“If CARP and CARPer really served the farmers in Central Luzon, we would never be protesting her in front of the DAR office. But in reality, it is the instrument of getting lands from poor farmers and converting them into other uses,” said Joseph Canlas, Amgl chairperson.
Amgl is protesting against the systematic land grabbing and displacement of farmers, with CARPer as main instrument of landlords, developers and foreign corporations. The group’s members are usual victims of land grabbing and displacement from different provinces in Central Luzon such as farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita; Nueva Ecija farmers from Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Laur and those to be affected by the planned Central Luzon Expressway (CLEx) project; Tarlac farmers affected by the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) project and land grabbing; farmers from Pangasinan who are victims of land grabbing by the Cojuangcos and Gov. Amado Espino; Aurora farmers from areas affected by the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco) project; Zambales farmers affected by land grabbing and mining operations; Pampanga farmers affected by land-use conversion projects such as the expansion of the Clark International Airport and subdivision projects; Bulacan and Bataan farmers victimized by land grabbing in different areas.
“Our members are either facing or losing agrarian cases but we continue to struggle for our rights to land. CARPer and other provisions of the law are practically protecting and promoting the abuses of landlords and speculators. This is the very fuel that Central Luzon farmers are widely protesting the implementation of CARPer,” Canlas said.
Coinciding the group’s call to repeal CARPer, it is pushing for the enactment of House Bill 374 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) filed by Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, who also chairs the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Mariano is a peasant leader who hailed from Quezon, Nueva Ecija.
“While CARPer has been protecting the landlords, GARB is proposing to serve the interest of poor farmers, such as the free land distribution and nationalization of agricultural lands,” Canlas said.
“The peasant movement’s struggle and GARB’s provisions has been educating more and more farmers in the region who thought there is nothing else could be done against the landlords’ exploitative and oppressive measures,” he added.
Amgl is also criticizing president Aquino for promoting his Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program which the group said is only serving private and foreign interests and sacrificing the welfare of poor farmers.
“Everyone knows that Aquino serves the rich, such as his family and other well-known landlord corporations. He is presently acting like a real puppet on his state visits to the United Kingdom and United States. We are sure that Aquino is selling the country to the foreigners,” Canlas said.
Amgl stated that the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB) project and the North Luzon Agri-Business Quadrangle are some of Aquino’s PPP centerpiece program in the region. In addition, the government plans to construct two additional dams located in San Jose, Tarlac and General Tinio, Nueva Ecija.
“These superhighways such as the TPLEx and CLEx are now displacing farmers in Tarlac, Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija. The North Luzon East Expressway or NLEx East would be added to connect Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. Definitely, these would displace more farmers and convert productive agricultural lands,” Canlas said.
“The Balog-balog dam project in Tarlac was informed to be shelved, but we have heard from some government officials that the Aquino government strongly promoted the project and sourced its multi-million dollar funding. If the Balintingon dam in Nueva Ecija on the east and Balog-balog dam on the west would be constructed, added to the Pantabangan dam in Nueva Ecija on the northeast and San Roque dam on the northwest, farmers would be further affected when these dams all at once release their impounded water. Even those located at the urban centers would not be spared,” Canlas warned.
Thus, the group has renewed its protest against CARPer and Aquino’s PPP program as they threaten the welfare of farmers in the region. Following the protest at DAR Region III office, they proceeded to DAR central office in Quezon City, joining farmers from other regions. Subsequently, they protested in front of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) national office to demand the distribution of public lands in Bayambang, Pangasinan and Casiguran and other towns in Aurora province. They would hold a vigil at DAR central office. The following day, they would march towards Mendiola and push towards the U.S. Embassy along Roxas Boulevard.
“We are calling for other sectors to support the struggle of the farmers in the region. It is only by uplifting the welfare of poor farmers, genuine development would be attained, thus, our interest is also the interest of the people,” Canlas said. #