MANILA, Aug. 31 (PNA) — Rep. Fernando L. Hicap (Party-list, Anakpawis) has filed a bill repealing Presidential Decree 1620, which he said violates the rights and freedom of workers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna.
Hicap said House Bill 5990 seeks to strip IRRI of unjustifiable privileges and immunities, which have been used to grossly violate the fundamental rights and freedom of IRRI workers.
PD 1620, or the decree “Granting to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) the Status, Prerogatives, Privileges and Immunities of an International Organization,” was issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos on April 19, 1979.
Hicap said IRRI has been able to justify its anti-labor practices, which included carrying out mass lay-offs in 1989, 1993 and 1996.
“It has implemented questionable retrenchment programs that has warranted the unfair dismissal of regular employees. The institute has also engaged in union busting which included the harassment of union leaders and members,” Hicap said.
Hicap said the workers have failed in their various attempts to seek redress from the courts given IRRI’s immunity from suit, which it enjoys under PD No. 1620.
“The same immunity has also been invoked to bar the workers from claiming compensation for having been afflicted with illness due to exposure to toxic chemicals and to inhuman working conditions,” Hicap said.
Hicap said the institute was envisioned to be the world’s prime mover in rice science and technology purportedly to reduce food-security-related poverty in the Philippines as well as in the rest of the rice-producing countries in the underdeveloped regions.
“IRRI’s researches to supposedly improve rice and even corn production have not led to any significant development in the country’s agricultural productivity,” Hicap said.
He said the Philippine agriculture in fact has consistently worsened to the point that this otherwise “gracious and lucky” host country of IRRI is now the world’s biggest net importer of rice.
“What IRRI has outstandingly accomplished, rather, is the institutionalization of a rice production system that is highly dependent on ecologically unfriendly pesticide products promoted by its transnational corporation (TNC) partners,” Hicap said.
Hicap said IRRI’s science and technology mandate has long been geared almost solely toward the constant development and dissemination of hybrid, genetically engineered crops to complement and perpetuate the use of the said harmful chemicals promoted by predatory TNCs such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences and BASF, among others.
Hicap said on top of what IRRI has already contributed to the continued sorry state of Philippine agriculture, the institute, furthermore, according to Brotherhood of IRRI Support Services Group (BISSIG), a labor organization in IRRI, has been abusing its international statue through its seemingly endless list of violations of its workers rights to organize, to collectively bargain and negotiate, and to hold strikes.
IRRI was established in 1959 by virtue of a memorandum of Understanding between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and both the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. (PNA)