Friday, September 3, 2010

the rice crisis

Values are neither good nor bad . They are in themselves ambivalent. Their merit or demerit depends on our choice of values to respond to a particular situation and what importance the community attaches to this value - in the way it rewards or punishes such behavior. The example given by PCP II will make it quite simpler. Filipinos who migrate to other countries adapt quickly to traffic rules and time discipline. If they do so it is not because their values have changed rather the social system which they find themselves in called for these values - values which were not emphasized in the social system in this country. 

 Our social system in a way determines the values we hold as important, in the same way that these values in turn determine and influence our social structures. Thus, last week, I wrote an article against gambling, from the point of view of forming proper values for the building up of our economy, because this policy on gambling, coming no less from the government, encourages a “wrong” behavior - the behavior that rewards passivity and devalues hard and honest work.

In this issue I would like to dwell on another “wrong” signal which our seemingly inutile government has been sending in this particular rice crisis. One of the causes of the problem is the way our social structure rewards behaviors which brought about the problem in the first place. I mentioned for example the way our social structure rewards financially businessmen who know how to take advantage of situations and profit by the work of others, in this instance the poor farmer who labor every inch of the way for the produce of the land. 

 Let me cite a case at hand. In an analysis made by the Demokratikong Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas based on the data provided by the NBI on Cosay’s Rice Trading, concluded that in 1994 alone the cartel profited by 181 million pesos or about 10 million a month by hoarding 52% of their stocks or about 20 million kilos of rice. In contrast the farmer who has 1.5 hectares of land, harvesting palay two times a year, only earn P1,875.00 a month. Is this the way our system reward and punish our people? What must a Christian do when presented with such a situation? How can our Christian faith correct this prevailing value?

Face for example the facts provided by the Philippine Peasant Institute. In 1994 14.4 million bags of rice was produced in Panay, 9.1 million are consumed, creating a surplus of 5.5 million bags. Out of this 3.5 million bags were shipped out of the three ports of the City of Iloilo. Thus, more than 1.5 million bags are either shipped out through other small ports or hoarded in the bodegas. Now we are forced to eat foreign rice and queue like beggars begging to buy for the very thing we produced so well. What must the government of Iloilo do? An official who could not provide even the basic necessities such as rice and could not provide means in order to make rice available for people who elected him, has no right to be in that position.

For my part I don’t have an army to raid the bodegas of this accursed profiteers, neither am I charismatic enough to call out the power of the people to trample their granaries. I have only the word of God and this I would say as clearly as possible in behalf of Him: “Hear this you who trample the needy and destroy the poor of the land. ‘When will the new moon be over,’ you ask, ‘that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath that we may display our wheat? We will diminish our measurement and fix our scales for cheating . . .even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!’ The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!” (Amos 8:4-7).

Justice will be served. The God of the poor will not forget!

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