Noynoy Aquino (effigy) at the start of the caravan
at Tarlac City. (Photo by AMGL)
“There is no doubt among farmers that Aquino not affected any reforms that uplifted their lives, even during typhoons and disaster, he only visited the typhoon-affected areas when there was already a public pressure for him to do so,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairperson.
Canlas said that Aquino’s program towards farmers could be summarized into to three major points, (1) the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with “Reforms” (CARPER), (2) Public-Private Partnership program (PPP) and (3) the continuation of the programs of the much-hated Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government such as the Central Luzon Development Plan (CLDP) that includes the construction of major superhighways and massive land use conversion (LUC) all over the region; and the go-ahead of mining operations that clearly destroy the environment, particularly in the region in Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Aurora and Bulacan.
“Every Filipino around the world knows about Hacienda Luisita. The very living example of the Cojuangco-Aquinos decades-long exploitation and oppression of poor farmworkers. Until now, they are attempting to subdue the overwhelming public opinion for the lands to be distributed to the farmworkers. Hacienda Luisita is the very proof that Aquino would not in any way serve the interest of Filipino farmers,” Canlas said.
The protest commenced at the intersection near Metrotown Mall in Tarlac City, where farmers showed their rage against a scarecrow-effigy of the president and Uncle Sam representing US imperialism or the puppetry of Aquino to the interest of US and other rich countries. They proceeded towards Brgy. San Miguel in front of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) camp where Hacienda Luisita farmworkers merged with other farmers. They later proceeded to Angeles City, Pampanga and marched towards Plaza Miranda, subsequently towards DAR Region III office in San Fernando City.
Farmers from Aurora province under PAMANA - Aurora joined the protest to highlight the programs implemented by Sen. Edgardo Angara in the province such as the Republic Act 10083 or Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO) and Food Basket program. APECO-affected farmers are now being displaced in Casiguran town as the program includes massive land use conversion such as the construction of commercial and business districts, residential and industrial enclaves, eco-tourism and more. The affected people are mostly farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous people Dumagat who are and becoming victims of land grabbing and displacement as APECO covers about 13,000-hectares of Casiguran and adjacent towns. The Food Basket program are also causing massive land grabbing of 312-hectares and displace in central Aurora where most of the victims are indigenous people Igorot farmers.
Farmers under AMGL – Nueva Ecija joined the caravan to protest the systematic land grabbing and displacement in the province through massive cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) , Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) and Emancipation Patents (EP) of CARP farmer-beneficiaries. They sampled the case of farmers from Brgy. Manggang Marikit, Bagong Barrio and Yuson in Guimba town where they have tilled more than a hundred hectares of CARP covered but idle lands but the DAR Guimba and Nueva Ecija are trying to eject them. Farmers also condemn the massive ejectment of farmers from their lands in south Nueva Ecija towns where they claim that CARP and CARPER have not protected their rights. Farmers of the 3,100-hectare land in Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) have also protested the the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army’s obstruction of their continued cultivation amidst the Deed of Transfer between the Dept. of National Defense and DAR.
Aside from Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac farmers are also condemning the land grabbing measures and harassment of Pancake House bosses Martin Lorenzo and Gabriel Singson, Jr, who also lead St. Tropez Holdings Corp. The St. Tropez firm is claiming ownership of the 154-hectare prime agricultural land at Brgy. Balingcanaway near the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) interchange based on a title that even the DAR Tarlac said that it was illegally obtained as the lands were covered by the agrarian reform program since the Magsaysay government. Farmers from Bayambang town in Pangasinan are also protesting the Cojuangco-Aquino’s land grabbing measures. The Central Azucarera de Tarlac Realty Corp. (CAT Realty) is claiming ownership of the 386.8-hectares of land where farmers have already cultivated since the American colonization.
In addition, farmers near the Clark International Airport in Angeles City, Pampanga are condemning the measures of Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) of blocking them from tilling their lands. The farmers have tilled the lands since 1981 when the Clark Airbase Command (CABCOM) allowed them to. They were even recognized by the Marcos government when they were covered by the Green Revolution-KKK program and during the Cory Aquino government their cooperative was accredited by the Land Bank who availed them of loans.
“Aquino and CARPER are both working against the interest of farmers. Neither have given lands to poor farmers who are not able to keep up with amortization, worse, the program serves as instrument to big landlords and foreign corporations to eject farmers by invoking its anti-farmer provisions. Not contented, Aquino is now pushing the PPP that would surely displace farmers by tens of thousands as it involves large-scale LUC projects such as major highways, mega-dams and industrial-commercial-residential estates,” said Canlas.
AMGL is protesting the planned construction of the Balog-balog dam in San Jose town, Tarlac and Balintingon dam in General Tinio town in Nueva Ecija.
“Are we stupid enough to allow these dams amidst the effects of Angat and Pantabang dam-Pampanga river to the people of Bulacan and Pampanga this recent typhoon Pedring?” Canlas raised. “There are already San Roque dam in Pangasinan, Pantabangan dam in Nueva Ecija and now the two Aquino PPP-promoted dam. Aquino is planning to kill the people of Central Luzon by drowning,” he added.
The group has condemned Aquino’s continuation of Arroyo’s program such as the CLDP, particularly the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB). MLUB is composed by the construction of SCTEX, Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), Central Luzon Expressway (CLEX) and North Luzon East Expressway (NLEX East). The TPLEX project has commenced and is now on the process of converting hundreds of hectares of agricultural lands. TPLEX, CLEX and NLEX East project would convert about 1,222-hectares of land in the region.
“There are overwhelming reasons why we declare Aquino as ‘enemy of Central Luzon farmers’ but we only have limited opportunity to converse. We suggest that you continue to witness the escalating farmers’ struggle for our rights to land and against the Aquino programs. By covering us continuously, you would definitely understand why we are doing this right now. It is only a matter of time when broad sectors of our society to condemn the Aquino government but it would certainly come. By that time, we would discuss more and reminisce about our journey of fighting for people’s rights to genuine land reform, social justice and democracy,” Canlas said to media. #