“Aquino has upheld his landlord class. He detained poor farmers of the region into deep landlessness and poverty. He could not even distribute the lands of Hacienda Luisita to the legitimate farmworker-beneficiaries, instead, schemed to keep control by using the Dept. of Agrarian Reform to sabotage the decision of the Supreme Court,” Joseph Canlas said, Amgl chairperson and Anakpawis – GL regional coordinator.
As part to push the Aquino to address the people’s issues, farmers groups under Amgl would protest in Angeles city to demand fundamental reforms. About two hundred farmers from Pampanga and Hacienda Luisita joined the protest at Plaza Miranda.
The groups affirmed that Aquino by implementing the Republic Act 9700 or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with “Reforms,” (CARPer) has kept farmers landless and worse, those who have are being displaced. Amgl illustrated few agrarian cases:
• in Hacienda Luisita, farm workers who are cultivating lands through their “bungkalan” (cultivation) campaign since 2005 are now threatened to be displaced as DAR pushes through its “lottery” method of allocating lands;
• farmers in affected areas of the Republic Act 10083 or Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act in Casiguran town in Aurora province are now being displaced such as the cases of poor farmers in Brgy. Esteves where lands where not covered by CARP and some who have titles like Linda Paz was displaced as her land encroached by APECO for its administration building;
• poor farmers in many towns of Nueva Ecija are being displaced as their certificate of land ownership award (cloa), certificate of land transfer (clt) and emancipation patent (ep) are being cancelled by DAR as landowners reclaim lands; and large hacienda formations were preserved;
• farmers in many provinces in the region who are cultivating lands for decades are yet to be beneficiaries of CARP such as the case of Tarlac city farmers at the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) interchange who are becoming victims of systematic land grabbing, speculation and harassment; and the case of farmers in Bayambang town, Pangasinan, cultivating lands that are formerly covered by Camp Gregg military reservation but presently being grabbed by the Cojuangco-controlled Central Azucarera de Tarlac Realty Corp. (CAT Realty);
• farmers and Ayta farmers in military reservations such as Clark in Angeles city, Pampanga and Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac are being displaced; the Bases Conversion Development Administration (BCDA) has annulling land rights of legitimate farmer-beneficiaries since early 1990s and Clark Development Corp. (CDC) is encroaching their lands and blocking roads to disrupt their cultivation;
• farm lands in Pampanga are now areas of agrarian dispute such as the case of Hacienda Dolores in Porac, Pampanga where farmers whose ancestors tilled about 2,000-hectare lands since the American colonial period are being displaced; emancipation patent holding farmers of more than 200 hectares in Magalang town are facing land grabbing efforts and harassment of a certain Marcelo “Apo Celo” Cueva.
The groups said that the present rice crisis is aggravated by government programs, such as the massive land-use conversions (LUC). Government data showed that the region’s rice lands aggregate shrinkage from 2010 to 2012 is at 6,120 hectares, with Tarlac province losing the biggest at 10,169 hectares. Amgl said that LUC threatens the region’s rice production that would definitely affect the Metro Manila. They also contradicted the government’s program to introduce hybrid and genetically-modified organisms (GMO) varities to counter the effect of rice lands shrinkage.
“Without genuine land reform, farmers are always under the control of big landlords and traders who control farmgate and retail prices, supply and its distribution. Thus, we face recurring crisis in the rice industry,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that aside from farmers suffering the bankruptcy of CARPer, Aquino is also pushing his Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program and the Central Luzon Regional Development Plan (CLRDP), particularly the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB).
“Aquino is planning to privatize land and sell them to big foreign and local businesses. He has initiated this by continuing the MLUB project, designed by the despicable Arroyo government,” Canlas said.
The MLUB project includes the privatization of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), SCTEx, TPLEx, the Central Luzon Expressway (CLEx), North Luzon East Expressway (NLEx East) and its attached widening projects of national roads. The road project connecting the APECO area is also a component of MLUB. The Bulacan provincial government is also planning to implement a massive land-use conversion program via the Shenzen economic model in China.
The SCTEx-TPLEx interchange in Tarlac city is now triggering massive land grabbing and speculation and displacing poor farmers. TPLEx is also converting productive agricultural lands in many towns of Pangasinan, while CLEx is now displacing farmers in La Paz town in Tarlac, Zaragosa and Aliaga towns in Nueva Ecija. The NLEx East would also displace farmers in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija towns.
