By EMILY VITAL
MANILA – For more than half his life, 68-year-old Angelito Lumapas has been planting palay and vegetables. Farming has sustained him and his seven children but in recent years, he and his fellow farmers in Central Luzon have been reaping debts.
Lumapas of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) lamented that the price of palay per kilo is pegged at P10 to P13. The price of palay plummeted since the enactment of Rice Tariffication Law, which resulted in the influx of imported rice from neighboring countries.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)’s fearless forecast has come true: that the Rice Tariffication Law “is equivalent to a death sentence for the local rice industry and rice farmers.”
Lumapas joined the protest action led by KMP this morning, Oct. 21, to call for land reform, aid and subsidy, and justice to the victims of human rights violations. The protest served as culmination to a month-long nationally-coordinated series of activities for October Peasant Month. The campaign commemorates the signing of
Presidential Decree (PD) 27 on October 21, 1972, by dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Speaking at the protest action, KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos said that PD 27 and the succeeding agrarian reform programs failed to break land monopoly, and pushed the farmers further into misery.
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) exempts various agricultural lands from coverage, such as those with eight-percent slope. KMP said CARP’s total coverage of 5.4 million hectares is only 44 percent of the 12.4 million hectares total croplands in the country, leaving seven million hectares effectively out of its reach.
As of August 2021, CARP has a total of 2.9 million beneficiaries, leaving some 10.75 million farmers under various government registries out of agrarian reform.
Southern Tagalog farmers’ struggles for land
Farmers from Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Quezon and Batangas led by KASAMA-TK also joined the protest, highlighting several land disputes in the region.
KASAMA-TK revealed that Lupang Ramos and Lupang Javeliana in Dasmarinas and Aguinaldo Estate in Silang have been exempted from land reform coverage despite being productive agricultural lands for decades.
“Farmers from Lupang Javeliana were even told by local agrarian reform officials that their Notice of Coverage was no longer valid just because of a “system error” in their digital records,” Jess Miranda of KASAMA-TK said
In Lupang Kapdula in Dasmarinas, Cavite, meanwhile, the South Cavite Land Company Incorporated (SCLCI) attempts to displace 100 families tilling 155 hectares of land. Local farmer organization SAMAKA (Samahang Magbubukid sa Kapdula) demands the opening of a farm-to-market road forcibly closed since August by SCLCI-hired guards. They are also appealing for land reform coverage after DAR revoked it last October 2020.
Determining who receives the land is also a problem, the group said. In Lupang Paseco and Pujalte in Palawan, farmers contest the Department of Agrarian Reform’s allocation of 2,152 hectares of land to 3,000 “ghost beneficiaries,” reportedly including government officials and military men who are not actual tillers of the land.
“Our hearts are filled with frustration and rage with the sheer destitution our food producers face under the Duterte regime while it boasts of land reform as among its so-called legacies,” Miranda said in a statement.
Resisting land conversion and speculation in Central Luzon
Farmers from Bulacan, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija demand that agricultural land, especially rice land, be conserved and protected against conversion into other uses.
KMP said Central Luzon, the country’s rice granary, has become a hotspot of land conversion. The construction of several “smart city” projects such as the 2,500-hectare Bulacan Aerotropolis and 9,450-hectare Clark Green City, transport infrastructure, and dams in the region threaten the livelihood of thousands of farmers.
KMP also criticized the militarization of farming communities such as in the case of San Jose del Monte (SJDM) where 350 farming families face the threat of eviction from 700 hectares of agricultural lands.
“Land grabber Greggy Araneta harasses farming communities in the seven agricultural barangays of SJDM. His armed goons forcibly closed a farm to market road, and repeatedly destroyed our crops and threatened us with violence,” Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB) leader Cecil Rapiz said.
Araneta plans to transform the vegetable and fruit farms into an exclusive residential area, anticipating higher land prices as the construction of MRT 7 nears completion.
Aid and subsidy now
The pandemic has worsened the economic situation of farmers. Lumapas said many of them have gone bankrupt, or earned just enough to tide them over the next harvest.
Amid their difficulties, Lumapas said they have not been receiving the much-needed assistance from government. Only four out of ten farmers in Central Luzon were able to access fertilizer from the Department of Agriculture, he said.
Lumapas echoes the demand of KMP for P15,000 (US$ 295.35) agricultural production subsidy.
“The Rice Tariffication Law should be junked. Instead of importing rice, the administration should provide subsidy to strengthen the local production,” Lumapas told Bulatlat.