GENERAL (Philippines): Landless farm labourers in Davao suffer from hunger and extreme poverty 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to inform you about the situation of the villagers in Davao Del Sur, who suffer from hunger and extreme poverty. Many of the villagers are landless farm labourer, tenants and irregular farm labourers who find it difficult to obtain adequate food. Despite this, the villagers have been neglected by the government that has introduced various programmes for the poor.

CASE DETAILS(Based on interview with villagers)

Mr. Faustino Balasa (age 67) living in Purok 6, Sinayawan village, Hagonoy Municipality, Davao Del Sur had to borrow PHP 300 (USD 6.3) to purchase food for his family. When he cannot buy any food, he gets some bananas from neighbours to feed his family and prepare soup for his youngest daughter, Lolita who is handicapped by birth [photo 1: Faustino’s youngest daughter lying down in a hut all day long].

Faustino lives with his wife Ninita (age 50), his youngest daughter (age 22) and a five-year old grandson in a small hut. He used to till a rice field he rented with water buffalo which yielded about PHP 1000 (USD 21) per year. However, he had to return the water buffalo to their owner because he is too old to work in the rice field any longer.

He finds it difficult to provide adequate food for his family and medical treatment for his daughter. Lolita has been provided check-up service and vitamin once in a while at public health center where is far away from her home. However, Faustino cannot take her to the bigger hospital as he has no money. His five-year old grandson gets hardly any nutritious food which will lead him to become malnourished [photo 2: Faustino and his family in front of hut].

Faustino said, “I will borrow some rice from my neighbours to feed my family tonight. When I get rice as payment in the harvest season, I will pay back the rice. We all feel hungry everyday and life is so hard for us.”

Faustino is not the only family who suffers from hunger in the village. Ms. Aurora Balasa (age 50) also faces the same difficulties. She works as a share tenant. To manage all input such as seed or fertilizer for farming 1.24 hectares, she used to borrow money and other facilities. After harvest, she pays 60 percents of total output for the share.

Aurora also makes roofs with leaves for other villagers from time to time when there is a demand. Despite all her efforts, she cannot pay for proper treatment for her husband who was diagnosed with Tuberculosis at St. Benedict’s Hospital. Her husband has not been treated further after taking oral medication for three months as Ms. Aurora could not afford it any longer [photo 3: Aurora making roof with leaves].

Aurora’s two sons living with their family in the same village are also farm labourers whose work is limited to the harvest season. When they do not have any work on the farm, they survive on bananas and vegetables from the field for meals without any rice [photo 4: kitchen without adequate food].

Another villager, Mr. Norman Unda (age 43) has neither an adequate house to live in nor regular work to support his family. His wife Dominga usually goes to the coconut plantation to get firewood, his youngest son Christopher (age 16) is a farm labourer and his daughter Normelita (age 14) goes to school.

Norman’s family was given a hut by the local government when they moved in 2002. As it gets old, his house causes him lots of problems. However, neither can he repair it nor will the local government provide any assistance [photo 5-1: Norman’s crumbling house inside] [photo 5-2 Norman in front of his old house].

Moreover, he finds it difficult to provide food for the family. During the agricultural season, he is paid PHP 80-100 (USD 1.7-2.1) for eight hours work. He is often paid in advance before the agricultural season begins as he cannot afford food otherwise. He spent all the advanced payment in feeding his family and now has neither work nor food.

“We buy food with the money I get in advance so I have to work during the season. This situation is a continuous cycle. We can manage meals two or three times a day, but sometimes are forced to skip a meal when we do not have any food. As the price of food has increased these days, it is more difficult to buy food from the market. I am afraid that I cannot manage the school fees, PHP 500 (USD 10.6) for enrolment and PHP 100 per a month for my daughter.” [photo 6: increased price of rice at market]


The living conditions of the above three families’ in Sinayawan village illuminates various aspects of the failure of the government to have a viable policy for the poor.

Many of villagers are engaged in agriculture but are landless labourers or farm workers. Some landless farmers like Aurora in the case, are share tenants despite that fact that this has been made illegal by the Republic Act 3844 (Agricultural Land Reform, Section 4 Abolition of Agricultural Share Tenancy).

The PHP 80-100 that Faustino is paid as a landless labourer is too low to manage food even in comparison to the minimum wages for the agricultural sector in this region which is PHP 255 per day (since September 2008). Furthermore, as shown in these cases, the landless labourers work on a farm only during the agricultural season which is twice a year.

With a surge in the price of rice in March 2008, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in cooperation with the village council issued Family Access Cards (FAC) to provide poor families with rice at a government-subsidized price of which it provides access, PHP 18.25 per kilogram when the market price ballooned to PHP 32-38 per kilogram.

The FAC and thus the government-subsidized rice does not reach the poor families struggling against hunger in Sinayawan village which is not included in the covering areas. Given that the monthly income stipulated for the beneficiaries of the FAC is PHP 5000 (USD 106) for five family members, the landless labourers in Sinayawan village are amongst the poorest of the poor. Recently the National Food Authority announced that the country has sufficient rice supplies for the next three months which will be further augmented by the coming summer harvest, whereas the landless farm labourers extremely suffer from food insecurity and starvation.

