FACT CHECK: The claim that Masagana 99 was a notable achievement during martial law needs context

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LEGAL ACTION: A Facebook page called “Facts Not Feelings with Cocky Rocky,” categorized as a news and media site, posted the “Notable achievements during martial law”.

It cited the Green Revolution that spawned Masagana 99, IR8 (Miracle Rice), and the entire country was considered a land reform area with crops going directly to the farmers.

The same site produced a video of the same claim on September 17. The page has over 4.4k followers and 2.2k likes as of October 7, 2022.

RATING: NEEDS CONTEXT

FACTS:

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ land reform program may have its roots in the Green Revolution. In the early 1960’s, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was established on the University of the Philippines-Los Baños campus in Laguna to conduct extensive research into the production of new varieties of rice.

While the Philippines hosted and supported the institute, its funding came from oil and chemical companies such as Shell and Chevron, whose by-products are essential raw materials used in the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides. Soon IRRI developed so-called “miracle seeds” such as IR-8, IR-15 and IR-20.

The introduction of new varieties of rice rapidly increased fertilizer production. From 101.2 million tonnes (MT) in 1956, total fertilizer use reached 563 million tonnes in 1972. This would reach almost 780,000 tonnes in 1978 when the Masagana 99 program ended, a 15% increase from the 636,590 tonnes of corresponds to 1977. Foreign companies such as Esso Atlas Fertilizers, Union-Hikari and BASF entered the thriving fertilizer market.

PD 27 included only two types of agricultural land (rice and maize) and land that was leased and privately owned. The retention limit was originally set at a maximum of seven hectares, which was later revised. The maximum area a tenant farmer can own is an economical family farm of three hectares if irrigated and five hectares if non-irrigated.

PD 27 excluded arable land and plantations dedicated to traditional export crops such as sugar, copra, bananas, tobacco, pineapples, etc.

According to a 2014 study by Tadem, 55% of rice and corn sharecroppers within the set limit were deprived of ownership of the land they tilled.

Corporate farming was introduced when Marcos required all companies under GO 47 that companies with more than 500 employees should meet their employees’ rice and corn needs through import or direct production. This program has made cultivable land unavailable to potential beneficiaries of agrarian reform

By 1978, approximately 250 companies entering rice production operated on 58,450 hectares of land. Other foreign companies such as Caltex, Shell, Del Monte, Dole and many others expanded production to soybeans, sorghum, mung beans and by 1981 the land occupied by multinational corporations (MNCs) had reached 86,000 ha. This puts the average size of a corporate farm at 402. For example, banana plantations expanded rapidly, increasing from just 3,400 ha in 1969 to 19,600 ha. until 1983. MNCs did not buy or own land, they only leased it or entered into joint ventures with government companies (Putzel 1992, 411).

Many corporations encroached on farms already operated by tenant farmers, smallholder settlers, and owner-cultivators. The rural poverty rate rose from 55.6% in 1971 to 63.7% in 1985, while the number of landless farm workers rose from 47% of the total population in 1975 to 50% in 1985. At the same time, rice production fell by 39% in 1970 and 1981 due to high production costs (ibid., 412).

Masagana 99 was Marcos Sr.’s agricultural rice production started in 1973. It attempted to boost rice production in the country through “modernized” agricultural inputs that farmers could draw on through a credit system.

With IRRI and its Green Revolution Program, Masagana facilitated the introduction and adoption of high-yielding varieties of seeds and fertilizers in 99, as well as heavy use of chemical pesticides and herbicides.

MASIPAG, a non-governmental organization, said in its statement last year during martial law commemorations that Masagana 99 had reoriented the rice industry into a for-profit corporate enterprise.

After the program was implemented, many of the small farmers were in debt and poisoned by toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Although the program had only a short-lived success, the rice production for the Philippines was not yet sufficient to export rice as originally intended.

A 1987 study by IRRI also concluded that drawing down loans from Masagana 99 made no difference in net returns to farmers. Former NEDA Director-General Emmanuel Esguerra said Masagana 99 is more political than economic as it doesn’t really address the root cause of inequality, which is asset ownership.


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