Genuine land reform would result in genuinely broad-based overall economic growth, rapid poverty reduction and genuine food security.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Over 500 farmers from different regions of the country and leaders of several organizations gathered together to launch the Philippine Land Reform Movement (PLRM), May 28, at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.
The farmers who came consider themselves as victims of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Despite being beneficiaries of the so-called CARP, farmers from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Hacienda Looc in Batangas, Hacienda Dolores in Pampanga, Araneta Estate in Bulacan and Hacienda Yulo in Laguna are being evicted from their lands. Peasant leaders from Panay, the Cordilleras, Cagayan Valley, and Mindanao also attended the PLRM launch.
The newly formed movement opposed the passage of a bill seeking to extend the CARP further. House Bill No. 4296, the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) or Notice of Coverage (NOC) is pending at the House of Representatives.
Jeremias Numeral, chairperson of Namasor, local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Agusan del Sur, said, “Experience taught us that we could not rely on the government to implement a genuine agrarian reform program.”
CARP a failure
After 27 years of CARP, majority of farmers do not own the land they till.
According to independent think tank Ibon Foundation, leasehold farmers have increased from 555,232 in 1988 to 1.2 million in 2012. Millions of farmers are still under contract agreements with plantation owners and agribusiness corporations, many of which contracts are onerous to the interests of farmers and farmworkers. Some 1.2 million hectares are under agribusiness contracts.
Data from the Land Bank of the Philippines show that only 9.7 percent of CARP ‘beneficiaries’ are fully paid while 14 are still paying. Seventy-six percent are not paying anymore.
On the other hand, the government has paid a staggering P192 billion (US$4.3 billion) from 1988 to 2012 for landlord “compensation,” according to Ibon.
At the grassroots
Melecio Canete, one of the hundreds of farmers threatened of eviction in Tungkong Mangga, Bulacan told his fellow farmers, “Do not leave the land, even if it will cost you your life.”
His fellow farmers from Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Looc, Hacienda Dolores, Hacienda Yulo, Central Mindanao University, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, among others, have exactly been doing that. They all have opted to stay in their land despite the use of violence against their ranks.
Numeral said they are able to score “small victories” only through collective action.
Numeral said that in the Caraga region, farmers’ organizations succeeded in reducing the price of milling, from P2 ($0.04) per sack per sack of palay (unhusked rice) to P0.75 ($0.04) per sack.
He said that Namasor was able to negotiate the lowering of interest imposed by usurers, from one sack of palay for every P1,000 ($22.4) to 20 kilos of palay. One sack of palay is equivalent to 40 kilos.
Namasor also led the campaign against payment of 50-percent land rent to the Ong-oh family. Majority of the 140 families of coconut farmers have stopped paying land rent after Namasor exposed that the Ong-oh clan could not prove ownership of the land located in three provinces in Caraga.
In Panay, meanwhile, Chris Chavez, chairperson of local peasant group Pamanggas, shared how the Tumanduks, an indigenous tribe, continue to assert their right to their ancestral domain in the 33,310-hectare military reservation.
Key to national development
Both Numeral and Chavez welcomed the formation of the PLRM.
Chavez said it is the first time in history that such a movement was formed. “Not only farmers but also those from the other sectors are now pushing for genuine agrarian reform,” he said.
Members of the academe, church, scientists and engineers, parliamentarians, artists, peasants, workers, urban poor, youth, women, Moro, human rights and peace advocates joined the PLRM.
Rosario Bella Guzman, Ibon executive editor, said land reform is still the key to national development.
Guzman said genuine land reform would result in genuinely broad-based overall economic growth, rapid poverty reduction and genuine food security.
In its unity statement, the PLRM said, “nationalist industrialization and genuine agrarian reform are the fundamental pillars of sustainable development and national sovereignty. “