The Philippine government has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1974. The guarantee of protection, promotion and fulfilment on right to food are also enshrined in the Philippine Constitution.

Section 9 of Article 2 states that the State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.

Section 21 of Article 2 further states that the State shall promote comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform.

The government, however, seems to be afraid of being discovered the situation of landless poor in rural area, which is reflected in the fact that the government, in 2006 and 2008, continuously ignored requests from the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food.

Please send a letter to the authorities mentioned below expressing your concern about the landless poor in Davao. Please urge the relevant government authorities to ensure the food security for the poor.

The AHRC has also written separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food calling for their intervention.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear __________, 

PHILIPPINES: The landless farm labourers suffer from hunger and extreme poverty in Davao 

Name of the affected villagers
1. Mr. Faustino Balasa (age 67) and his family 
2. Ms. Aurora Balasa (age 50) and her family 
3. Mr. Norman Unda (age 43) and his family 
4. Other landless agricultural labourers in Sinayawan village 
Name of the responsible government authority: The government authorities who are responsible for the food security and the eradication of poverty 
Name of the village: Purok 6, Sinayawan village (Barangay), Hagonoy Municipality, Davao Del Sur 

I am writing to you to express my deep concern about the poor who have neither their own farm nor other work for a living in Sinayawan village. 

I am informed that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), based in Hong Kong has visited the village and witnessed many landless agricultural labourers and their family suffering from hunger and extreme poverty. 

Mr. Faustino had to borrow PHP 300 (USD 6.3) to purchase food for his family. He lives with his wife, handicapped daughter (age 22) and his five-year-old grandson. He used to till the rice field with water buffalo he rented from landlord during the agricultural season, however currently the water buffalo were returned to the owner so he cannot manage any money or food. He often gets some bananas from neighbours to feed his family. 

Even while he works at farms, he can merely earn PHP 1000 (USD 21) a year. Further, I am informed that he takes his daughter to the public health centre which is far way from his house to get check-ups and some vitamins once in a while. However, he cannot get his daughter properly treated at hospital as he has no money. In the meantime his grandson is exposed to risk of malnutrition. 

I have learned that another villager, Ms. Aurora, farming as a tenant is also facing starvation. Her husband was diagnosed with Tuberculosis at St. Benedict Hospital. She spent PHP 150 for her husband oral medication for three month, but cannot afford buy any more medicine after that. 

I have learned that tenancy was declared illegal by the Republic Act 3844 (Agricultural Land Reform, Section 4 Abolition of Agricultural Share Tenancy) but it is still being practiced. I am of the opinion that they have no other option for earning a living other than being a tenant as they do not have their own land. 

I am informed that many villagers are either tenants or landless farm labourers in Sinayawan village. They work at the farm only during the agricultural season which is twice a year. 

Another landless agricultural labourer Mr. Norman Unda and his family suffer from hunger. He is paid PHP 80-100 per day when he works as an agricultural labourer. This payment is even less than minimum wages stipulated, which is PHP 255 (USD 5.4) for agricultural sector in this region. He is often paid in advance before season to feed his family and now has neither work not food. 

These three families are not only villagers suffering from hunger in Sinayawan village. Many of villagers are fighting against hunger and extreme poverty as they do not have agricultural land although they farmed. Further, the landless labourers' income is too low to manage adequate food for their family in particular for the children. 

The government has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1974 and the provisions for ensuring the right to food and work also are enshrined in Philippines Constitution. 

The government, however, seems to be afraid of seeing the situation of landless poor in rural areas, which is reflected in the fact that the government, in 2006 and 2008, continuously ignored requests from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. 

Therefore, I urge you to ensure food security for the poor in Sinayawan village. The poorest of the poor in the village should be supported by the government in order to protect their right to food. 

Yours sincerely, 


1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo 
Malacanang Palace 
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel 
Manila 1005 
Fax: +63 2 736 1010 
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80 

2. Dr. Esperanza I. Cabral 
Department of Social Welfare and Development 
DSWD Bldg., Constitution Hills, Batasan Complex 
Quezon City 
Tel: +63 2 931 8101 / 2 931 8107 
Fax: +63 2 931 8191 

3. Mr. Arthur C. Yap 
Secretary of the Department of Agriculture 
Chairperson of National Food Authority Council 
North Avenue, Diliman 
Quezon City 

4. Mr. Nasser C. Pangandaman 
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) 
Eliptical Road, Diliman 
Quezon City 1104, Metro Manila 
Fax: +63 2 929 3088 
Tel: +63 2 929 3460 / 930 0380 

5. Mr. Zamzamin L. Ampatuan 
National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) 
3rd floor, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) 
Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City 
Fax: +63 2 927 9838 

6. Stephen L. Anderson 
Country Director of World Food Programme 
5/F JAKA 2 Building, 150 Legaspi St. 
Legaspi Village, Makati City, Metro Manila 
Fax: + 63 2 750 2562 
Tel: + 63 2 750 2561 / 2 751 9166 / 2 894 2730 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (
Document Type : Hunger Alert General
Document ID : AHRC-HAG-001-2009
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living, Right to food, Right to health,