Magugutom rin tayo

It comes to me with slight surprise that there is little talk among students and bloggers with regards to the imminent shortage of rice in the country. I don’t know, perhaps, as a middle class concern, the pursuit of low-carb diets and the shortage of rice go hand-in-hand? Or perhaps since we all apparently have alternative sources of nutrition, rice shortage isn’t really a primary concern? Or because many of us can afford it at 40 pesos a kilo anyway? I don’t really know. But for the common Filipino who remains to be poor, rice is one of the cheapest food that sustain his daily nutrition, especially for the many work of his (if any) that require intensive manual labor. Just the thought of rice at 40 or 50 pesos per kilo must be really alarming and terrifying. When shall it be alarming for the rest?

I believe this crisis is simply a manifestation of long-entrenched problems in land, agriculture, trade and governance, and as such cannot fully be solved through band-aid solutions as proposed by the administration. Radical changes in government policies on land use and land reform, on international trade and on rampant corruption among rice traders and bureaucrats must be implemented. Which shall not only solve the imminent crisis in rice supply, but a whole lot of other recurring problems in our country from peasant landlessness to unemployment. We know this is a complex problem, and I don’t wish to be simplistic about this. But as a perpetrator herself of the present policies that sustain the present condition, I don’t think we can ever expect President Arroyo to pursue such radical reforms in government policies. Or, if ever, do them genuinely. All she is willing to do is to lie and sugarcoat the problem, and urge Filipinos, rather insultingly, to eat less or eat something else. Half-rice servings? Eat vegetable starch instead? What?!

As such, I still believe that part of the solution, not just to the crisis in the supply of rice but to many other problems, is the continued and intensified call for the President’s resignation. We may not see ordinary bloggers or fellow students talk about this issue a lot. But you see, if the most we students, and other members of the middle class can show is a hundred thousand in the streets of Ayala calling for truth and accountability, let us not be surprised at the larger number of hungry masses who will go out and bring down the one who perpetrates the tragic status quo we all find ourselves in once we don’t act on the urgency of the situation.

Further reading:
The imminent crisis in rice (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism)
Palaasa sa Inaangkat na Bigas (Pinoy Weekly)
Conflicting government data bare gravity of rice shortage (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan)
Reverse “Globalization” of Agriculture and Promote Self-Sufficiency to Address Rice Crisis (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan)

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