Please pass the rice

Press Release
19 April 2008

Reference: Jonna Baldres, Secretary General, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey
Contact info: anakbayan_ny@yahoo.com, 1(646)5787390

Please pass the rice

That is, if there would still be rice left on the tables of the millions of Filipinos who depend on rice as their staple food.

“It’s tough enough that Filipino youth and students have to constantly endure the continuing tuition fee increase every year, tightening their belts in order to cope with the skyrocketing prices of virtually everything — from the school supplies, books, school uniforms, jeepney fare and more. Many struggling and low income students barely have enough ‘baon’ for food. Now with the rice crisis, it has come to a point that even if there is still some money left for food, there might actually be no more food to buy for the next school year which will be starting in a couple of months,”  Anakbayan New York/New Jersey stated, joining the whole nation and all Filipinos abroad in criticizing the Philippine government for its inability to address properly the crisis on rice production in the Philippines.

While it may seem that Filipino youth in the US are not affected by the rice crisis, they are actually just as concerned because a large segment of Filipino immigrant youth in the US — particularly those who are in the workforce — contributes to the Philippine economy via remittances along with their parents.

Just recently, the Arroyo administration expressed its heartfelt enthusiasm in engaging the government  and the National Food Authority (NFA) in importing rice from other countries as the solution to the shortage of rice production in the Philippines. Little does this government know that the real culprit in this growing predicament is its neoliberal policies being implemented on trade, boasting of “free market” and participating in globalization, privatization and liberalization of economic policies.

Once more, the government turns to foreign dependency by hoping that there will be enough supply from rice exporting countries such as Thailand and others. Importing rice, a very basic product for Filipinos, now poses the problem of its price skyrocketing amidst the already high cost of basic commodities in the country. This leaves the Filipino nation in hunger while only the few corrupt officials and their cronies benefit from the country’s resources.

“We have already seen this in the past. The Arroyo government had done this deregulation many times before in many other forms on other basic goods and services, even in education. Now they’re doing it on rice. It’s been non-stop: the Filipino nation plummets much much deeper into poverty, with nothing more to eat while the government swims in a continuously widening pool of stolen wealth,” stated Dani Galan, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey President.

Unless the Philippine government systematically deals head-on first with the basic agricultural problems of the country by implementing genuine agrarian reform, prioritizing a self-sustaining economy, moving towards national industrialization and doing away with import dependency, the Philippines will definitely remain backward and hungry.

“And to not address properly this very basic plight of the Filipino people on rice is enough reason for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to hold on tight to the edge of her seat as the nation has been resolved to eventually pull her out of it,” added Galan.

Also considering the country’s crisis in education — which remains commercialized, colonial and repressive — there is an endless surplus of skilled workers without appropriate jobs to fill resulting to the diaspora of Filipino migrants, including the Filipino youth, to other countries. If these improper measures of the Philippine government continue to be implemented, more and more Filipinos will get more hungry as the government fails to produce enough jobs and food for its people and instead relies more (as it already does) on what it can get from Filipinos abroad.

“Soon we’ll have to pass the rice from the US to the Philippines, as our compatriots also believe that, eventually, we would be sending not only money but sacks of rice to our relatives back home. And that’s not reflective of an economically stable Philippines as the Arroyo government claims and brags about,” Galan ended.

Anakbayan New York/New Jersey is a full-fledged chapter of Anakbayan in the Philippines, a comprehensive youth group fighting for the basic rights and needs of the Filipino youth and for the advancement of nationalism and democracy. Anakbayan NY/NJ is a member organization of BAYAN USA, Migrante International, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and International League of Peoples’ Struggle. ###

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