Militant groups expose RP-Bahrain secret pact on agriculture

Militant groups expose RP-Bahrain secret pact on agriculture

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and staunch ally Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Thursday exposed what they called a secret agricultural pact between the Philippines and Bahrain.

In a joint press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said the agreement was signed in May 2008 after Bahrain trade minister Hassan Fakhro visited Manila to secure vast plots of land to grow Basmati rice for Bahrain’s consumption.

Both leaders bared the agreement was finally clinched on June last year, and it was signed by the minister of agriculture of Bahrain and agriculture secretary Arthur Yap for the Philippines, but the two agriculture officials agreed not to release the details of the agreement. However, according to KMP and Pamalakaya leaders, Fakhro was quoted as saying that several Bahrain companies will come in the Philippines to invest in rice production and livestock processing.

“While 80 percent of the 90 million Filipinos are landless, and 70 percent of the peasant population is still landless, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo entered into a secret, unlawful and immoral deal with Bahrain that will offer the country’s agricultural lands at bargain prices to foreign investors. This is treason,” KMP’s Ramos said.

According to Ramos, aside from the Philippines, the Manama-based General Trading and Food Processing Company, one of Bahrain’s largest public trading corporation is also interested in securing lands in Australia, India and Sudan to develop supplies of Bahraini market, which is composed of not less than 750,000 people.

“Secretary Yap and his lady boss in Malacañang have a lot of explaining to do over this highly secret agricultural deal with Bahrain. No official statements from the government side have been issued to the public and the entire Filipino people are kept in total dark about this escapade of President Arroyo and her agriculture secretary,” the KMP said.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap noted that in 2007, the Bahraini food giant set up a $ 2.7 million joint venture food processing venture in Qatar with the Qatar Company for Meat and Livestock Trading, which is expanding its overseas operation.

The Pamalakaya leader said aside from the Philippines, the Bahraini government has also secured an agreement with the Thai government for the production of Jasmine rice for direct export to Bahrain. Hicap said a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Bahrain and Thailand in May 2008, simultaneously with the visit of Fakhro in the Manila.

“Is this country for sale? Does President Arroyo maintain and execute a policy of selling the country’s agricultural lands to those who want to come to invest for agri-business undertakings? Is there such a policy? This seems to be the trend now with foreign groups coming in either to secure lease arrangements or buy lands in the country for production of agricultural products for super profits,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya noted that a Japanese holding company based in United Kingdom and its’ local subsidiary have been allowed by the national government to reforest 400,000 hectares in Northern Luzon with coconut trees for production of biodiesel products. The agreement between the United Kingdom based firm- the Pacific Bio-Fields Holding Plc. and its local counterpart the Northern Luzon based—Bio-Energy NL to utilize some 400,000 hectares of forest areas for coconut plantation was sanctioned by Malacañang, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for 25 years and renewable for another 25 years.

Pamalakaya put to task Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to immediately calendar the investigation of the highly treacherous pact between Pacific-Bio Fields Holding Plc. and Bio-Energy NL and perform acts of legislation that will invalidate the contract, which Hicap further described as “one-sided and an act of modern-day treason”.

“The Senate President and the Speaker of the House must rally the lawmakers in declaring the agreement illegal, immoral and unconstitutional,” the group said.

Pamalakaya lamented that the incident involving the free use of 400,000 hectares of lands for the production of bio-diesel for the use of Japanese users is a clear proof that the Japan-Philippines Economic and Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) is really anti-Filipino and merely intended to address the need of Japanese transnational corporations.

“In exchange for 400 nursing and caregiving jobs in Japan, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will allow the corporate exploitation of 400,000 hectares of Philippine agricultural lands to foreign groups identified with and serving at the pleasure of Japanese car makers. No Filipino can stomach this kind of across-the-nation betrayal of national interest,” it said.

In an announcement in Tokyo which coincided with the state visit of President Arroyo, the Pacific Bio-Fields Holding Plc. said the project would make alternative auto fuel which it plans to sell to Japanese users in five years. Its counterpart the Bio-Energy NL headed by company president Salacnib Baterina denied that the government will allow the use of 400,00 hectares for the production of bio-diesel for free.

Earlier, Pamalakaya and KMP questioned the intervention made by the European Union (EU) pressuring the Manila government from pursuing Charter Change to lift ban on foreign ownership of lands in the country.

“The European Union is committing a national political foul play in lobbying for the passage of Chacha that would lift the constitutional ban on foreign ownership of land. This country is not for sale; its lands are reserved for public ownership and for the common good of every hardworking Filipino. Please don’t touch our lands and quit from conspiring with the government over the national auction of Philippine lands to European business giants,” they said.

“This diabolical economic agenda of the European Union will further exacerbate, complicate and worsen the problem of landlessness and agrarian injustice in the country. Are they trying to colonize this country through economic means under this era of globalization-led modern day slavery?” the groups added.

Former foreign affairs undersecretary Merlin Magallona warned lawmakers calling for the removal of nationalist economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution could be playing into the hands of the European Union.

Magallona, also former dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Law said that the 27-member of the European Union had formally requested the Macapagal-Arroyo government under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to remove the ban on foreign land ownership.

The European Union also requested the government to allow foreign nationals, particularly lawyers to be allowed to practice in the Philippines, according to Magallona who was a guest speaker at a forum on Charter Change in UP College of Law on Wednesday.

Pamalakaya and KMP also accused the Macapagal-Arroyo government of keeping the details of the EU-RP Partnership and Cooperation Pact, which was done as early as 2002, like what the government did to the RP-Bahrain agricultural pact.

“To set the record straight, the Philippine government is set to lease or sell some 1.5 million hectares of prime agricultural lands to foreign countries who have entered a bilateral economic and trade agreement with the Malacañang, whether these are aboveboard or discreet agreements,” the groups added. #

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