Archive for July 20, 2015

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July 20, 2015 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

Harvesters lose work to ‘bukatot’

By Yolanda Sotelo
VILLASIS– It was a day Juanito Tabuno, 65, could not forget.  It was palay harvest time and for him and several neighbors, it was time to earn some money by contracting the harvest of palay in the barangays.

COMBINE HARVESTER.This machine, locally known as bukatot, displaces local harvesters. YOLANDA SOTELO

COMBINE HARVESTER.This machine, locally known as bukatot, displaces local harvesters. YOLANDA SOTELO

But it was a day their life turned upside down. Armed with harvesting  tools and ready to work, they were stopped in their tracks by a massive machine right in the riceland. Then they were informed that their services as “manggagapas (harvesters)” was no longer needed.
About two years ago, the combine rice harvester was introduced to the agricultural sector, and since then, agricultural land owners shifted to the use of the machine.
“I was sad. I was angry,” said Tabuno, who lost the “job” he he held since he was in his teens.
“But we could not do anything,” said Nepomuceno Tabuno, 47, the leader of 14 agricultural workers in barangay Lipay in this eastern Pangasinan town.
They were called “manggagapas” and they used to be in demand when harvest time comes, although they really do not earn much.
For every hectare, they ask for a total amount of P11,100. This is for harvesting (P4,200), hauling (1,500) and treshing (P5,400).  This they divide among themselves but the amount each receives depends on the work done.
It takes a day for the 14 harvesters to finish a hectare, with their day starting from five in the morning to five in the afternoon. When divided equally, each of them received P300.  Hauling is half a day’s work, from 6-11  in the morning done the following day. Ten persons do the hauling and each is paid P150.
The threshing has different payment scheme, Nepomuceno said.  For 100 sacks of threshed palay, the workers get eight sacks weighing 45 kilos, or a total of 360 kilos.   If sold at P15 per kilo, the workers would earn P5,400.
“It may not be a big amount for some, but it is a honest way to make a living, and the only way we known how to earn money,” the younger Tabuno said.
Manggagapas are losing their job to combine harvester locally known as bukatot. Most land owners prefer the machine because it is fast and efficient, Luis Fernandez, 55, said.
Fernandez, a land owner, said it takes less than an hour to harvest and tresh one hectare of palay, already put in sacks and even delivered to the owner’s house.
The payment is just a bit higher. For every 100 sacks, the bukatot owner gets 13 bags of 60 kilos each, or a total of 900 kilos. At P15 per kilo, this amounts to a payment of P11,700 per hectare.
But about a sack of grains in lost if bukatot is used, Fernandez said. “This is because the operator does not control the blower well and grains fly.”
As another incentive, the bukatot operator provides  the sacks for free, while land owners have to supply the sacks when hiring manual laborers.
To compensate for the lost harvesting job,   the manggagapas asked for  higher wages during planting season.
“We use to ask for  P200 each person a day during planting season. Now, its P350,” Tabuno said.
The farm workers dread the day when planting would be done by machines, too.
While there are machines that do planting, they are not acceptable yet among the farmers.
But tractors have taken over the manual plowing of the land decades ago.  It was the tractors that first displaced farm workers like Juanito Tabuno.
He said during his younger years, a hectare would earn him P350 which he would do for two days or more..
There are still pockets of rice land which farm machineries could not enter, such as those hedged between residential areas and the TPLEX (Tarlac-Pangasinan La Union Espressway).
Farm owner have no recourse but to hire farm workers and carabao for P400 a day, P300 for the the worker and P100 for the animal.
Tabuno, now in his late years, may have enjoyed the work in the farms when farm machineries were not in vogue yet.
It is the younger set of workers like Rogelio Vegoco, 34, who seems to be at a loss on what to do.
“We hope to join construction companies but we do not have the skills. And the companies have already their own laborers,” he said.
But trust Filipinos to make it some other ways. Vecogo said when harvests are done and land owners shift to corn and vegetables, he works as a laborer, putting up trellis, cultivating plots and planting vegetables. For a half day’s work, he is paid P150.
The farm workers claimed they have not been receiving any help from the municipal agriculture office or other agencies tasked with agriculture development.
Agriculture Executive Regional Director Valentino Perdido admitted  many  farm workers have been displaced by  farm mechanization, but could not cite any figure.
“But (Filipinos) are versatile. They can find work elsewhere,” he said.


July 20, 2015 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

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