Aquino's Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.
Farmers belonging to the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) and its provincial chapter Amgl-Nueva Ecija are gearing for heightened protests this month to resist systematic land grabbing and displacement from their lands. Based on the 2010 accomplishment report of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), near 96,000 Nueva Ecija farmers compose about 36% of the farmer-beneficiaries in Central Luzon, cultivating more than 41% or 169,000-hectares of productive agricultural lands. These FBs are now facing cancellation cases of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT), Emancipation Patents (EP) and foreclosure by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). Amgl believed that this evident trend of foreclosure and ejectment cases are triggered by the government’s regional ‘development’ program such as the “W-growth corridor” involving the construction of inter-connecting super-highways across the region.
“Every Filipino knows that Nueva Ecija is the rice granary of our country, but the Aquino government is continuing the destruction of productive agricultural lands through the implementation of CARP Extension with ‘Reforms’ (CARPer) and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program,” said Joseph Canlas, chair of Amgl.
Amgl cited that Nueva Ecija ranked 2nd in palay production in 2010 reaching to 560,379 metric tons supplying about 8.61% of the country’s supply. This production level could produce about 7.29 million sacks of rice. Compared to its 2007 level, it dropped by 2.36 million sacks of rice from about 9.64 million.
“We believe that the province’s dwindling rice production is a result of CARPer implementation, ejectment of farmers, increasing conversion of productive agricultural lands and the full privatization of hydro-electric dams that carelessly release water destroying rice crops,” Canlas said.
Amgl-NE mentioned the case of 142 farmers in Guimba town being ejected by the municipal and provincial agrarian reform office (MARO and PARO). Farmers from barangays Manggang Marikit, Bagong Barrio and Yuson (Mambayu) are being harassed by elements of Guimba police and 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. The Mambayu farmers are cultivating the 100-hectares of land located at Brgy. Manggang Marikit that used to be part of Haciend Daves since 1992. It was covered by CARP but the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) leased it to a cotton agro-corporation that went bankrupt thus, when the lands went idle farmers cultivated them and made them productive. The MARO and PARO are now trying to eject the farmers as they have awarded the lands to ListaSaka group.
“MARO and PARO is now using the CARP and CARPer provisions to eject the Mambayu farmers who have cultivated lands for nearly 20 years. We firmly believe that agrarian reform officials are in collusion with financiers related to the ListaSaka as the CARPer law gives them the right to dictate the price of the land to interested real estate developers and agro-corporations,” Canlas said.
Amgl-NE has highlighted that the more than 2-decades of CARP implementation and CARPer have not realized fundamental changes on landlessness in the province. The group said that vast haciendas continue to evade land distribution. Hacienda Gabaldon, Kilantang, Anggara in Guimba town, Rueda in Quezon town, De Santos in Guimba, Cuyapo and Nampicuan towns, Tinio in Talavera town, and estates Ilagan, Gonzales, Domingo, Sanggalang, Joson, Angeles, Padre Crisostom Estate in many towns of the province remain intact and farmers who are CLOA, CLT and EP holders are facing cancellation and foreclosure cases.
The group said that Aquino is adopting the “W-corridor” development program in light of inviting foreign and local investment in the region. It is pinpointed by eco-zones and industrial hubs in the region namely, Masinloc Eco Zone (Zambales), Subic Bay Special Economic Zone and Freeport (Zambales), Bataan Technology Park in Morong, Bataan Export Processing Zone in Mariveles, Clark Special Eco Zone, Hacienda Luisita Eco Zone, Hermosa (Bataan) Eco Zone, Magalang (Pampanga) MADCI, Philippine Jewelry Center in Meycauayan, Bulacan, Gapan, Cabanatuan City and Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija, then towards Baler and Dingalan freeport in Aurora. In Aliaga town, Nueva Ecija, the municipal government is constructing the 270-hectare agro-industrial estate anticipating the construction of Central Luzon Expressway (CLEx) 1.
Based on Aquino’s promotion of PPP, Nueva Ecija is a site of the CLEx 1 and 2, the Northern Luzon East Expressway (NLEx East) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway 3 (SCTEx 3) towards Aurora, definitely these would convert hundreds of hectares of productive lands. AMGL said that 28.2-km CLEx 1 and 35.7-km CLEx 2, would roughly convert 141 and 178.5 hectares of lands, respectively, the 92.1-km NLEx East would about 460.5-hectares. The 3 phases of expressway would cover an estimated 780-hectares of lands.
“Aquino is promoting these projects to lure foreign investors in the region and province with the price of ejecting farmers and converting productive agricultural lands. The Aquino government is wiping out the source of livelihood of Nueva Ecija farmers and threatening the country’s food security,” Canlas said.
Aside from these haciendas, farmers cultivating the 3,100-hectares within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur town are facing harassment from the military. AMGL – NE reported that elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly the 81st Infantry Battalion under the 702nd Infantry Brigade and the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) units 1st Scout Rangers regiment, 1st Special Forces Regiment, Light Reaction Battalion are actively operating in the province.
In protest of these programs, Amgl and Amgl-NE are planning a chain of protests by the end of August.
“We are to drum up agrarian cases in the province until September and we would raise our demand for land rights, cessation of land grabbing, displacement and land use conversion. It is high time that Aquino to hear the screams of Nueva Ecija farmers,” he added.
Amgl and Amgl-NE demanded the end of foreclosure cases against CARP farmer-beneficiaries and immediate distribution of land and moratorium of government projects related to the Aquino’s PPP.