“As we mark the Day of the Landless, we stand with the rural and farmer families who are one of the most affected by the ongoing lockdown in the call for land and food and demand for immediate economic relief amid COVID-19 pandemic,” National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

“The vulnerability of farmer families in the impact of the pandemic and the threat to the country’s food security is a result of the past and present administrations’ failure to implement a genuine agrarian reform program and the continuing neoliberal policies especially in the agriculture sector,” Soriano said.

“Ang patuloy na kawalan ng lupa ng mga magsasaka at kawalan ng suporta ng gobyerno sa agrikultura ang higit na nagbabaon sa pamilyang magsasaka sa kahirapan at kagutuman,” Soriano added.

“In this time of public health crisis, the Duterte government has chosen to show its military might by putting the entire Luzon in a lockdown, declaring a national emergency and seeking emergency powers without laying down concrete measures on how to fight the virus,” the peasant leader said.

“Farmers’ livelihood remain hindered by lockdown despite protocols of the Department of Agriculture exempting farmers, fishers and workers in food processing and manufacturing from quarantine to ensure unhampered production and distribution of food supply,” she added.

The group said that landlords and military forces are taking advantage of the ongoing lockdown and crisis to continue threat and harassment against farmers.

“While lockdown is in place, 42 farmer families in Bataan were threatened to be displaced after fences were put up in a part of their 33 hectare farmland. Military operations continue in Guimba, Nueva Ecija red-tagging community-based health workers while peasant activist and cultural worker Marlon Maldos was killed on March 17 in Bohol by military forces,” Soriano said.

She also noted that Gloria Tomalon, a Manobo leader and sister of Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat was arrested on March 19 by police forces claiming that she is a leader of the New  People’s Army.

The group said that the country’s dependence on rice importation worsened by the Rice Liberalization Law or RA 11203, is causing a probable rice crisis as Vietnam stopped releasing clearances for shipments to the Philippines, as their food security measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But instead of increasing local palay procurement, this government’s immediate solution is rice importation,” Soriano exclaimed.

“We urge all peasant women and their families to be vigilant and continue to assert our rights to land, food and justice in this time of crisis. We call on the Duterte government to immediately implement health and economic measures to ensure the protection of farmers and the Filipino people against COVID-19 and hunger. We call for the repeal of Rice Liberalization Law and the implementation of a rice industry development and genuine agrarian reform programs to attain food self-sufficiency and self-reliance,” Soriano ended. ##

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