* Written for work. I just thought I’d copy-paste it here because I really think we should get the word out.
The bundle of RP-China Agreements has been lauded as an achievement in bilateral cooperation; a landmark deal that promises to bring forth new investment, economic development to the countryside and greater diplomatic ties.
Held up against the light, however, the Agreements do not only disappoint. They give us plenty of reasons to be afraid.
In all, there are thirty-one agreements that have been entered into by the Philippines through the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Agrarian Reform; with the People’s Republic of China and/or various Chinese corporations. These Agreements cover a broad range of obligations, which include questionable financial grants and concessional loans, the undue removal of technical but protective barriers to trade, Chinese investment through the lease of more than 1.5 million hectares of Philippine land, aquaculture and all-around marine fishing, and the utilization of Philippine lands to establish bio-fuel plants to be produced for Chinese consumption.
The Agreements are objectionable on several grounds.
Firstly, no prior consultations were ever conducted, contrary to the Constitutional provision protecting the right of the people and their organizations to participate effectively and reasonably at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making. Despite the far-ranging effects of the Agreements on the economic interests of ordinary Filipinos, the contracting agencies of the government have yet to provide the people with actual copies of the signed documents, hiding under the excuse that these documents are “private contracts” and are thus beyond the ambit of the right to information – an absurd contention made by instrumentalities of the State that are actual signatories to the Agreements.
Secondly, the Agreements seriously prejudice the Agrarian Reform program of the State. Consider this: one Agreement, entered into with Fu Hua Corporation, a 100% Chinese owned corporation, allows the lease of 1,000,000 hectares of agricultural land described ambiguously as “lands lawfully owned by the Philippines.” This vague definition is made even more confusing by specific portions of the contract discussing cooperation with agrarian reform beneficiaries and landlords, thus appearing to suggest that the lands to be leased could also be private lands covered either by CLOA or title. On both scenarios, the constitutional conflict is clear. If the lands are lands of the public domain, the constitutional prohibition on the lease of lands more than 1,000 hectares to foreign corporations is express. If the lands are private lands, or are owned by the government in its proprietary capacity, then the law is likewise clear that they should be subject to agrarian reform and distributed to qualified farmer beneficiaries. The rights of our nation’s tillers must be protected and upheld at all times.
Thirdly, the Agreements allow virtually unfettered exploitation of our marine resources by foreign corporations. The Memorandum of Agreement between the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources allow all-around cooperation in aquaculture, fishery products processing, marine fishing, and aquatic products and fisheries necessities trading – without setting any limitations or regulatory mechanisms whatsoever. By implication, the Chinese corporation would have blanket authority to conduct marine operations within our territorial seas.
Fourthly, the Agreements compromise our country’s food security at a time of widespread hunger and rapid depletion of resources. The Agreements covering agricultural lands provide for the shipment of agricultural products to China in order to meet the food requirements of its population, without any stipulation protecting Philippine food security.
Similarly, the Agreements involving marine fishing and aquaculture allow unabated fishing and exploitation of the finite resources of our seas. The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 specifically provides that it is the policy of the State to achieve food security as the overriding consideration in the utilization, management, development, conservation and protection of fishery resources in order to provide the food needs of the population. It also emphasizes that “a flexible policy towards the attainment of food security shall be adopted in response to changes in demographic trends for fish, emerging trends in the trade of fish and other aquatic products in domestic and international markets, and the law of supply and demand.”
Indeed, a careful study of the bundle of RP-China Agreements reveals not only serious ambiguities, but provisions so patently skewed against Philippine interests that nothing less than a comprehensive review is in order. Taken on their own, the undertakings embodied in the Agreements will have immediate deleterious consequences on the lives of our ordinary countrymen. As a precedent, they alter a policy framework where land and marine resources are protected for Filipinos, domestic industries are nurtured, agrarian reform is of the highest order, and food security is primordial.
The need to stop the implementation of the Agreements and to call for a comprehensive review is urgent and compelling. Once allowed to set in, their catastrophic effects may yet prove to be irreversible.
Yesterday, the Departmwnt of Agirculture claimed that no lands would be leased in any of the agri-buiness agreements with China. The bare text of the contract with Fu Hua Corporation says otherwise.