Filipino toiling masses protest on World Food Day

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Farmers, fishermen, the poor and other sectors staged a protest action at the Department of Agriculture on October 17 to criticize the state over conditions of hunger and poverty facing the people. The protest action was timed in commemoration of the 43rd World Food Day set by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization every October 16. Every year, the day is marked as “World Hunger Day.”

The protestors included peasant women affiliated with the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women, members of the Philippine Peasant Movement (KMP) and organizations that promote genuine land reform including the youth organization NNARA Youth. The urban poor from the Katipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Association of Poor Solidarity) also attended the protest.

According to KMP, hunger in the country is not a temporary problem. “This suffering is a result the long-standing neoliberal policies pushed by previous governments which destroyed agricultural production and the Philippine economy,” the group added.

They stress, this major and deep-rooted problem needs concrete solutions. This is contrary to the Marcos administration’s response to the food crisis, which it called “lacking and narrow-minded.”

Farmers and youth launched a noise barrage in Magarao, Camarines Sur and Libon, Albay on the same day. This was after a discussion about the agricultural sector crisis.

“The UN declaration of World Food Day is just a celebration for rich countries, rich individuals, landlords, and bureaucrat capitalists who rule the Philippines,” according to Bert Autor of the Bicol Farmers’ Movement.

For farmers and impoverished citizens, this is a day of hunger and food insecurity, he said.

In Bacolod City, farmers and urban poor protested at Bacolod City Plaza. They contrasted the hunger and poverty suffered by the people in Negros during the extravagant Masskara Festival in Bacolod. The protest was led by KMP-Negros.

“Behind the joyous celebration of Masskara is hunger, threats of demolition and militarization,” according to the protesters. They also demanded the immediate eviction of military troops operating and occupying Himamaylan City. More than 18,000 residents, mostly farmers, were forced to evacuate due to the military siege and a week-long militarist lockdown. Residents have reported numerous human rights violations.

Farmers under KMP-Cebu mounted a picket at the Department of Agriculture office in Cebu City on October 18. They insisted that the national and local governments address their land problems and demand for agrarian reform in the province.

Meanwhile, the youth led by the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates – Youth (NNARA Youth) launched a bicycle caravan on October 16 in Quezon City to push the farmers’ call for production support, land reform and other demands.

Also on October 18, NNARA Youth and other youth organizations held a rally in Mendiola in Manila to condemn the inaction of the Marcos government regarding farmers’ grievances. “With the severity of the food and agriculture crisis, even farmers have nothing to eat. The state should be confronted because without the farmers, the Filipino people will have nothing to eat,” according to Melo Cabello, national spokesperson of NNARA-Youth.

Worldwide, an estimated 828 million people are affected by hunger in 2021. Meanwhile in the Philippines, 48.8 million Filipinos are suffering from what is called “moderate” to “severe” hunger at the end of 2021. This worsened to 7.4% last month because of rising inflation in food prices.

AB: Filipino toiling masses protest on World Food Day