12 May 2011
MANILA — “A complete package of housing and livelihood? Sounds good. Why then hasn’t he done that for the country’s millions of landless farmers, including those in his own Hacienda Luisita?”
This was the response of Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of the youth group Anakbayan, to President Noynoy Aquino’s announcement last Saturday that the government would distribute two hectares of land each in the rural areas to 560,000 informal settler families in Metro Manila.
The group is questioning the Aquino administration’s capacity to carry out such a plan in the face of the latter’s failure to redistribute the country’s many haciendas to millions of landless peasants.
According to a 2007 research by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, around 21% of the nation’s farmlands are concentrated in the hands of 9,000 individuals. This ‘land monopoly’ includes the personal holdings of Noynoy Aquino relative and tycoon Danding Cojuangco, which number at 30,000 hectares.
“The government will be able to give enough farmland to every informal settler and peasant family in the Philippines if it will implement a genuine agrarian reform program: one without any loopholes, payments and conditionalities” said Crisostomo, referring to the existing Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extenstion with Reforms (CARPER), which has been dubbed by peasant groups as a ‘failure’.
Among the reasons for the program’s failure include: loopholes which allow landlords to exempt their lands from CARP coverage, and making farmers pay landlords for the land.
According to the Anakbayan leader, Aquino’s provision of providing the lands as a ‘lease’, instead of for free, would make it no different from the ‘epic failure of CARP and CARPER’.
Meanwhile, Crisostomo also assailed as ‘ridiculous’ Noynoy’s statement that the country’s food security is suffering due to the decreasing number of farmers.
“The Philippines has food insecurity because the government has allowed, and continues to allow the practice of land use conversion, or turning rice and corn lands into subdivisions and malls for the rich” he said.
“Three-fourths of our population continues to depend on agriculture from a living. What is lacking is the land on which they can earn a decent livelihood” he added. #