“Where shall Aquino’s Cha-cha get the lands to be put up for sale to foreigners?”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – For farmers, allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of land and extending the government’s agrarian reform program spell doom.
The House of Representatives passed resolution of both Houses No. 1 or the Charter change bill on second reading last week. The resolution seeks to remove the protectionist economic provisions of the Constitution to give foreigners 100-percent ownership of land, utilities, media, and other resources. Meanwhile, House Bill 4296, a bill seeking to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) for another two years is likely to be approved by the House plenary before the June 11 adjournment.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said that the lifting of the 60-40 limit on land ownership via Charter change would pave the way for the 100 percent ownership of lands by foreigners while an extended CARP will guarantee the protection of foreign interests in agriculture.
Rafael Mariano, KMP chairperson, said, “Where shall Aquino’s Cha-cha get the lands to be put up for sale to foreigners?”
The group said it is expecting “an increase in land reform reversals, exemptions, and land re-concentration under Aquino’s Cha-cha.”
“Aquino’s twin anti-peasant legislations, the Cha-cha and CARP extension bills, are bound to worsen land-grabbing and forced eviction of farmers in the countryside,” Mariano said.
Based on monitoring by independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, several foreign corporations from 14 countries have agribusiness interests in the Philippines, mostly for food and biofuel production. A number of these corporations have entered into lease or concession agreements covering thousands of hectares of land in different parts of the country.
In a press conference, June 2, Mariano said lease agreements such as by American corporations Dole and Del Monte covering 200,000 hectares of land would be converted into 100-percent ownership once Charter change is approved.
Mariano said “CARP served as a legal cover to local and foreign land-grabbing with so-called leaseback and agri-business venture arrangements.”
Other foreign agribusiness corporations are already eyeing at investments in the Philippines.
According to a report by Wall Street Journal posted by farmlandgrab.org, the World Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency are preparing a $250-million loan package to support foreign investment in agriculture in Mindanao alone.
The same report quoted John Perrine, chairman of banana exporter Unifrutti Group, saying foreign companies waiting for the loan package have made commitments to invest a total of $366 million in about 18,700 hectares of land.
Among the corporations are South Korea’s Jinwon and Chalmers, which plans a $61 million, 2,000-hectare banana plantation; U.S.-based Volcafe, a subsidiary of ED&F Man, which proposes to build a $52 million, 4,000-hectare coffee plantation, and Kennemer Foods Int., a U.S.-based supplier to chocolate-maker Mars, which is looking at a cocoa project. Two Japanese companies also plan to develop 4,000 hectares of bananas and 2,700 hectares of pineapples, according to Perrine.
Meanwhile, a report by Davao Today states that the Philippine Palm Oil Development Council has proposed a road map of developing 300,000 hectares for oil palm in the next ten years with Mindanao as a main investment area.
Joseph Canlas, chairperson of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), said the Apeco project covering over 12,000 hectares of land in Aurora province and the Clark Green City project covering over 9,000 hectares in Tarlac would lure in foreign investors.
Canlas said both projects have already displaced farmers and indigenous peoples.
The KMP announced a series of protests next week against Charter change and CARP extension.