By Gerry Albert Corpuz and John Lloyd Hoffman
GENEVA, Switzerland –The Philippine peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) strongly rebuked on Friday the circulation of a document spearheaded by the United States and European Union asking member-nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to sign the Pledge Against Protectionism, which the farmer alliance said a bold step to eradicate barriers to trade while allowing US and EU to maintain their protectionist policies inside their respective turf.
The statement was circulated and peddled for signing by countries during the 8th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland.
KMP campaign officer Jim Fernando said the circulation of the ‘anti-protectionism document’ is a desperate move to cover up the crimes of imperialist globalization against the broad masses of people.
“US and EU spin doctors are now obscuring the truth that the rotten and bankrupt paradigm of so-called “free market” globalization is the main cause of the global economic and financial crisis,” he said.
Obviously, Fernando said, “the pledge is aimed to undermine the world people’s growing clamor for genuine development and of countries defending their national economies from the continuing onslaught of globalization.”
The KMP appealed to members of the Philippine delegation to the WTO not to sign the document saying it would be a big shame for the Philippine government to sign the document.
“Signing this anti-national and anti-people document is tantamount to a pledge of total US re-colonization of the Philippines,” the KMP warned.
The peasant group maintained that after 17 years of membership in the WTO, Philippine agriculture and the Filipino peasantry has been hardly hit by the policies of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization of the economy. The country has become more vulnerable to global land grabbing, food insecurity, job insecurity, hunger and poverty.
The KMP also dismissed the draft political guidance issued by WTO in time for the 8th MC of the Doha Round as undemocratic.
The KMP issued the statement after WTO General Council Chair, Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah, on December 1, forwarded the document “Elements for Political Guidance” to the Chair of the Eighth Ministerial Conference, Trade and Investment Minister Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga of Nigeria, for inclusion as the consensus part of his statement.
“The draft ‘political guidance’ text highlights the undemocratic character of the WTO. Obviously, the document itself did not have the benefit of negotiations and is being forced on poor countries to accept,” the KMP said.
The KMP also said that “the document merely reaffirmed the WTO and developed countries insistence to cling to the same rotten and bankrupt ‘development’ paradigm of so-called ‘free market’ globalization. This so-called ‘development’ model has only led to a more serious global economic and financial crisis.”
In a paper prepared for the anti-WTO protest in Geneva, the peasant group asserted that although rice production increased in the early years of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), it soon suffered significant declines in recent years (through 1997 to 1998), dropping to a -24.1% in 1998. Moreover, palay (unhusked rice) production has fallen for three straight years, from 16.8 million metric tons in 2008 down to 16.3 million in 2009 and then further to 15.8 million in 2010. According to KMP, the Philippines was a net exporter of rice in 1992.
However, the WTO-AoA period also saw record of increasing volume of imported agricultural products. According to IBON Foundation, since 1995, the country became a net importer of rice and became chronically negative in the balance of trade. In fact, rice became the top imported agricultural product in 1998. Since 1995, the country imported an annual average of 12.5% of the country’s total rice consumption – the highest being in 1998 at 28.5% and in 2008 at 18.4%. The KMP paper also said rice importation figures show an increasing volume of rice importation from 100,000 metric tons (MT) to more than 2 million MT of rice from 1984 to 1998.
The Philippine government continues to rely on massive rice importation to meet the increasing consumption demands. In 2007, the government increased its importation to 1.8 million MT. At the end of 2007, the country had an end stock of 2.17 million MT, but the government further boosted imports by 34.74% reaching 2.4 million MT of rice in 2008. In 2010 the government ordered 2.45 million MT of rice. This increase in the volume of rice importation is way beyond the Philippines’ minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons under the WTO-Agreement on Agriculture and led to the massive flooding of imported rice in the country.
Corn production also posted negative growth rates for the years 1995, 1998 and 2000. Like rice, corn productivity decreased from 88% in 2005 to 78% in 2008. However, corn production in 2010 is at 6,376.8 thousand metric tons and was down by 9.34% from its 2009 record. On the other hand, corn coming into the Philippines rose dramatically between 1994 to 1995 and 1996, following the implementation of the WTO obligations. In 2009, the country imported 303 thousand metric tons of corn.