On April 24, different progressive organizations led by Anakpawis Party-list staged “Padyak Pesante,” a bike rally calling for economic aid to the sectors who need it, healthcare and other social services rendered urgent amid the pandemic, and food security anchored on genuine land reform.
The event consisted of over 70 bikers pedaling together for a common cause. They assembled at the Department of Agrarian Reform, underscoring the urgency of distributing land to the peasantry who makes up the majority of the Filipino population. Then they biked to the Department of Agriculture, demanding an end to the reckless importation of rice, pork, tilapia, and other foreign food products, damaging the domestic agricultural industry.
“Food producers themselves are hungry. That’s how deeply the livelihoods of farmers and agri-workers have taken a dive. The very people who plant and harvest food products cannot afford their own produce!” complained peasant and labor leader Antonio Flores, chairperson of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA). “Workers in haciendas and plantations earn slave wages as low as P9 a day. Our labor bureaucrats in government may afford to ignore our demands, but agri-workers cannot afford to stop protesting.”
The bike rally made its next stop at the Maginhawa Community Pantry, where it staged a short program in front of the innumerable beneficiaries lining up on the popular street. Here, the spokesperson of food security watchdog Bantay Bigas, Cathy Estavillo, unpacked the perils of agricultural importation. In her speech, she exclaimed that imports cannot alleviate the hunger of Filipinos in the long run. It only destroys the domestic industries meant to produce the country’s domestic food supply.
“People should not be driven to wait in kilometric lines for a bag of rice, canned goods, and a handful of eggs and vegetables,” she explained. “Dignified access to food requires a strong agricultural sector, and we can build it by empowering our food producers through genuine agrarian reform.” The crowd then chanted “Sahod, itaas! Presyo, ibaba!” calling for wage hikes and price controls.
“Padyak Pesante” culminated at the Diliman headquarters of the Commission on Human Rights, where the protesters staged a short program that emphasized the urgency of peasants uniting with workers. Elmer Labog, chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno, was the first to give a speech, followed by Estavillo and Flores. Ariel Casilao, National President of Anakpawis Partylist, closed the program by urging all participants to stand with farmers and workers in calling on President Duterte to resign.
The day of the protest was the ninth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita’s thousands of hectares to the peasants who work its land. It also marked Global Day of Solidarity for Filipino Workers and Peasants, which emphasized the justness of setting political prisoners free, among them pesant leader Joseph Canlas and labor leader Pol Viuya. In view of the occasion, UMA underlined the call for P10,000 economic aid, P100 emergency wage relief for workers, and P15,000 agricultural production subsidy to farmers and fisherfolk, alongside the demand for indispensable healthcare measures like free mass testing and safe vaccination. #