“This network of super highway is constructed not for the benefit of the people, but for foreign business, and poor farmers are doomed to be displaced from their lands,” Canlas said.
Amgl affirmed that the Aquino programs such as PPP and MLUB, aim to hasten and speed up the plunder of our region’s basic resources such as land and the minerals underneath. PPP also includes the planned construction of Balog-balog dam in San Jose town in Tarlac and Balintingon dam in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija.
“We are witnessing Aquino to further open up the region to exploitation such as the destructive mining in Zambales and corporate plantations. We should note that Aquino is a staunch promoter of mining in the country,” he added.
Amgl said that superhighways in the region is a major requirement to speed up mineral exploitation in the Central Luzon and Cordillera regions, as well as Nueva Vizcaya province. The group said that mining in Zambales has already destroyed its mountain areas, which threaten the safety and health of poor farmers in the lowland. Mining operations in Sta. Cruz town has also reduced crop yield as it polluted farms’ water resources.
“We should learn from the state of Zambales where it is swamped by Chinese mining corporations. Aquino pretends to oppose Chinese incursion in Panatag shoal, but protects their mining operations,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that Aquino is protecting giant Chinese mining projects such as the Wei wei Group’s US$100 million nickel processing plant in Masinloc town and Jiangxi Rare Earth and Rare Metals Tungsten Group Co. Ltd’s US$150 million nickel exploration and cobalt processing project in Botolan. A Filipino mining company Nihao Mineral Resources, which is a partner of Jiangxi is also operating in Zambales.
“Aquino is only using the Chinese incursion in Panatag shoal to justify the presence of US military forces,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that Aquino is inciting US military presence as backer for its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay), while serving its lackey role for US geo-political interests in the Asia and the Pacific. The group insisted that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Balikatan military exercises are non-other than a show of force against the people’s struggle and the New People’s Army (NPA) as it would not be against China who it on last April.
“During the Balikatan military exercises, Ayta farmers are always displaced from lands covered by Crow Valley military reservation as US and Philippine military forces conduct aerial bombing and artillery firing. Fishing is banned in San Antonio town in Zambales and parts of Aurora province, due to their amphibious assault exercises,” Canlas said.
The groups also denounced Aquino’s implementation of Oplan Bayanihan which they claimed is no different with Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), led by they butcher and fugitive major general Jovito Palparan. Amgl said that mountainous areas in the region such as the boundaries of Nueva Ecija and Aurora, Tarlac and Zambales, are heavily militarized disrupting farm work. Military officials also admitted that Hacienda Luisita is under OpBay led by the North Luzon Command (Nolcom) and 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army. Aurora is also heavily militarized as the Angaras implement their projects such as Apeco, Food Basket program and eco-tourism.
“The only difference of OpBay from OBL is its intensified psychological warfare and black propaganda component, to deceive poor sectors and deter their struggle against the program and policies of Aquino. It is still composed of massive militarization, extra-judicial killings and other forms of human rights abuses,” Canlas said.
The group said that Dutch development worker Willem Geertman and Bayan Muna - Aurora leader Waldo Palispis were victims of extra-judicial killings under OpBay. While Igorot activist Ernesto Bubod of Pantabangan while arrested as he led the opposition against the land grabbing and corporate plantation of Energy Development Corp. (EDC) and California Energy (CalEn). Ayta and farmer communities in Porac, Pampanga and many towns of Zambales are swamped with military forces who serve as security of mining operations.
“The Aquino government may ridicule us by causing loads of issues and demands. More probably, they would continue deceiving the people of Central Luzon. But concretely, the legitimate questions affecting the farming sector are not yet settled, thus, triggering exacerbated poverty and misery,” Canlas said.
The groups declared national democracy as solution to the people’s predicament. They stated that the government should be independent from foreign dictate and democratic programs such as genuine land reform should be implemented. Genuine land reform is the keystone to instigate authentic national development, which is stalled by the government’s implementation of CARPer and other programs that sustain landlessness. The groups said that the Aquino government acts as a puppet regime directed by US imperialism which primarily oppose genuine land reform.
“We plea the people of Central Luzon to join the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist struggle, as this is the only way to effect genuine fundamental reforms. Aquino, by his programs and policies is obviously anti-people and anti-farmer. We must uphold democracy by struggling for genuine land reform and social reforms,” Canlas ended. #