STATEMENT FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE RFO -5, August 8th 2013
We, at the Department of Agriculture, Regional Office No. 5 strongly condemn the destruction made by militant groups who entered the DA compound today by forcibly opening the gate, and going over the fence and destroying the security fences then deliberately uprooted and trampled the rice plants in the experimental plots . We likewise condemn the harassment and threats and invectives hurled against some of DA personnel staff, security and police personnel, and barangay officials who were securing the place.
The senior officers of our office and the members of the technical and research team of the Golden Rice Project from IRRI, PhilRice, DA and CBSUA and we were waiting for the arrival of rallyists at the main building of the DA ready to have peaceful dialogue with them. But it is now clear that they were not after a dialogue .
The action of the violent rallyists was a malicious mischief that resulted to the damage of properties, loss of valuable data, and loss of investment. Thus, we are taking legal action against the persons we have identified as directly involved in said mischief .
The DA-RFO 5 has always been at the forefront of promoting agricultural development and growth in the Bicol region . We support conventional, modern and organic farming as means of achieving food sufficiency and sustainability. We are committed to providing Filipinos sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious food . Thus, we are an active partner for rice research (including Golden Rice) and other projects which has complied with national biosafety regulations.
Our communication lines have always been open to issues and concern s aired by our various stakeholders including critics. But we are also aware that there are some groups who are using some farmers as their front to advance their own personal interests and agenda. We were able to confirm this during the recent mass action that indeed there were infiltrators who were among the group who destroyed the experimental crops. We appeal to them to stop using our legitimate farmers as their front and shield and WE invite them to come face to face with us and discuss their issues and concerns in a civil and peaceful manner.
ENG. ABELARDO R. BRAGAS
OIC- Regional Executive Director
Farmers uproot Golden Rice in CamSur experiment
Published on Thursday, 08 August 2013 19:32 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga
Claiming that the ongoing field trial of the genetically modified Golden Rice poses serious health risks to people and environment, militant farmers on Thursday stormed an experimental farm in Pili, Camarines Sur, and uprooted the palay.
Around 30 policemen were unable to stop the mob of about 400 farmers from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bikol (KMB) and the Sararong Inisyatiba nin Kahinwanmaan sa Wasakon ang Agrokemikals na Lasong-GMO (Sikwal-GMO), who forced their way into the experimental farm to uproot the rice variant in protest of the experiment.
The KMB, is a regional chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), which opposes the entry of GMOs in the Philippines while SIKWAL-GMO is an alliance of farmers, church people, students, people from the academe and consumers based in Bicol who also reject GMO application in crop and food production.
The attack by the farmers who came from Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon surprised policemen who responded.
Bert Autor, coordinator of Sikwalgmo and secretary-general of the KMB, said that it took the farmers only 15 minutes to do the job.
“They [farmers] were not able to control their emotional outburst,” Autor said in a statement, adding that the farmers were fired up by warnings from “concerned scientists and peasant leaders” about the “dangers” of the Golden Rice or GM rice to health and its threat to biodiversity....
UP League of Agricultural Biotechnology Students
As the premier and only student organization that promotes agricultural biotechnology in the country, the UP League of Agricultural Biotechnology Students strongly condemns the uncivilized act done by a militant group in an experimental station in the Bicol Region. We are greatly disappointed by the dirty tactics done by this group, where they "pretended to have come for a dialogue with officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) at the regional office in Pili town", "...but instead crushed through the perimeter mesh wire fence, and then uprooted the Golden Rice plants being grown at the half-hectare farm."
UP LABS definitely acknowledges the freedom of each individual and organization to express their opinion and views to certain issues that affect them. However, we believe that despite the difference in views regarding Genetically Modified Organisms, whether pro or not, respect on each other must be recognized. These concerns must be addressed in a "democratic way" wherein all modern democratic institutions guarantee.
We believe that once the Golden Rice is approved by the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) and other concerned government agencies for commercial release, it will help our people gain access to rice fortified with provitamin A, and henceforth, minimizing the occurrence of vitamin A deficiency within the population.
Dematera, Cet. 2013. Militants wreck GM rice test farm.
20 hours ago · Los Baños, Laguna
The purpose of the trip was to learn first-hand about the act of vandalism, and to hear the views of the key officials on site. Joining me on the trip was Chief Science Research Specialist and Project LeaderDr. Antonio Alfonso of the Philippine Rice Research Institute, National Programs Relations Manager of IRRI Julian Lapitan, and Healthier Rice Project Manager Raul Boncodin.
Engineer Abelardo Bragas, OIC Regional Executive Director of DA-RFU5, and Ms. Emily Bordado, Chief of Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division, briefed us on the traumatic event the day before.
Regional Executive Diretor Bragas said that they were taken by surprise. They had assembled DA officials and staff in the office, waiting for the group to come in and sit down for a peaceful dialogue. Instead, the militants poured into the compound, overwhelmed the police and village security, broke down a section of the fence surrounding the research area, and entered, uprooted, and trampled the crop.
The officials shared that there were farmers in the group, but they just watched and stayed on the sidelines. Local customs and traditions dictate that the destruction of a living field brings bad fortune – Bicolanos refer to it as "Bosung". Those who entered the field to vandalize were mostly young men and some covered their faces.
The local officials and the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) recounted that the rallyists had been assembled in Legazpi City the day before, and brought overnight to Naga City in a convoy of about a dozen jeepneys. In Naga City they had been housed in local hotels. It was reported that the group included foreigners.
As we closed the meetings, it was clear that the entire research team was already looking forward to completing the project. The morning after the act of vandalism was committed DA Secretary Proceso Alcala stated on national television that the research should be continued to completion.
The briefing was followed by a site inspection where we were joined by members of the local IBC including Dr. Evangeline dela Trinidad, chair, and Barangay Captain Oscar Felina, community representative. Other IBC members present were Pili Town Councilor Apollo Manaog and Mr. Julian Ibo of the Office of Provincial Agriculturist.
This incident is only a minor blip, among the many challenges that will be resolved in the research process. Golden Rice holds promise as an important additional tool in the continuing effort to improve the nutrition and health of children and women, not only in the Philippines but across the entire rice-eating world.
We all love our rice, and thus we should make rice healthier.