CANDON CITY – Around 150 farmers from different tobacco producing areas in Ilocos region led by the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) trooped to the main trading centers of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation in Sta. Cruz, and Universal Leaf Philippines, Inc. here on March 23 to protest the low tobacco price and raise other concerns to the newly appointed administrator of the National Tobacco Administration (NTA).
The protest kicked off at 9:00 a.m. with a program held at the Sta. Cruz public market and culminated at the NTA Candon Office at 11:30 a.m.
“We have many important issues to raise before the NTA. Among these concerns are the low tobacco price for the past three years, the onerous provisions under the contract growing programs, and sub-standard irrigation projects funded by the agency,” STOP Exploitation Secretary General Zaldy Alfiler said.
A dialogue between STOP Exploitation and new NTA chief Dr. Robert Seares of Dolores, Abra, has been scheduled on March 27.
The STOP Exploitation together with some farmers association in Ilocos Region and Abra are demanding a higher tobacco price of P128/kilo. According to Alfiler, the P2.00-4.00 increase during the 2015 Tobacco Tripartite Conference is insufficient to offset the increase of basic needs and farm inputs.
“From 2015, the daily cost of living of farmers in the region increased by P26.00 based on the inflation rate released by the government, making our demand to raise the price of tobacco proper and just,” Alfiler said.
He added that the slump in tobacco price, and unfair conditions under the contract-growing program of tobacco companies and trading centers also add burden to farmers.
Earlier, STOP Exploitation undertook consultation meetings to unify farmers in the different tobacco producing municipalities in the Ilocos, La Union and Abra for the March 23 protest actions in front of the big tobacco trading centers in Ilocos Sur and the March 27 dialogue with Dr. Seares.
“We urge Administrator Seares to consult with the negotiating panel of the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines on how the industry can genuinely improve the lives of farmers in Ilocos,” Alfiler said. #