RCBC at Brgy. Balite, Hacienda Luisita. (Photo by AMGL)
“The Hacienda Luisita farmworkers are the legitimate owners of the 500-hectare lands being claimed by the RCBC. The Cojuangco are the ones who sold them, they should be charging them, thus, we are now cultivating these lands,” said Lito Bais, acting president of Ulwu.
“We are here to support the farmworkers as their struggle is ours, they are pushing for genuine land reform here in Hacienda Luisita,” said Fidel Castro, Amgl vice-chairperson.
Ambala added that they are starting the cultivation of the lands as these have been unproductive for many years. In addition, many farmworkers of Brgy. Balite have no source of livelihood, thus, they are the primary beneficiaries of this “bungkalan” (cultivation). This is also their manifestation that farmworkers demand land, not stocks, as the Supreme Court decided for a referendum on July 5.
“We are now using 2 handtractors and waiting for the tractor to speed up the uprooting of grass and weeds. We have now here at the camp-out seeds of vegetables such as okra, patola, squash and string beans. Some farmworkers also brought young trees to be planted,” Bais said.
Upon occupation of the lands, 8 security guards employed by RCBC approached the farmworkers and argued against their activity but Ambala and Ulwu leaders asserted their rights. While negotiations, farmworkers commenced the cultivation using their “gulok” (bolos) and hoes.
In addition, Rowena Galang, Ambala leader and wife of Ulwu president Rene Galang said that farmworkers residing at Brgy. Balite have been demanding the cultivation of the land as they have no source of livelihood. Galang said that farmworkers who are enlisting stating their intention to cultivate have been increasing. She is estimating that 400 farmworkers would totally cultivate the 500-hectares claimed by RCBC.
“We are setting-up our tents to serve as our cultivation center so that tilling would be as collective as possible. We have surveyed about 10-hectares parcelled 1-hectare each allocated for each farmworker who intends to cultivate it,” Galang said.
Galang added that the cultivation center would also serve as an outpost to guard against displacement, to accept supporters from different sectors, venues for educational discussions, solidarity programs and more.
Galang also briefed the farmworkers that they should abide by the policies decided by Ambala and Ulwu. The most essential is that they should work on the land and leasing them to others is prohibited, doing so would cancel out their right to till and be passed onto other farmworkers. She added that leasing the awarded land would only result into returning it to the Cojuangco-Aquinos. She encouraged the farmworkers to defend the lands to the fullest as these would be their source of livelihood starting today.
“We are now at the stage of fortifying the cultivation center, soliciting support so that we could acquire the materials we need, to rent a tractor to speed up the cultivation and finalizing the list of farmworkers that would till the land. We are also organizing them into groups to man the cultivation center,” Galang said.
Farmworkers from Brgy. Balite said that they have been waiting for this day as they have no source of livelihood. Most of them are kin to the original farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita. They claim that their barangay has been targeted by threat and harassment such as the military deployment who is based at the barangay hall. Soldiers regularly check on their household and conduct patrols around the village. They have also condemned the collusion between some barangay officials and the Cojuangcos.
Amgl has been supporting Ambala since its founding, especially during the November 2004 strike. Farmers from different towns of Tarlac are presently supporting the farmworkers. Amgl mobilizes farmers from different provinces such as Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Zambales, Aurora, Pampanga and Bulacan.
“We would stay here as long as they need us, president Aquino should be ashamed of himself as today, the farmworkers have decided to till the lands, they want genuine land reform as every farmer in Central Luzon and other regions have been longing for centuries,” Castro said.
Amgl and Ambala called other sectors to visit them at their camp-out at Brgy. Balite to show their support for their bungkalan and struggle against the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and referendum.
In addition, various national groups have expressed support to the cultivation of Hacienda Luisita. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Pamalakaya-Pilipinas and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) are closely coordinating with Ambala leaders. Pamalakaya-Pilipinas have sent delegation to actually join the cultivation.
Amgl chairperson Joseph Canlas sent his message of support and declared that the day is historical for the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers, Central Luzon farmers and of other regions. Canlas is an active leader supporting the plight of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers, especially during the November 2004 strike.
“The cultivation is the most concrete proof that farmworkers want land, not stocks, not referendum. The Supreme Court, Dept. of Agrarian Reform and president Aquino should closely watch the development of cultivation and witness the swelling support of many sectors,” Canlas said.
“The free and immediate land distribution is the real demand of the farmworkers and not being a stockholder of a Cojuangco-controlled corporation, not a land distribution through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with ‘Reforms’ (CARPer) or any deceptive schemes the Aquino government could think of,” he added.
Canlas assured that farmers from different provinces would flock at Brgy. Balite to show their support and show the Filipino people of the real and legitimate demands of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers. He also asked the public to visit and see for themselves that the farmworkers demand land and not stocks. #