FACT CHECK: Claiming that Masagana 99 is a notable achievement during martial law needs context

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CLAIM: A Facebook page named “Facts Not Feelings with Cocky Rocky” listed as a news and media website published on September 23 the “notable accomplishments during martial law”.

He cited the Green Revolution which produced Masagana 99, IR8 (Miracle Rice), and the whole country was considered a land reform zone where crops go directly to farmers.

The same page produced a video on September 17 about the same claim. The page had over 4.4,000 followers and 2.2,000 likes as of October 7, 2022.

ASSESSMENT: NEEDS CONTEXT

FACTS:

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

While the Philippines hosted and supported the Institute, its funding came from oil and chemical companies like Shell and Chevron whose by-products are essential supplies in the production of fertilizers and pesticides. Soon, IRRI was developing so-called “miracle seeds” such as IR-8, IR-15, and IR-20.

The introduction of new rice varieties has rapidly increased fertilizer production. From 101.2 million metric tons (MT) in 1956, total fertilizer consumption reached 563 million MT in 1972. It would reach almost 780,000 MT in 1978 at the end of the Masagana 99 program, up 15 % from 1977 total of 636,590 MT. Foreign companies such as Esso Atlas Fertilizers, Union-Hikari and BASF entered the booming fertilizer market.

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

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

With the limit set, 55% of rice and corn tenants were deprived of ownership of the land they worked according to a study by Tadem in 2014.

Corporate farming was initiated when Marcos required all corporations under GO 47 that businesses with more than 500 employees supply the rice and corn needs of their employees through import or direct production. This program made cultivable land inaccessible to potential beneficiaries of the agrarian reform

In 1978, about 250 companies that got into rice production operated on 58,450 hectares of land. Other foreign companies like Caltex, Shell, Del Monte, Dole and many others expanded their production to soybeans, sorghum, mung beans and by 1981 the land occupied by multinational corporations (MNCs) had reached 86 000 ha. This brings the average size of an agricultural enterprise to 402 ha. For example, banana plantations grew rapidly and grew from only 3,400 ha. in 1969 at 19,600 a. in 1983. Multinationals did not buy or own land, they simply leased it or had joint ventures with state corporations (Putzel 1992, 411).

Many corporations encroached on farms already cultivated by tenants, small farmer-settlers and landlord-cultivators. The incidence of rural poverty fell from 55.6% in 1971 to 63.7% in 1985, while the number of landless rural workers fell from 47% of the total population in 1975 to 50% in 1985. At the same time, rice production decreased by 39% between 1970 and 1981 due to the high cost of production (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, which farmers could benefit from through a credit program.

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

The non-governmental organization MASIPAG, in its statement last year during the commemoration of martial law, said that Masagana 99 reoriented the rice industry towards a commercial enterprise based on profit.

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

Although the program was a short-lived success, rice production was still not enough for the Philippines to export rice, as originally planned.

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


Davao Today is part of #FactsFirstPH which brings together diverse sectors committed to promoting truth in the public space and holding accountable those who harm it with lies. For those interested in joining the initiative, email [email protected]

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