“We totally condemn this Balikatan exercises as it is totally of no use to Central Luzon farmers, worse, it threatens the farmers’ rights to land as it aims to implement programs and projects that would take away our farms,” Joseph Canlas, AMGL Chairperson said during the protest.
AMGL cited that the Balikatan field training exercises in Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija are also areas of many agrarian disputes. The group added that the exercises served as clearing operations for mining in Zambales, more land use conversions in Pampanga, the Balog-balog dam in Tarlac, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation and Pantabangan watershed project in Nueva Ecija. In addition, US soldiers have been spotted inside Hacienda Luisita last year.
The group also said that the region is being targeted as site for major ‘development’ projects such as the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB) or the network of major highways to facilitate the extraction of the country’s resources towards the world market. MLUB has components such as Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), Central Luzon Expressway 1 and 2 (CLEx), North Luzon East Expressway (NLEx East), La Mesa Parkway and other conduit national roads and highways.
“These projects are conceptualized to serve foreign interests. These have also triggered massive land grabbing, displacements and land use conversions. Big landlords, real estate developers and foreign agro-corporations and investors have been barraging farmers with legal cases as attempt to eject them from their farms. The SCTEx and TPLEx had this effect in Tarlac, Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija,” Canlas said.
Before landing in front of Camp Aquino in Tarlac, the 15-vehicle caravan commenced from Quezon City and held a short program in front of Clark Special Economic Zone in Angeles City. In front of Camp Aquino, farmers from Tarlac and Nueva Ecija joined the protest and continued with a caravan within Hacienda Luisita and adjacent barangays along Tarlac-Sta. Rosa Road.
“The Aquino government has no use of Balikatan but counter-insurgency. Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan intent is to control the heightening peasant unrest in the region brought about by anti-peasant programs such as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with ‘Reforms’ (CARPer), his Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) and the Central Luzon Medium Term Development Plan,” Canlas added.
“Aquino is a hard-core enemy of the Filipino peasants and a total puppet of US imperialism. Filipinos should all struggle for genuine land reform and against foreign and local plunder of the country’s resources,” he called. #