MANILA — Farmers from Negros, Southern Tagalog, Tungkong Mangga and Hacienda Luisita protested in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City on Saturday, and blamed the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer) for causing massive landlessness, poverty and hunger, marking what they dubbed as World “Foodless” Day.
Peasant groups, led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), KMP Negros and the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), symbolically cooked symbols of CARPer which has not worked for land reform and food security. The farmers also reiterated their call for the passage of House Bill 374 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
Other groups such as Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), Tungkong Mangga farmers, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Pamalakaya-Pilipinas, Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and supporters from Anakpawis Partylist, International League of Peoples’ Struggle-Philippines (ILPS) and NNARA-Youth also joined the protest actions.
“CARPer on its more than 1 year of existence and 21 years of its predecessor CARP has never served the farmers of Southern Tagalog. Worse, it is a convenient tool of landlords to keep their lands and throw peasants out of their farms,” Axel Pinpin, KASAMA-TK secretary-general, said.
“We farmers from Negros are major victims of CARPer, landlords are using it to criminalize agrarian cases, accusing our leaders and members of various criminal charges,” KMP-Negros spokesperson Greg Ratin said.
Instead of CARPer, the peasant groups are promoting the “Bungkalan” campaign, an organized effort to cultivate lands that remained idle and transformed it to highly productive agricultural lands, which is being implemented by farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita and Negros.
“Those who support CARPer should learn from the rich experience of farmers from Hacienda Luisita and Negros. CARPer is a misnomer, it does not serve the interest of Filipino peasants, it is just a source of financial opportunism of pseudo-peasant groups, a milking cow of landlords and an instrument of foreign agro-corporations. It should be junked and GARB should be passed in Congress,” Antonio Flores, KMP spokesman, said.
“In Negros, we were able to cultivate the lands with the massive participation of farmers who used to work on the vast sugarlands. As the world market demand for Philippine sugar declined, mills closed down and work opportunities for the sugar farmworkers became scarce. We have no option but to cultivate those idle and make them productive. Now, even those not under our organization are also cultivating lands. Landlords are now retaliating by criminalizing agrarian cases,” Ratin said.
The farmers also vowed for more and bigger protest actions against Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s anti-peasant programs and policies, his proposed Public-Private Partnership Program and the continued extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests of peasant-activists.
“Noynoy Aquino should contemplate as more and more farmers are protesting here in Manila against his neglect of the land issue. He omitted it three times on his inaugural and SONA speech and first 100-day report,” Flores said.
The groups then marched towards in front of the Department of Agriculture and National Food Authority warehouse along Visayas Avenue. They protested against the continuing liberalization of agriculture and rice importation.
On October 21, farmers from Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Hacienda Luisita, Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions would march towards Mendiola, Manila to call for land and justice, junking of CARPer and Stock Distribution Option (SDO).
“Aquino should ready himself as thousands of farmers would be coming to Manila. If he is not mentally prepared for it, he could get crazy,” Flores said. (Photos courtesy of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas / Bulatlat.com)