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Workers group slams Diokno anti-farmers statement

October 2, 2018

QUEZON CITY – The country' biggest labor group Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) called on Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to retract his statement on a live televised interview implying that Filipino rice farmers can be sacrificed in the fight against inflation.

On ANC LIVE, Sec. Diokno said, "In policy, there are winners and losers. There are 100 million consumers. There are 2.5 million (rice) farmers. It’s a no brainer." This was his reply to the ANC anchor when she asked if the importation of rice will negatively affect farmers. "This is not just moral insensitivity but intellectual arrogance of the highest order. It is provocative given the economic difficulties that our poorest people are facing. He is saying "drop dead" to our rice farmers in the name of feeding our people," said ALU-TUCP Vice President Luis Corral.

"While he mentioned that there will be a rice (competitive enhancement) fund for farmers, he seemed to regard it as a token gesture to the big losers – our rice farmers", said Corral.

ALU-TUCP Spokesperson Alan Tanjusay expressed anger at both the tone and manner of Diokno in the interview. "Our people are now going hungry and have no more money in their pockets. Even if he floods the markets with imported rice and vegetables our people have no money to buy these goods with. And yet Diokno can afford to say that the latest surveys indicating inflation as the top concern of Filipinos as just a mere "impression". He dismisses the survey as just a repetition of previous years' "impression", added Tanjusay.

"We warn our economic managers that for our people the price of rice, vegetables and fish are life and death issues. We have to find ways of surviving together as one nation rather than cavalierly and ruthlessly sacrifice 2.5 million Filipino rice farmers in what Diokno earlier described as a "cost-benefit" formula, explained Corral.

"We ask the Senate to ensure that the Rice Tariffication bill ensure that the rice competitive enhancement fund (RCEF) be given enough budgetary support to help our farmers survive. No one is speaking for our farmers and their families now. We need to bring up their productivity by helping them organize into cooperatives, go into other crops, acquire modern machinery, shorten and simplify the logistics train. Further we need to ensure farmer management of the fund lest we repeat the sad experiences of the sugar levy and coconut levy which were plundered," said Corral.

"On the demand side, ALU-TUCP calls for enactment of the proposed 500 peso monthly cash subsidy from government for 4 million minimum wage earners under SSS coverage. We call this the Labor Empowerment and Assistance Program (LEAP) and is intended to mitigate the economic miscalculations of TRAIN 1, the knock-on depreciation of the peso in the light of the US increase in its interest rates, and the on-going increase in international oil prices," added Tanjusay.

"There is a critical need to bridge the gap in the decline of real wages as inflation climbs. DOLE has signalled it is considering a mere pittance of P20.

"ALU-TUCP reiterates its call for a substantive wage adjustment to compensate workers for the productivity gains they have brought to the economy, and for patiently waiting for the trickle down from our growing economy. Now that times are hard workers and rice farmers are being made "sacrificial lambs" again. Let’s get our economic policy right for once. Not "losers and winners" but "win-win" said Tanjusay.

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