The Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Farmers’ Alliance in Central Luzon) renewed its call for the passage of House Bill 374 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) and the junking of Republic Act 9700 or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with “Reforms” as agrarian dispute in the region worsens such as the issue of Hacienda Luisita, the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco, Republic Act 10083) in Casiguran, Aurora, the land grabbing in Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Bataan and other provinces.
“Everything in CARPer is erroneous even its name as ‘reform’ is mentioned twice and is redundant, but in reality there is no reform whatsoever, it is worse than a real estate transaction,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL Chairperson.
AMGL is blaming the agrarian unrest in the region to the 21-year implementation of CARP and more than 2 years of its mutant version CARPer as it did not realize distribution of lands to benefit poor farmers, instead it has paved the way for massive cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) and Emancipation Patents (EP).
“Is CARP successful in Hacienda Luisita? It spawned the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and CARPer did not repeal Section 31 that legalizes SDO. Through CARPer, farmworkers are obliged to pay amortization as compensation the Cojuangco-Aquinos are demanding. CARPer is ‘suicide’ for the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita,” said Canlas.
AMGL is the regional organization of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), the only legitimate organization of farmworker-beneficiaries. Ambala is also demanding the junking of CARPer and the enactment of HB 374 or GARB as it proposes free land distribution, very much different with the present agrarian reform law.
On the pacific side of the region, AMGL is also calling for the repeal of RA 10083 or APECO that was proposed by the powerful and influential Angaras. The Panlalawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Aurora (PAMANA, Aurora Provincial Farmers Alliance) is the provincial organization of farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples in Casiguran who are affected by the APECO program.
“CARPer and APECO go side by side as the former has no provision of protecting farmers’ lands from being covered by the latter. As early as 1995, Baler, Dinalungan and Casiguran towns of Aurora has been identified by the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 during the Ramos government, then CARP has been toothless against the succeeding acts such as Aurora Special Economic Zone Act, ASEZA or RA 9490, then finally RA 10083 or APECO,” Canlas said.
“Farmers in Casiguran are already cultivating lands as early as the 1970s when lands were cleared by the massive logging operations implemented by the Marcos dictatorship, in the 2-decade implementation of CARP, the government did not cover productive rice lands and once CARPer is implemented, they would have to pay amortization, again the instant formula of being victims of land grabbing as definitely they would not be able to sustain payment. Farmers being forced to choose between APECO and CARPer is like choosing what way and means to commit suicide,” he added.
AMGL said the San Ildefonso peninsula in Casiguran is cultivated by Dumagat indigenous people who are awardee of the homestead program of the Commonwealth government under former president Manuel Quezon as early as the 1930s. APECO is covering 13,000-hectares in Casiguran and is very possible to extend to other Aurora towns.
AMGL is also campaigning against the massive cancellations of CLOA, CLT and EP in Nueva Ecija. Farmer-beneficiaries during the Marcos dictatorship until the implementation of CARP are now victims of foreclosure procedures being conducted by the Land Bank of the Philippines. Agrarian disputes are also flooding at the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB).
“Nueva Ecija is being transformed by the Aquino government. Constructing the Central Luzon Expressway or CLEx is the primary step into further destroying the rice granary of the country. As these projects are on way, speculators and land grabbers are on massive assault of ejecting farmers from their lands,” Canlas said.
AMGL added that the TPLEx project has caused massive land grabbing at areas adjacent to Hacienda Luisita and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) interchange. The group said that CARP and CARPer is non-existent to these productive rice lands in Tarlac. Farmers started cultivating the lands during the 1950s into productive farms and once covered by CARPer, they would be further burdened of paying amortization.
The group added that lands of farmers in Bayambang, Pangasinan are being grabbed by the Cojuangco-controlled Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) Realty Corp. Farmers have cultivated the lands since the Spanish times, then declared as Camp Gregg Military Reservation during the American occupation and since the 1950s, CAT has been claiming that they own about 300-hectares in Bayambang.
“The Pangasinan DAR is offering a notice of coverage to the farmers which is really a trojan horse as it would mean that the farmers accept CAT’s claim, consequently, they have to pay amortization for the very lands they developed and made productive,” Canlas said.
AMGL affirmed that CARPer is an instrument of big landlords, foreign agro-corporations to take away lands from helpless poor farmers. They added that the program never encoined any reform, nor the essence of social justice that a reform program should have spirited. Instead, AMGL is pushing for the passage of HB 374 or GARB filed by Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano, who is a genuine farmer and chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). AMGL highlights the provision of GARB such as the free land distribution and nationalization of agricultural lands as to protect against reconcentration at the hands of few big landlords and foreign agro-corporations.
“Pro-CARPer has criticized GARB for being radical and revolutionary, admitting that it threatens their interests such as being landlords themselves or controlling vast lands. It also exposes their interest in the CARPer’s allocated budget involving billions of pesos of public funds,” Canlas said.
“At this stage, a radical and revolutionary land reform program is necessary to resolve the social unrest nearing to explode in the region and the whole country,” Canlas added. #