Every year, “Tiempo Muerto” or Dead Season continues to inflict economic hardships on the lives of the sugar workers in Negros. This annual phenomenon of hunger and dislocation has been a curse to the sugar workers’ family since Spanish period. It lasted for 3 to 4 months every year and its severity peaks in the month of August to September.
Hunger is the twin image of Tiempo Muerto. It is a period in a year wherein the sugar workers’ family endures the effect of a situation where they have no income as a result of the absence of any jobs in most haciendas. Budgeted work in few haciendas only earns sugar worker an income ranging from P200 to P300 pesos every week. It redounds only to P1.59 to P2.38 per meal budget of a sugar workers’ family with 6 members. Other Haciendas have no work at all.
Tiempo Muerto is firmly tied up to land monopoly. Land monopoly in the sugar producing regions has not been eliminated by land reform program of the government called CARP/CARPER after more than 28 years after of implementation since 1988 under Cory Aquino presidency. This government land reform program clearly failed in its supposed purpose in freeing the sugarcane workers from the clutches of poverty and hunger.
If the government’s land reform program failed, so are the Sugar Development Act and its main feature, the Block Farm program that, according to this act, will help mainly our agrarian reform beneficiaries. How this program could help our ARBs where, in fact, more than 80% of their land were already in the hands of big hacienderos and ariendadores.
Nowhere in the provisions of the Sugar Development Act that will solve the problems of the sugar workers including perennial low wages, job insecurity and violations of many employers in labor standards law implementation and in Social Security System law. The main backbone of the sugar industry, the sugar workers, has no place to get well within this Act.
Sugar Development Act cannot get rid of Tiempo Muerto, and therefore, cannot get rid of hunger of the sugar workers.
The irony is that Tiempo Muerto is a heartbreaking reality even our so called sugar leaders, government officials and government agencies, accepted as fact but did nothing seriously to root out its cause thru genuine and pro-workers economic plans and programs.
Every Local Government Units have millions of Peso in its 20% Development Fund and Calamity Fund every year. The Department of Labor and Employment have millions of Peso from the SAB Socio Economic Fund and several millions fron unreleased and unclaimed Social Amelioration Bunos Fund. Where does it go?
Tiempo Muerto is a political calamity that struck every sugar worker in various forms and degrees of extremity. It is an annual calamity to the families of 780,000 sugar workers who depends their lives to the industry that no amount of Marching for Peace brouhaha of the Philippine Army and the provincial government can put it out of sight.
Worst is, the NFA warehouses in Negros was full of rice stocks that started to rot while hundreds of thousands of our hacienda workers in the rural areas suffers in food shortage. Where will be these huge stocks of rice prepared for?
Are these stocks is for the election campaign of our honorable politicians to augment their campaign logistics to perpetuate their hold to government positions? Why they cannot release these stocks during dead season to help our starving sugar workers and their family in many haciendas?
If the government bureaucracy is serious enough to stop Tiempos Muertos, they should pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill to break land monopoly and introduce comprehensive and inclusive economic program that includes the welfare of the sugar workers.
We call on the Governor of this province, Local Government Units and other concern agencies to release food assistance to the Sugar Workers!
JOHN M. LOZANDE
National Federation of Sugar Workers
MP No. +639072522233
National Federation of Sugar Workers
August 18, 2015
The National Federation of Sugar Workers will conduct a 2-days protest activity on august 19 to 20, 2015 demanding government instrumentalities for Tiempo Muerto related assistance and policy advocacies to the sugar workers.
This activity will address its demands to the Department of Agrarian Reform Provincial Office, the Social Security System Office, Department of Labor and Employment, National Food Authority and to the Provincial Government.
The activity will be participated by more than 1,000 farm workers from different Haciendas.
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
Federation of Agricultural Workers | Philippines
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