35 years after CARP, farmers still call for genuine agrarian reform remain

Peasant groups from Metro Manila and neighboring provinces protesting landlessness in the country. (Photo by Umani Productions)


MANILA – Farmers groups along with other sectors held a protest in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform then marched to Malacañang in Mendiola on Friday, June 9, to ask Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to address the decades-long issue of landlessness.

“The basic reality remains, there is still no genuine land reform. Without this, peasant landlessness can only worsen, and the domestic agriculture and economy will remain underdeveloped,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said in a statement.

They also called for justice for victims of human rights abuses, and a stop on the militarization of peasant communities.

Read more stories about of landform here. 

KMP asserted that landlessness will be addressed if an agrarian reform program will be mobilizing peasants and if the state would exercise its power to (1) break -up land monopoly, (2) freely distribute land to tillers, (3) promote cooperativization, (4) provide intensive support services, and (5) build rural industries towards national development.

“Such a program addresses the Filipino peasantry’s historical plight for social justice, provides rural jobs and livelihoods, builds food self-sufficiency, and protects the environment, among others,” the group said.

KMP said that the government has wasted more than P306 billion in funding from 1988 to 2016, “with P77 billion that was sourced from the recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth, and P188 billion from the annual government budget.”

“Also, a gauge exposing its duplicity was its failure to be completed on its original 10-year implementation, which was extended for another 10 years to 2008, and then another until its expiration in June 2014. In 2008, CARP had a balance of area coverage of 1.2 million hectares, but still, in 2016, it had a balance of 1.2 million hectares in strategic operation provinces,” the KMP said.

Read: Hacienda Dolores: Testament to CARP failure 
Read: Calaca farmers slam ‘bogus’ land reform 
Read: Peasant leaders call for land, justice 

(Photo by Umani Productions)

Response to land reform lacking

The group also criticized the response of Marcos Jr. to land reform, as concurrent secretary of the Department of Agriculture, saying that it is lacking.

They said that while the New Agrarian Emancipation Act, which will condone agrarian reform beneficiaries’ debts, have passed Congress it is still not the answer to the decades long problem of the peasant farmers.

The same goes to Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order No. 4 released in September 2022 which also had a one-year moratorium on amortization payments for CARP beneficiaries.

“Both measures have been made possible only by the continued assertion of the Filipino peasantry for free land distribution. While these may offer some relief to around 610,000 beneficiaries, they are no substitute for a new, throughgoing, and redistributive agrarian reform program,” former agrarian reform secretary Rafael Mariano said.

“In fact, the Marcos Jr administration pursues other more sinister ways to further liberalize land and agriculture,” he added.

He said that as concurrent Agriculture Secretary, Marcos Jr., has pushed for further corporatization in agriculture under the guise of developing “value chains”, consolidating farms, and reviving Masagana 99, among others.

(Photo by Umani Productions)

What’s worse is that Marcos Jr’s administration has also pushed for the country’s inclusion in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the US’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which the group said will “both set to deepen the local economy’s foreign dependence through unequal trade.”

“Similarly, he has pushed for bilateral free trade agreements with the US and the European Union,” they added.

Many groups, especially in the agricultural sectors have expressed their opposition against RCEP as it will result in increased importation of products from neighboring countries.

Read: Marginalized groups reject RCEP 

There is also Support to Parcelization of Land for Individual Titling (SPLIT) project and the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) Scale-Up which Mariano said promotes ramping up the production of for-export and other cash crops.

“Marcos Jr. has also met with the Thai agro-industrial and food conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group which has promised $2.5 billion investment in agriculture,” he added.

The proposed National Land Use Act (NaLUA) and the 30-year National Infrastructure Program are also “set to worsen the problem of land use conversion, in conjunction with the regime’s Build-Better-More program which added 123 new flagship projects to its predecessor. Marcos Jr has also supported an economic charter change, which can include 100% foreign land ownership,” Mariano said.

Read: Farmers say no to proposed national land use law 
Read: Farmers bat for ‘genuine agrarian reform’ 

Despite all these, the peasant groups remained steadfast in demanding for “advanced people-led and people-oriented reforms.”

Progressive groups have been pushing for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill filed by the Makabayan bloc. But KMP lamented that it was continuously rejected in the House of Representatives. The said bill proposes free distribution of land to poor peasants in the country, and Filipinization of plantations controlled by foreign agro-corporations (JJE, RTS) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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