‘Success’ in occupying 1,600 ha of Luisita–farm workers

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines–Farmers who lost their jobs following a joint labor and agrarian strike at the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac in 2004 have been growing food and cash crops on a 1,600-hectare area there despite the non-implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program at the estate.

A “success story” is how Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Movement of Farmers in the Philippines), called this move by some 5,000 farmers.

They tilled portions of the Cojuangco family-owned sugar estate when the Supreme Court stopped the Department of Agrarian Reform in 2007 from implementing CARP there. The same farmers asked the Court in 1989 to void the stock distribution scheme through which they only got shares of stock, not actual land ownership.

“CARP’s bankruptcy and built-in institutional denial of land rights failed to stop Hacienda Luisita workers from struggling and asserting their rights to land. Now, despite all odds and political obstacles, the farm workers are reaping the fruits of their hard labor and collective resistance,” Ramos said in a statement.

In the same statement, Rene Galang, president of the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and chair of United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU), confirmed the occupation and cultivation of lands by displaced farm workers.

Galang said rice and vegetables were grown on the land owned by the family of former president Corazon Aquino.

“We are encouraging more farmers to join and form themselves into cooperation units to cover other hectares for their livelihood,” Galang said.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III, the son of the former president, on Sunday did not reply to a query if the family or the Hacienda Luisita Inc. allowed the farm workers to use the land.

There have been no known instances though when HLI tried to stop or evict tillers.

The Department of Agrarian Reform offices in Tarlac City, Concepcion and La Paz towns were known to have provided agricultural production support for farmers until the Supreme Court issued the temporary restraining order against the agency in 2007.

Luisita farmers also joined the march opposing the extension of the 20-year-old CARP, pushing instead for the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 authored by the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran.

“Proponents of the bogus CARP failed to explain the real score behind thousands of cases of land reform reversals compounded by confiscation of land titles, thousands of cases of land use conversions, land grabbing and the unexplained P143 billion spent for CARP, which all happened in the 20 years of [the program’s implementation],” said Fernando Hicap, chair of the fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya.


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