September 23, 2009
Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano today accused the Macapagal-Arroyo government of engaging in real estate business allegedly “in exchange of possible hefty commissions” in the light of Saudi Arabia’s plan to turn the Philippines as a “food hub.”
Mariano issued the statement after reports said that a proposed investment was discussed during a meeting between Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and representatives of the Far East Agriculture Company (FEAC) – an umbrella group of 10 Saudi Arabian companies – at the sidelines of Ms Arroyo’s visit to the oil-rich country.
“We expect this impending land-lease deal with Saudi Arabia, courtesy of global land-grabbing’s No. 1 puppet in Asia, to displace thousands of farmers and agricultural workers. Ms Arroyo is selling out the country’s national patrimony under the guise of multi-million dollar investment packages,” Mariano said.
He said that “instead of defending thousands of farmers facing agrarian disputes and struggling to own the lands, Ms Arroyo acts as real estate agent between domestic landlords and foreign agribusiness corporations possibly in exchange of hefty commissions.”
Mariano, who also chairs the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said “Ms Arroyo’s policy of leasing the country’s vast tracts of agricultural lands always figured in the official agenda of her numerous state visits.”
He recalled that “during Ms Arroyo’s state visit to Qatar in December last year, she announced the possibility of leasing at least 100,000 hectares of agricultural land to the emirate. In June 2008, after her state visit to the US, she boasted of having clinched a 35-year supply contract with Libby’s Fruits worth $500 million in Bicol and Eastern Visayas, and another contract with Abundant Bio-Fuels which intends to invest $200 million in Northern Mindanao.”
The peasant leader also said that with government’s abandonment of agriculture and neo-liberal policies like reducing subsidies in agriculture and food import dependency, the sufferings of Filipino farmers will be worsened by the escalating global land grabbing for food and financial security.
“The stark irony of these land lease deals is that while our country is being dependent on the importation of our food needs, we are leasing our lands to feed the rich countries,” says Mariano adding: “This stupidity by the Arroyo government must be stopped.”
Malacañang said in a press statement that “the group will visit the Philippines in November 2009 to meet with possible counterparts and partners, even as initial ventures in fresh and processed banana products have been sealed.”The FEAC group is involved in the production and trading of poultry, livestock, fruits, grains and cereals, the statement said.