About a thousand farmers from different Central Luzon provinces protested in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija to mark the 23rd year of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The farmers primarily raised the issue of rising trend of cancellation and foreclosure cases of Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT), Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and Emancipation Patents in the region and said that it is a main pathway of ejecting them from their farms and Land Use Conversion (LUC). The protest was led by the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) including members from Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bulacan, Bataan, Pangasinan, Zambales and Pampanga.
“CARP did not serve the farmers’ interest to have land. Many farmers in Central Luzon still do not have any land to till, and those who have position are being ejected from their farms. The government, particularly the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is in futile trying to visualize the countryside with flowers and wonderful colors, farmers smiling while harvesting as result of CARP and now CARP Extension with ‘Reforms’,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL Chairperson.
“The DAR figures are very fantastic. In Nueva Ecija, if they were true, farmers would not be protesting but celebrating the anniversary of CARP. The number of FBs is also mind-boggling, where could these FBs be, when everywhere in the province, there are cases of cancellations of certificate of land ownership award (CLOA), certificate of land transfer (CLT) and emancipation patents (EP). DAR report is very far from the truth,” said Canlas.
The group added that in Nueva Ecija, farmers from the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur town are fighting for their rights to the 3,100-hectares of land covered by CARP. The farmers are CLOA-holders but the military under the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army is systematically displacing them off of their farms. Indigenous farmers are also being ejected from their farms around Pantabangan lake as result of the privatization of the 58,000-hectare watershed area. Farmers from Sta. Rosa, Cabanatuan City, Jaen, Allaga, Quezon and other towns are also facing cancellation of CLOA and foreclosure cases.
“We should also underscore the plight of Hacienda Luisita farmers, who are clear victims of CARP through the Stock Distribution Option (SDO). They are the rightful owners of the 6,453-hectares then-sugar lands, who developed and sacrificed to make the lands productive. But especially now, with another Cojuangco-Aquino in power, Noynoy Aquino, the farmworkers’ aspiration for genuine land reform would clearly rely on their united strength rather than any agrarian reform program this government would fabricate,” said Canlas.
The group said that the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers under the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) are presently in Manila to demand the Supreme Court to decide on the revocation of the SDO and order the immediate distribution of lands.
“The distribution of Hacienda Luisita is a primary call on this mass action,” Canlas added.
AMGL was joined by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Anakpawis Partylist, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) – Central Luzon, Karapatan human rights group and other progressive groups.
The groups called the junking of the CARP Extension with “Reforms” or CARPER and demanded the enactment of House Bill 374 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB). They said that GARB provisioned free land distribution and nationalization of agricultural lands. Along with the activity, the groups launched the 1-million signature campaign for GARB.
“CARPER is the aggravation of CARP. It accelerates land grabbing, displacement and Land Use Conversion. Farmers could not even benefit from the program unless the landlord would allow them to. It also emphasize on non-land transfer scheme to benefit the landlords, big agro-corporations and foreign investors,” Canlas said.
“On total contrast, GARB banners genuine land reform, farmers would not shell a single centavo for the land, it also prohibits foreign agro-corporations to own or control the country’s rich agricultural lands,” he added.
AMGL said that CARP and CARPER have not initiated reforms for the region that benefited the farmers. Farmers who actually joined came from Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, farmers from Guimba who are being ejected by DAR, various towns in Nueva Ecija, Pantabangan-Carranglan watershed area, Camp Gregg Military Reservation in Bayambang, Pangasinan, where about 300-hectare lands are being claimed by the Cojuangco-controlled Central Azucarera de Tarlac Realty Corp. (CAT), the 375-hectares in San Miguel, Bulacan being grabbed by Rep. Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, from Aurora where 13,000-hectares of Casiguran town are covered by the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO), Aeta communities from Tarlac affected by the Balog-balog dam project, farming communities from Pangasinan affected by San Roque dam, from farming communities near Sta. Rosa-Tarlac national road who are victims of land grabbing and more areas within the region.
The group said that the farmers from the said areas are victims of CARP in one way or the other, thus, they have joined the activity to express their abhorrence. They have denounced the programs implemented by president Aquino by forming into a human chain along Maharlika highway and tearing apart a thousand copies of his picture with the symbol CARPER.
“We totally oppose Aquino’s programs such as CARPER, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, the construction of Balog-balog and Balintingon dam, the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB) program he inherited from Arroyo and more,” Canlas said.
Canlas added that these programs are certainly to displace many farmers such as the construction of Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), Central Luzon Expressway (CLEX) and North Luzon East Expressway (NLEX East). These projects are to convert about 1,222-hectares from Tarlac, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan. In addition, the Balog-balog dam is an environmental threat to the people of San Jose town and Tarlac City.
“If the two dams are constructed, Central Luzon would be transformed into a man-made lake, with water coming from the San Roque dam, Pantabangan dam, Balog-balog and Balintingon dam. These projects would definitely result death and destruction to the region’s people,” Canlas added.
“This period under the Aquino government is crucial as programs that would take away the livelihood and lives of the people are on the pipeline. We all have is each other with Aquino on the other side, we should support each other against his programs if we want a better future for our next generation,” Canlas said. #