Farmers Kick Off Week-long March for New Land Reform Bill


No less than 1,500 farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and peasant women from Southern Tagalog provinces – Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal have kicked off a week long rural people’s march to dramatize their opposition against the proposal to extend the 20-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), and push for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill No. 3059 principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran.

BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

No less than 1,500 farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and peasant women from Southern Tagalog provinces – Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal have kicked off a week long rural people’s march to dramatize their opposition against the proposal to extend the 20-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), and push for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill No. 3059 principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran.

Five of the biggest rural-based groups – Anakpawis, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA or Union of Workers in Agriculture) and Amihan- National Federation of Peasant Women, in cooperation with Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK or Association of Peasant Organizations in Southern Tagalog) and Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog will spearhead the “Lakbayan ng mga Magsasaka para sa Lupa, Pagkain at Hustisyang Panlipunan” (Peasant March for Land, Food and Justice).

“GARB is Beltran’s legacy to the Filipino farmers. It is a landmark piece of legislation that recognizes the class interest and class power of the peasantry,” said Kasama-TK secretary general Orly Marcellana.

Marcellana added: “The rice crisis we are experiencing is proof that CARP has done nothing to solve the landlessness of peasants and the development of agriculture in the country. Since CARP was implemented, more farmers have been driven away from their lands and homes because of massive land grabbing and land use conversions made legal by CARP. This bogus land reform program now being directed by Arroyo is a pest to farmers.”

Lakbayan organizers added that peasant and rural people joining the march are expected to enter the National Capital Region (NCR) on June 8 and would hold a vigil in Baclaran Church on the same day. On June 9, the farmers would march from Baclaran to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) National Office in Quezon City for an anti-CARP and pro-GARB solidarity night. On June 10, the farmers would march from DAR to Mendiola in Manila to demand the rejection of CARP extension, and the passage of HB 3059.

20 years of injustice

“For millions of farmers and rural people, CARP is equivalent to 20 years of social injustice and extreme massacre of peasant land rights. It is nothing but a token symbol of land reform. It is about time to bury this shotgun piece of legislation six feet under,” KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said in a press statement.

“As far as truth- and justice-seeking farmers are concerned, the death of CARP is the new beginning for GARB, a landmark piece of legislation that will entail a thoroughgoing and justice driven agrarian reform program in the country. The free distribution of land to landless farmers is the corner stone of GARB which is a million times superior to the bankrupt character and orientation of CARP and CARP extension,” Ramos added.

Reply to detractors

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap told detractors of GARB and proponents of CARP extension that CARP beneficiaries themselves were victims of the twenty year old bogus agrarian reform program.

“Proponents of this bogus land reform program 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, across-the country land grabbing extravaganza and the unexplained P143-billion ($3,240,793,201) taxpayers’ money spent for CARP, which all happened in the 20 years of CARP,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

“Now GARB detractors have the guts to tell the farmers that CARP is meant for social justice despite the fact the CARP failed the tillers of this land over the last 20 years. The ring leaders of the pro-CARP syndicate in and out of Malacañang are obscuring the truth in the name of their respective political and material agenda,” Hicap added.

“These pro-CARP extension hooligans and anti-GARB shenanigans are misleading the farmers for fear of losing their rackets in and out of the Arroyo syndicate,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

CARP victims

KMP’s Ramos and Pamalakaya’s Hicap cited at least 7 big cases in Southern Tagalog where CARP beneficiaries including fishermen were eased out from their farmlands to give way to land use conversion projects undertaken by big landlords, private developers and the government:

• 10,000 farmers and fisherfolk beneficiaries, all CARP beneficiaries are still locked in a battle against Fil-Estate, the Manila South Coast Development Corporation and SM of Henry Sy over 8,650 hectares of prime agricultural lands, which private developers intend to develop into a major eco-tourism hub in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu in Batangas. The Department of Agrarian Reform cancelled their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) to pave way for land use conversion.

• The CLOAs of CARP beneficiaries were revoked by DAR in Hacienda Roxas in Nasugbu, Batangas covering 7,183 hectares of sugar lands to give way to eco-tourism, residential and commercial projects to be funded by foreign and local investors.

• In Hacienda Puyat in Batangas, some 1,800 hectares of land were denied to supposed CARP beneficiaries to pave way for the construction of golf courses and other eco-tourism projects.

• The DAR allowed the exemption and conversion of 10,000 hectares of sugar lands to livestock farms, poultry farms, fishponds in Hacienda Zobel in Calatagan, Batangas, and also gave the right to the Ayala clan to land-grab an additional 2,000 hectares of foreshore land to deny agrarian claims of farmers and fishermen in 19 out of Calatagan’s 24 barangays (villages).

• In Carmen and Silang towns, DAR approved the conversion of 2,500 hectares of land into golf courses and residential areas by the Ayala land group of companies, denying farmer beneficiaries of their rights to utilize prime agricultural lands which they tilled for generations.

