The regional farmer group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Farmers’ Alliance in Central Luzon, with its provincial organizations and Anakpawis Partylist-Gitnang Luson demanded “death” of the Republic Act 9700 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with “Reforms” (CARPer) nearing its twenty fifth year of implementation since being RA 6657 or CARP in 1988. Instead, the groups demanded immediate and free land distribution to benefit farmers who developed them for many decades.
“Should we still expound on why we are calling for the repeal of CARPer? It is pretty obvious that farmers in the region are yet to secure the lands they are cultivating for many decades. We vow to dismantle CARPer and land monopoly during our protest on June 9,” Joseph Canlas said, Amgl chairperson.
Amgl said that the Aquino government has only extended the suffering of poor farmers in the region, as well in the whole country. The group added that president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino has affirmed his “landlord class,” continuing to defraud the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita by using the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR), thus, protecting the interests of the Cojuangco-Aquino family. Moreover, Aquino continues to trample on farmers’ rights on land all over the region.
“Aquino is desperate in preserving his family’s control over Hacienda Luisita. His programs and policies are none other than displacing poor farmers, converting productive agricultural lands and selling them to big foreign and local capitalists,” Canlas said.
The group said that the whole country, even the world has witnessed the bankruptcy of CARP in the case of Hacienda Luisita, particularly section 31, or its provision on plantations allowing such schemes as stock distribution option (SDO). It added that CARP has only safeguarded the immoral claim of the Cojuangco family as it used public funds to acquire the 6,456-hectare sugar lands from Spanish-owned Tabacalera company.
“Aquino’s mother promised land reform during her administration, but betrayed the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita. The Cojuangco-Aquinos implemented the SDO that put the farmworkers in unimaginable poverty and misery. Their deception was challenged by the brave general strike of the farmworkers in November 2004, but Aquino’s family ordered their massacre,” Canlas said.
Amgl is refuting the government claim that the implementation of CARPer has distributed lands to farmer-beneficiaries and it is nearing its target scope of hectarage. The group said that farmers in Nueva Ecija, are facing threats of displacement, cancellation of certificate of land ownership awards (CLOA), certificate of land transfer (CLT) and emancipation patents (EP). Productive agricultural lands in Nueva Ecija are also being converted.
CARP’s working scope in the region is 434,000 hectares, where almost half or 41% is located in Nueva Ecija. But Amgl affirmed that farmers in the province are now being displaced as government projects are converting productive agricultural lands.
“Nueva Ecija is the rice granary of the region and of the country, but the Aquino government is pushing with projects that are destroying the productive rice lands. Aquino is not only displacing farmers but putting the whole country in grave risk by destroying our food security,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that government projects such as the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB), a component of the Central Luzon Regional Development Plan (CLRDP) has planned to construct the Central Luzon Expressway (CLEx) and North Luzon East Expressway (NLEx East), piercing through sizeable productive farms in many towns. Amgl said that the 30.7-kilometer Phase 1 of CLEx is already displacing farmers in Zaragosa, Aliaga towns and Cabanatuan City. Amgl estimated that the CLEx project would convert about 332 hectares of the agricultural lands in the province.
“This is unacceptable, as the government boasts the farmers in Nueva Ecija have benefitted from CARP, but now they are being dislodged from their lands. This is clear-cut exploitation and oppression of poor farmers,” Canlas said.
Amgl added that the military is keeping its hold on 3,100-hectares of agricultural lands in Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) that were already ordered by former president Corazon Aquino to be covered by CARP. The group said that CARP is totally useless even against the military’s defiance of its chief executive’s order. In Guimba, speculators conniving with local agrarian reform officials are grabbing CARP-covered lands and ejecting poor farmers.
Amgl added that CARP is useless to the farmers in the region. It claimed that farmers in many areas in the region such as in Tarlac city adjacent to Hacienda Luisita and other towns in Tarlac province; in Casiguran town and central part of Aurora province; in many towns of Pampanga, Bulacan and Bataan; in mining-stricken towns of Zambales; and in former Camp Gregg Military Reservation and Mangabul lake in Bayambang, Pangasinan, remained landless and worse being displaced at present.
The group said that in Casiguran town in Aurora, about 13,000 hectares of land is covered by the Republic Act 100083 or Aurora Pacific Economiz Zone and Freeport (Apeco). It covered five barangays, where farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous people reside and source their livelihood. They are now being displaced by the construction projects of Apeco. Amgl said that Apeco is none other than land grabbing efforts of the Angara family to strengthen their feudal control over vast lands of the province.
In Pampanga, Amgl said that CARP is worthless as land use conversion (LUC) has proliferated, ejecting farmers from their lands. The Aguman Dareng Maglalautang Capampangan (Amc, Alliance of Farmers in Pampanga), the provincial organization of Amgl, noted that many subdivisions have been constructed in Metro Angeles, but they remain uninhabited. The group added that many subdivisions developed onto farm lands are now usual sites of flooding. In the case of city of San Fernando, agricultural lands were converted, reducing from 6,367 hectares or 94% of the city’s land area in 1970, to only3,657 hectares or 54% in 2003. The city hall estimated that in 2013, it would shrink to 40% or 2,700 hectares.
“Farmers in Clark lands are now being ejected by the government, particularly the Clark Development Corp., in Mexico town, farmers are being displaced by big real estate companies such as Ayala land for their Amaia project, while in Magalang town, landlords are expanding their control by grabbing lands from poor farmers,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that farmers in Bulacan are also facing serious threat of displacement as the Aquino government is planning to convert the province as a large-scale special economic zone, using the Shenzen economic model. Shenzen is a major city in China’s south Guandong province and located north of Hong kong. The group said that farmers near the NLEx Bocaue interchange are now being displaced by landlords and real estate developers. Farmers in Tungkong Mangga in San Jose Del Monte are also threatened by the construction of the MRT 7 inter-modal station.
“The Manila Bay reclamation project and the Pampanga Delta Development Project are major threats to farmers and fisherfolk in Bulacan and Pampanga provinces. It is clear the CARP is toothless against these government programs,” Canlas said.
“A whole day is not enough to discuss the bankruptcy of CARP as farmers from all corners of the region are facing displacement and land grabbing. CARP is not a reform program, it is an instrument of landlords to keep control over vast lands. The reality we are in confirms the failure of CARP, thus, we are demanding the immediate and free distribution of lands to poor farmers that cultivated them for many decades. To concretize genuine land reform, we demand the repeal of CARPer and the enactment of House Bill 374 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill,” Canlas said.
On June 9, a day before CARP’s anniversary, Amgl and its provincial organizations would hold a protest in Angeles city, by “demolishing” land monopoly and bringing “death” to CARPer. Early morning of the following day, they would protest in front of the DAR Region III office in city of San Fernando, subsequently, travelling to DAR central office in Quezon city and marching towards Mendiola bridge in Manila. The groups appeal to different sectors in the region for support and involvement.
“Genuine land reform is not just our issue. It is a social issue where we are all affected. We should learn from history that ‘development’ is a unattainable without genuine land reform. If there is no genuine land reform, farmers remain in poverty and countryside development is impossible. If the farmers are not emancipated, agriculture’s support to the local industry is constrained, thus, national development remains a fantasy,” Canlas said. #