The National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA), the social action arm of the Catholic
Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), led the first annual celebration of Farmers' Day last May 15, the feast day of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers.
Local celebrations were held simultaneously
in the Dioceses of Tarlac, Lucena, Jaro and Marbel, spearheaded by their respective Social Action Centers.
While feting farmers for their contribution to national development, NASSA called attention to the
deplorable conditions confronting them.
"Majority of our farmers today remain landless. They are mired in poverty, characterized by insufficient income, homelessness, lack of access to basic services, and
inability to afford higher education for their children," NASSA said.
"Today, the greatest threat to farmers is the introduction of modern biotechnology and the corporate control in agriculture through
biopatenting. These new threats, caused largely by the Philippines' membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), will further marginalize farmers," the NASSA added.
The highlight of the Farmers' Day
celebration was the launching of the Social Action Sustainable Agriculture Network, whose primary objective is the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices. The Network also aims to initiate discussion on issues
relevant to farmers.
The Network is composed of the Social Action Centers of Virac, Lucena, Gumaca, Tabuk, Daet, Tarlac, Calbayog, Dumaguete, Kabankalan, Capiz, Jaro, Talibon, San Jose de Antique, Butuan,
Pagadian, Kidapawan, Digos, Ipil, Malaybalay and Marbel. It also counts eight people's organizations and four non-government organizations around the country as members.
The Bishops of the Arch/Dioceses which
celebrated Farmers' Day this year endorsed the celebration for official recognition by the CBCP.
"May 15 in our Christian tradition is our celebration of San Isidro, patron saint of farmers. We have a lot to do
to make the farmers take active part in the Church… NASSA endorses the initiative to celebrate Farmers' Day on May 15, and hopefully each year henceforth with the approval of the CBCP," Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of Iba,
Zambales said in a statement.
Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, for his part, declared that Farmers' Day would be an annual celebration in the archdiocese starting this year. Empathizing with their sad plight,
Archbishop Lagdameo reminded people to "stop the uncaring attitude towards farmers."
"Let us make history by embracing the scriptural and ethical mandate of taking care of our lands. Besides, we too are stewards
and farmers of this earth entrusted by God to our care," Archbishop Lagdameo added.