Ombion: Divergent initiatives


DIVERGENT Initiatives are good but will not solve the deepening crisis of monocrop sugar-based Negros economy.

The initiative of the big sugar planters to repel the sugar import liberalization arguing that it will lead to the collapse of sugar industry and displacement of thousands dependent on it is laudable. Their move has drawn support from the House and other sectors causing Malacañang to retreat, at least temporarily.

The sugar workers associations and unions, and even agrarian reform beneficiaries have also launched their campaign to oppose the liberalization thrust on sugar. To date, they are planning to wage bigger protest actions to push for the survival of sugar industry.

The militant National Federation of Sugar Workers, Union ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, along with other progressive sectoral organizations have also positioned themselves on the issue, demanding the same, and many more bigger issues.

Other development institutions and non-government organizations (NGOs) have also aired their opposition to the issue.

These initiatives are great in defense of their respective interests.

The traditional big sugar planters want to keep sugar industry, but seek better and bigger support from the government, in terms of competitiveness of their sugar and in raising the productivity of their sugar farms. The moderate sugar groups want the same, but presses for more protection and benefits of sugar workers. The community of NGOs do not differ much from the moderate sugar groups.

The militant unions and associations who stand by their long held position that sugar workers must be protected from all forms of class exploitation and oppression, and Negros economy must leap from its present condition of being backward, poor and neglected - are probably the only group who wants “beyond sugar industry” solution.

These four positions are not exactly opposed to each other. While they unify on urgent issues of sugar import liberalization, they differ in strategic direction of Negros economy.

The big sugar planters want to protect their interests and survival, and they will do anything and everything to keep the sugar industry. Being traditional land owners, and having bad experience in the early 80s, they will not easily give in to any new attempts for diversification.

The moderate sugar groups want the same but with more social protection for the sugar workers. Their problem is they are losing members and followers because the neoliberal onslaughts of economic deregulation, liberalization and privatization on Negros economy and sugar industry have been causing drop in productivity, lower prices of sugar and decreasing farm work. On the other hand, they resist sweeping land reform and empowerment of the sugar workers because their very own existence will be threatened. They are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, so to speak.

The militants support the fight against import liberalization because they want also the workers to have a breathing spell in preparation for the bigger war, which is to change the socio-economic structure of Negros as strategic solution to the chronic crisis of Negros.

The NGOs may not be of great help in the advance of this battle, but they could contribute to building the capacities of various groups to engage the issues more effectively.

As I said, these divergent initiatives are good and necessary but they won’t contribute much to building the foundations for socio-economic restructuring of Negros.

If ever they win this present battle, they will face even bigger and harder battles because the present problems are just manifestations of a bigger structural problem.

The militants are in the best position to advance slowly but steadily the war for real social change. But they can't do it alone. They need the cooperation and support of other forces no matter how narrow their agenda is.

How they are going to do it depends a lot on their imagination and creativity to unify others.

Or maybe it’s time they learn from the others, start from where they are, and slowly, march with them, lift them to the wider web of social change dynamics.

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