop insurance is not said to be a risky business, according to farmer groups, and that the Philippines is one of the unlucky countries in the world on its way to natural calamities such as super typhoons. Crops should be subsidized, heavily subsidized.

The amount paid in the crop subsidies is offset by the penalties that the monetary authorities collect from the Philippine banks, whose predisposition is to simply pay penalties instead of following the letter of the law of the Republic (RA) 10,000, or the “Agri-Agra law”. Sanctions from offending banks, which would rather violate Agri-Agra law than lend money to small farmers and land reform beneficiaries who are seen as balasubas, certainly eases the government subsidy for crop insurance. .

Crop insurance is one of the very few areas that the government has put in place for farmers and food producers. There are no low interest loans for agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture has turned into a press release factory. Whatever amounts are collected from the RTL, they come from the suffering of small rice farmers, and not from new state investments. The general and main policy is to neglect agriculture, let alone small-scale agriculture.

Mr. Duterte’s government has no legitimate reason to really complain about the “financial drain” that comes from crop insurance subsidies. It is a warrant and the collection of the RA 10,000 penalties can always be directed to crop subsidies to ease their financial burden.

Efforts to put in place “reforms” in crop insurance are but a naked attempt to wipe out with extreme damage the already negligible support to agriculture in general and small farmers in particular.

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