Militants pooh-pooh Agriculture Secretary Yap’s 130,000 jobs target vs. crisis

Militants pooh-pooh Agriculture Secretary Yap’s 130,000 jobs target vs. crisis

The ambitious 130,000 job creation project of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to cushion the impact of current global economic and financial crisis failed to impress the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya)—-an ardent critic of the President and agriculture secretary Arthur Yap.

“This pump-priming escapade will only last for six months. After six months, what’s next? People don’t live and work for six months, they live and work for job security, decent and high paying jobs. Please allow us to tell Secretary Yap and her boss in Malacañang they are not really doing substantial and meaningful here,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

Hicap clarified that while they are demanding the government to actively engage in job creation program, the quality of jobs his group is demanding is stable, long-term and productive that will allow urban and rural workers to reap the gains of their hard labor.

The Pamalakaya leader said the pump-priming projects envisioned by Malacañang and the agriculture department were not really meant to create jobs. On the contrary, the Hicap said, the projects were meant to bail out construction firms close to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other Palace officials and allow them to get the lion’s shares of the national budget allocated for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the agriculture department.

“Malacañang and Secretary Yap will move heaven and earth to pursue these corruption-ridden pump-priming projects to address Palace top concerns like bailouts for profit-starved foreign corporations, crony firms and all-time corrupt allies. They are exploiting the extreme crisis to advance their own narrow and sinister agenda,” added Hicap.

Secretary Yap last week announced that the DA will kick off with the rehabilitation and restoration of irrigation systems all over the country covering 148,040 hectares, and such undertaking is expected to employ some 131,679 jobs at least for six months or roughly 13.7 percent of the one million jobs targeted by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration this year.

Aside from rehabilitation of irrigation systems, the DA will also engage in construction of flatbed dryers, irrigation projects and agro-forestry in Cagayan Valley, production of organic fertilizers and vegetable planting programs in the Cordillera Administrative Region, livestock production and irrigation construction in Central Luzon.

The DA also planned this year the setting up of more Tindahan Natin branches in Metro Manila, irrigation projects in Bicol, swine livelihood, Bantay Dagat program in Central Visayas, construction of roads and flatbed dryers and employment of Bantay Dagat in Eastern Visayas.

The agriculture department will also promote livestock production, coconut-corn intercropping and agro-forestry in Zamboanga Peninsula, irrigation and repair and production of organic fertilizer in Northern Mindanao, agribusiness, irrigation projects and fisherfolk livelihood program in the Davao region, marine resource management in South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and General Santos, and fisherfolk livelihood programs for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

Earlier, Pamalakaya pressed the demand for a P 32- billion production subsidies for small fishermen to cushion the impact of global economic crisis. The group suggested a minimum P 4,500 oil subsidy for all small fishermen operating small fishing boats and P 2,000 for non-motorized small fishing boat owners across-the-country.

The P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by marginalized fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. Hicap said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

Based on Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy, for non-motorized fishing boats operators, the government will spend monthly subsidy of P1.3 billion or roughly P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for a little over small fishermen will cost he government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

The Pamalakaya leader said 100 percent of the production subsidy for fisherfolk operators of small fishing boats will go to oil, while around 50 percent of the proposed subsidy for owners of non-motorized fishing boats will go to gas subsidy, while the rest will go to other production and food needs of small fishermen.

Pamalakaya said the production subsidies for small fishermen could be addressed by immediately and indefinitely suspending the annual payments of foreign and domestic debts that eats up more than one-third of the annual national budget.

“The proposed fishery production subsidy program is about 10 percent of the national government’s allotment to debt servicing. It would be better if we suspend if not totally stop paying these fraudulent loans acquired and accumulated by the previous and present administrations for their own corruption purposes,” he added.

Pamalakaya said the national government should also oblige commercial and aquaculture operators to give their fish workers the mandated minimum wage and certify as urgent the pending bill in both houses of Congress granting private workers a P 125 across the board, across the country wage increase.

Pamalakaya said the government should scrap the 12 percent expanded Value Added Tax on all petroleum products, consumer good, utilities and services to improve the purchasing power of the poor workers, farmers and fisherfolk.

“These are doable items and sound economic measures to ease the burden and cushion the impact of global economic crisis. What this government need is a strong political will. But the trouble is the will of this government is only meant for big time ticket for corruption and unstoppable subservience to transnational interest and class interest of the elite,” added Pamalakaya. #

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