• In Aguinaldo Estate, Tartaria, Silang in Cavite, 2,000 farming families were displaced from their farmlands, after DAR gave the go-signal for investors to convert the 197- hectare estate to commercial subdivision and a high-end golf course.

• The DAR also facilitated the conversion of 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo in Canluibang, Laguna into an array of subdivisions and golf courses, and victimized 457 families, whose CLOAs were cancelled by the agrarian reform agency.

They said from 1994 up to 2007, about 1,302,375 hectares of prime agricultural lands have been placed by DAR under conversion and such terrible act led to the massive land reform reversals with the cancellation of land titles all over the region. The group said around 173,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands in the region have been already been converted for commercial purposes; leaving tens of thousands of supposed to be CARP beneficiaries landless.

In 1993, Pamalakaya, KMP and the Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra or Center for Genuine Agrarian Reform) held a preliminary assessment of CARP from 1988 to 1993, and one of the most striking results of the program was revealed – a total of 10,958 certificate of land transfers (CLTs), 9,133 EPs and 2,303 CLOAs were cancelled by DAR covering 32, 041 hectares of prime agricultural lands affecting over 22,000 CARP beneficiaries.

The groups said while farmlands belonging to farmers are perpetually targeted for landgrabbing and conversion under CARP, lands leased to foreign corporations like Dole and Del Monte Philippines remained untouched. It said foreign corporations managed to keep 220,000 hectares of agricultural lands because these lands were devoted to production of export crops.

P100 billion for CARP extension

Meanwhile, another GARB co-author, Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teodoro Casiño, said the Filipino people will be forced to fund a fatally flawed agrarian reform program to the tune of not less than P100 billion ($2,266,288,951) in taxpayers’ money if CAR is extended.

“Merely extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657) without correcting its fatal defects will cost the Filipino taxpayer P100 billion ($2,266,288,951) in wasted funds,” Casiño said.

The Bayan Muna party list lawmaker recalled: “ In my interpellation…of Rep. Edcel Lagman, sponsor of HB 4077, he candidly admitted that the so-called “necessary reforms” in the proposed CARL extension bill do not address what even he admits are the flaws and glaring loopholes in RA 6657.”

“Lagman even called said loopholes “congenital defects” that have sabotaged the government’s agrarian reform program for the last 20 years,” Casiño added. The Bayan Muna solon said the most glaring of these defects in RA 6657 that HB 4077 fails to correct are:

1. The limited coverage of agrarian reform:

• The exclusion of lands that are technically classified as either forest, mineral, commercial or residential land even if these are tenanted and actually used or suitable for agriculture (Sec. 3)

• The exclusion of lands devoted to livestock, swine and poultry farms, fishponds, prawn farms, salt beds, fruit farms, orchards, vegetable and cut-flower farms, cacao, coffee and rubber plantations (Sec. 10)

• Allowing the conversion and exclusion of lands already awarded to farmer beneficiaries from the program (Sec. 65)

• Allowing landowners to retain their vast landholdings by instituting open-ended retention limits of five hectares for the owner plus three hectares per child, whether natural or adopted, legitimate or not (Sec. 6)

• Provisions for alternative modes of compliance as outlined in the definition of agrarian reform (Secs. 3 and Sections 29-31) on corporate and commercial farms that allows landowners to enter into stock distribution schemes, leasehold, joint venture,leaseback arrangements and other ways of going around the physical distribution of land to the ownership and control of the farmer beneficiaries. This leaves farmer beneficiaries confused, easily manipulated and exploited by landowners and vulnerable to corporate
backroom maneuvers.

2. A payment scheme that keeps farmers in a continued life of servitude, paying for the land at 6 percent interest per year for 30 years (Sec. 26). Thus, most farmer beneficiaries end up illegally mortgaging or selling their land just to pay the landowner or the Land Bank
.
3. A valuation and compensation scheme (Sections 17 and 18) that is so contentious and complicated that it opens a myriad of opportunities for graft and corruption. Thus, DAR is seen as of the most corrupt government agencies.

4. A “voluntary offer to sell” and “voluntary land transfer” scheme (Sections 19-21) that gives landowners the upper hand in imposing their will on their former tenants, with the connivance of unscrupulous DAR officials.

“These are the very reasons why the implementation of the agrarian reform program has taken a world-record breaking 20 long years with distressing results. What RA 6657 could not achieve in 20 years it can never achieve through a five year extension as long as these provisions remain. A CARP extension bill that fails to correct these most glaring defects is a bill that is more deplorable than the existing law it seeks to extend,” Casiño said. Contributed to Bulatlat

One Response to “Farmers Kick Off Week-long March for New Land Reform Bill”

  1. Lupe Huitt Says:

    The information is greatly aprreciated. It is sometimes hard to keep up with all the recalls out there. Your site is another good source that I will add and check from now on for updates. Keep up the important work.

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