‘Marcos’ M-99 a failure’: Perfect illustration of the Yellow mindset

  • Reading time:10 mins read

THE claim that the dictator Marcos’ Masagana 99 (M-99) program was a total failure is an excellent example of the Yellows’ invented, Manichaean narrative of that era — that it was the country’s Dark Age, that absolutely nothing good came out of it.

The M-99 program was actually a desperate, do-or-die move for Marcos, who assumed one- man-rule just months before the program was launched.

The typhoons and floods in the early 1970s (among the most destructive that hit the country), the tungro virus infestation (the equivalent to rice of the current coronavirus), drought and the fall in global rice production threatened a rice crisis that would have required massive, expensive importations of rice. That risked a balance of payments crisis because the surge in crude oil costs starting in 1970 had bled our foreign exchange resources.

Adding to the crisis was the fact that in retaliation against the agrarian reform program launched by Marcos, landlords reduced, and even in some areas totally ceased, extending credit to their tenants. All these factors led to an unprecedented 20 percent fall in palay (unmilled rice) production in 1972.

Marcos’ technocrats — principally his much-admired agriculture secretary Arturo Tanco, who had been president of the United Nations’ World Food Council — had to design and implement the M-99 program. It was not formulated out of the blue by academics but was based on Tanco’s experience as president of the World Food Council and director of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).


The most important long-term impact of the M-99 program was that it got Filipino farmers — tied down in traditional farming — to embrace new rice varieties and fertilizer technology which, with the Los Baños-based IRRI discoveries, got the Philippines to be part of the global

“Green Revolution” that saved the developing world from starvation.  Philippine rice yields have gone up from 1.7 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha) in 1970, before the M-99 was launched, to the current 4 MT.

It was a bold experiment that channeled from 1973 an estimated P4.5 billion (P240 billion in today’s value) in loans at concessional rates to small farmers, for them to adopt new rice varieties and technology. It was the first such massive credit program for small farmers in our country, which even socialists would hail as it meant a transfer of financial assets to the poorest sectors to be used for production.

Costing P240 billion, M-99 really made more economic sense than the cash dole-out program 4Ps — Pantawid Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino — that amounted to P500 billion from 2008 to 2018.

Even if many farmers defaulted on their M-99 loans, as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd has been lamenting, they used these to produce palay that fed the nation. What’s wrong with that?

Pity the rural banks he had to close in the late 1980s, Dominguez claimed. Really? Owned by landlords and the local elites, these rural banks merely re-lent the money they got from the Philippine National Bank, and even skimmed off these to buy new mansions and cars.

Because of the magnitude of the program (small loans given to 500,000 small farmers), the fact that it involved several institutions, and the need to swiftly implement it to increase rice production fast, M-99 could not have been undertaken if the country didn’t have a one-man rule at that time.

There is absolutely no serious study on M-99 that claims it was a failure.

The “studies” quoted by the historian-of-trivia in his newspaper column that the M-99 program was a failure were written not by academics in agricultural policies but by anti-Marcos activists, such as those “Third World researchers” at the University of the Philippines.


That it was a failure is really easily debunked by facts, as shown in the accompanying figure. From being the most unproductive rice producer compared to Vietnam and Thailand in 1970, we became the most productive by 1980.

Instead of arguing more, I quote from studies impeccable in their objectivity and on the M-99 issue, from the most recent to the oldest:

– Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2017). Agricultural Policies in the Philippines, OECD Food and Agricultural Reviews:

“In 1973, the new technology was disseminated under the M-99 production program, the purpose of which was to help the Philippines attain self-sufficiency in rice and eventually become a net rice exporter. Farmers were encouraged to use new high-yielding varieties of rice as well as fertilizers and pesticides. Public spending was increased (particularly on irrigation), financed by a mix of taxes on major agricultural exports and foreign loans Access to credit and to extension services was facilitated; for example, financial institutions were legally obliged to provide 25 percent of their loans to the agricultural sector. The M-99 program lasted for 15 years and led to a substantial increase in rice production. Rice self-sufficiency was achieved and the Philippines became a net exporter of rice over the period 1978-83.”(Emphasis mine.)

– Tolentino, B. and de la Peña, B. (2011). “Stymied Reforms in Rice Marketing in the Philippines, 1980-2009,” Asia Foundation:

“The landmark program M-99 is credited with bringing the country from the brink of starvation in the early 1970s to self-sufficiency and some exports by 1979. The M-99 program ran for 15 years and at least 14 phases, with refinements made with each phase.

The initial phases were wracked with design errors and inefficiencies. Given that the country was under martial law, the implementers of M-99 were allowed room to learn from their mistakes and improve the program with each succeeding cycle.”

– World Bank Report No. 36684 (2006). Rural Growth and Development Revisited Study: Agricultural Research, Development and Extension:

“The yield per hectare and volume of rice produced continued to increase during the 90-year period, with the sharpest increases in both yield and volume resulting from the technologies (i.e., new rice varieties) implemented under the Rice M-99 Program in the 1970s.”

– International Rice Research Institute (1990):

“In 1973, the M-99 was launched to increase rice farm productivity and income. It was a government-supported rice production program involving a package of technology, supervised credit, seed productivity and distribution, fertilizer allocation and distribution system, intensified extension services, intensified pest and disease control campaign and massive information and educational campaign.

“Rice farm production increased with the program. In the M-99 years (1974-1979), rice production grew at the rate of 8.8 percent per annum against the traditional growth rates of 1.5 percent 1.6 percent from 1960-73. The country achieved self-sufficiency in rice during the program years. In addition, the country reversed its position in the rice market from a traditional importer to an exporter four years after the inception of the program. The country exported rice starting in 1977 and reached an export level of 190,000 metric tons in 1979.”

– World Bank, (1987). Philippines: Agricultural Sector Strategy Review (Report No. 6819-PH):

“Between 1970 and 1985 production expanded from 5.2 million tons of unmilled to 8.2 million tons, slightly faster than the population growth rate (2.5 percent p.a.). The rapid increase in production after the early 1970s was partly due to a government rice production program called ‘Masagana 99,’ which promoted new high-yielding varieties and increased fertilizer usage and made subsidized credit available to farmers.”

– World Bank, (1982). Philippines: Agricultural Credit Sector Review Report No. 4117-PH:
“The  M-99 program was at its peak in 1974 when the credit extended reached P1.13 billion to 830,000 borrowers for planting rice on 1.3 million ha. By 1977, when the Philippines reached self-sufficiency in rice, production was about 4.2 million metric tons, or 31 percent higher than the 1969-1971 average of 3.2 million metric tons. This was a remarkable achievement especially because M-99 was launched at a time of sizeable domestic deficits in the production of staple foods, necessitating excessive reliance on imported grains in a situation of global scarcity.”

And the oldest I could find:  

– Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture (1974). The Agricultural Situation in the Far East and Oceania:

“The Philippine 1973 rice crop is currently estimated at 3.81 million tons — up 33 percent over the flood-affected 1972 crop… Rice yields were also up primarily because of the Masagana 99 rice production campaign carried out by the government.”

I can cite a dozen more studies, as the M-99 program is probably one of the most studied agricultural credit programs in Asia, as it was one of the first massive-credit programs for farmers, but I think this is enough to debunk the Yellows’ fiction that it was a failure.

On Friday I’ll show how they manufactured this, which has been their template for painting the Marcos era as totally black, which is far from the reality — as anything in the world is — that it had its black and white features and many shades of gray. Only fairy tales and revisionist pseudo-histories are in black and white.

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