Why the Philippines is Poor 2: How the Business-Funded Activists Derails Livelihood

Why the Philippines is Poor” is a feature section by Pinoyobserver.com that discusses topics and reasons why many Filipinos remains in poverty. To see our complete and regularly updated stories under this section, please visit the category homepage.  While this story is real, we used fictional names in this article to protect the interests of concerned individuals.

It was Friday afternoon and I was sitting under a big Indian mango tree – the place where most people in our purok loiter, and discuss casual things under the sun. I was standing by there together with Rommel, a 29-year old local sugar cane worker who did not finish elementary.

It’s been 14 years since I left this place. Although I visited here every year 2 to 3 times, the place has changed a lot. There are now more houses, more new faces I didn’t recognize (even our clan is the biggest), and more children whose parents I didn’t know.

Danny, a childhood friend and a small businessman who owns three jeepneys approached us. He asked Rommel if the latter wanted to work as jeepney conductor the following morning, but Rommel told him that he couldn’t because he has to attend a street rally in Bacolod City against Coca Cola.

When Danny left, I curiously asked Rommel what the rally is all about. By the way, our place is 47 kilometers away from the Coca Cola plant in Brgy. Mansilingan in Bacolod City. Mansilingan is also the place where the headquarters of the biggest bus company in the Philippines is located – the Ceres liner / Vallacar Transit.

Rommel, the son of charcoal maker finished just Grade 2 because of poverty. But life before when we were young was totally different where there was no other job except for working in sugar cane plantation.

Rommel told me that they are going to Bacolod City tomorrow to attend a rally because Coca Cola uses High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) instead of sugar produced in Negros, so the sugar price went down affecting the sugar industry badly. Negros Island produces more than 60% of the country’s sugar production, and a slight change in price could affect hundreds of thousands of workers.

I couldn’t believe what I heard from someone who did not reach high school. He spoke like a seasoned activist. He seems to know everything, but when I asked him who recruited them to go to the rally site, he refused to give details.

In short, Rommel decided to go to the rally the next morning together with other 6,000 people, instead of working extra as jeepney conductor as earlier asked by Danny.

What was the rally all about?

A report published on the Philippine Daily Inquirer tells everything. Although this media collected only reports from hundreds of miles away, they seem can explain what the case all about is – but not who the people attended the rally were.

I understand the sentiment of every sugar cane worker who might be affected by the lowering sugar price, but to waste your time and energy going to a rally with uncertainty is actually not a good idea.

People who lack education can be easily manipulated by businessmen for their own interests.

Yes, Coca Cola might have used HFCS, but does a rally can solve everything?

There is Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA). There are powerful sugar planters’ associations like National Federation of Sugar Planters, CONFED, etc.,  who have the ability to bring the case to hall of justice, so why ordinary people who lacks knowledge on the issue needed to join and sabotage the traffic that could affect more working people?

Who benefited the rally, if there is one?

The price of the sugar is regulated not by Coca Cola or any other customer, but by SRA and planters’ associations. Whether the price goes up or down, it will not affect sugar workers like Rommel – who did not know what he was doing.

Rally organizers (hired activists) get paid, while the likes of Rommel get lunch. He lost the opportunity to work a day and feed his family. He also helped cause trouble to thousands of other workers who were delayed because his group barricaded the highway.

People who lack knowledge can easily be manipulated, thus, education is very important.

A local Hacienda caretaker Reynaldo Palencia once said, “I worked to send my children to school. I send my children to school not to become rich, but to not to let other educated people take them for granted”.

Growing working in sugar cane field, Mr. Palencia passed away with six professional children who are still capable, and always willing to do the hard work under the heat of the sun despite having better lives.

There are many people like Rommel. Without proper guidance, they become part of the reasons why the Philippines is poor. /Zaldy Llorca – Victorias City/Note: Articles posted here at Pinoyobserver.com are written exclusively for this website only. Contact our site administrator if you want to republish our content.

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