“In Bukidnon, TNCs conspire with the traditional landlords in grabbing vast tracks of land, and in evading agrarian reform programs.” – Danilo Menente, Kasama-Bukidnon
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
October is hailed by various farmers organizations and grarian reform advocates all over the country as Peasant Month, and beginning October 19, around 10,000 farmers from Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental will take to the streets and highways and gather in Cagayan de Oro City by October 21 to press for genuine agrarian reform in Northern Mindanao and the entire Philippines.
Dubbed as “Lakbayang Mag-uuma alang sa Yuta, Katungod ug Katilingbanong Hustisya” (Peasant Protest March for Land, Rights and Social Justice), the campaign and march will highlight issues from various farming communities in Northern Mindanao.
Organizers led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas- Northern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR), Amihan-NMR, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization; Kasama Bukidnon, the Misamis Oriental Farmer’s Association (MOFA) and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP-NMR) said they will expose issues from these farming communities and bring them to the attention of the regional, national and international media and to the rest of the public. They said the protest themes evolve around the issues of landlessness and the various forms of exploitation suffered by farmers at the hands of landlords, corporations, and the local and national governments.
According to the KMP-NMR, three out of four farmers in the region do not own the lands they till.
Global land grabbing in Bukidnon
Farmers from Bukidnon are expected to speak out against what they call as global land grabbing and human rights violations.
Danilo Menente, Kasama-Bukidnon (Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Bukidnon or Farmers’ Association in Bukidnon) chairman said global land grabbing is putting into serious risk the survival of small farmers and farm workers in the province.
According to the Pesticide Action Network in Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP) “global land grabbing” refers to “land deals, whether as direct purchases or long-term leases, being brokered in poor countries by advanced countries and their transnational companies as they command resources to produce crops either for food, feedstock or agro fuel in commercial and export quantities. These have been called as land grabs, not in reference to their illegality since many of the deals have passed government approval, but as description of the unjust terms through which they have been transacted and the utter lack of consultation with the communities of farmers and indigenous peoples.”
Touted as Mindanao’s food basket, Bukidnon has been host to the country’s largest plantations owned by TNCs. Of the province’ s 315,164 hectares of alienable and disposable lands, 79,501 are under the control of pineapple plantations and 31,607 are planted with bananas. Among the big corporations operating in Bukidnon are Del Monte Philippines Inc (DMPI), Davao Agriventures Corporation (DAVCO), and Southern Fresh Fruits.
“In Bukidnon, TNCs conspire with the traditional landlords in grabbing vast tracks of land, and in evading agrarian reform programs,” Menente said.
The peasant leader said that while landlessness has been the reason why the actual tillers and producers of food in Bukidnon remain the poorest among the poor in the Philippines, global land grabbing is also a serious problem contributing to the deterioration of human rights and fundamental freedoms of local farmers and their families.
“The province has become a focus of bloody agrarian unrests in the country, and the culture of impunity which exists in relation to human rights violations in agrarian dispute cases has worsened considerably in the last year,” he said.
Menente added that ‘this culture of impunity attached to global land grabbing is again illustrated in the continuing assaults against the 800 families of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) Farmers’ Association.
In the morning of June 14, 2011, the peaceful protest camp of the BTL farmers in front of the Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Dologon, Maramag,Bukidnon, was brutally attacked by goons and security guards hired by the university. Protesters were indiscriminately fired upon, and six farmer-leaders were wounded. The farmers were protesting the CMU’s attempts to evict them and convert the lands the farmers have been tilling for the last 30 years into pineapple and banana plantations of various TNCs including DAVCO.
Menente said that violent dispersals of camp-out protests—as a peaceful form of farmers’ objection against land grabbing—have become a common scenario in Bukidnon.
“We have not forgotten the attack against members of the Danggawan Landless Farmers’ Association (DFLA) in July 30, 2010. Hired men of the Del Monte Philippines Inc were said to be behind the attack. Del Monte wanted to start a a pineapple plantation on certain areas of the Ocaya Ranch which the DFLA were tilling in the village of Kuya, Maramag,” he said.
Exploitation of coconut farmers in Misamis Oriental
Meanwhile, MOFA chairman Ireneo Udarbe, said they will highlight the dismal situation of the coconut farmers of the province during the protest.
Urdabe explained that even though coconut has been the province’s main produce for the longest time, coconut farmers and workers in coconut plantations and industries live in economic misery and deprivation.
According to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), almost 64 percent of Misamis Oriental’s agricultural lands are allotted to coconut. In 2010 alone, the value of the coconut products produced for export reached over P17 billion (US$ 395,348,837)
“Despite this, 43,105 coconut farmers and farm workers live under the poverty level,” Udarbe said. “Coconut farmers and farmworkers are forever denied the right to own the lands they farm and work in. Because we do not own the land, we are perpetually forced to enter into oppressive sharing systems with landlords.”
Urdabe explained that the exploitative sharing system called “tersya” was also behind the poverty of farmers.
In the tersya system, tenants are given only a third of the income from total harvests despite what is stated in Administrative Order No. 5, Series of 1993 of the Department of Agrarian Reform DAR (Section V, B.4) that the amount of land rental should not exceed 25 percent of the overall income of the farmers.
In one of the case studies that MOFA conducted in Samay, Gingoog City a farmer under the tersya system merely gets P83.96 (US$2) per day after three months of cultivating 290 coconut trees in two hectares of rented land.
The situation is said to even worse in Philippine Veterance Industrial Economic Corporation (PHIVIDEC) area in Villanueva and Tagoloan coconuts farmers and farmworkers only get 10 percent of the net income. The farmers and workers are also under constant threat of being evicted from the land and their homes.
Farmers also bear the brunt of the ever-fluctuating prices of copra and other coconut products. Currently, the price is P17.00/kilo (US$0.39) for copra if the buyer bought from farmers. When the buyers sell the copra, however they do so at P29.00 (US$0.67) per kilo to the millers.
Urdabe also explained that the already meager profits and income of farmers is further decimated because of the arbitrary deduction of costs for “resikada” or the copra’s moisture content. Despite the Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1991 of the Philcoa which allows a seven to 12 percent of moisture content in copra crops if they are dried under the sun, and 14 percent allowable moisture content if the copra has been dried in the drying machines, approximately 14 to 18 percent of “ resikada” costs are deducted from farmers every time they sell the copra.
In the coconut plantations and individual coconut farms, agricultural workers receive a only P120 (US$2.79) to P150 (US$3.48) for a day’s work. This is way below the P269 minimum wage set by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) for agricultural workers.
Concert for land, rights and social justice
According to the lakbayan organizers, the march will begin from Quezon town, and farmers and other participants of the protest coming from Misamis Oriental will come from as far as the municipality of Lugait in the west, and Gingoog City in the east.
They are set to converge around 4pm of October 20 in Licoan, Cagayan de Oro City, with all the contingents doing a “salubungan” or convergence. The entire body will then proceed to the Pelaez Sports Complex for the “Concert for Land, Rights and Social Justice.”