MANILA (Oct. 2I) — While almost 5,000 marching farmers were stopped by anti-riot policemen at Morayta as they were about to reach the foot of Mendiola bridge near Malacañang, they were still in high spirits as they recount their pains and countless gains in speeches and cultural numbers, a Cordillera farmer retold his experience in the big city.
The Alliance of Peasants in the Cordillera Homeland (Apit Tako) joined the Martsa ng Magbubukid at Mamamayan Para Sa Tunay na Reporma Sa Lupa at Pagbasura sa Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) (peasant and people’s march for genuine land reform and the junking of CARP) on October 19.
Before the march, they also joined their counterparts from the other regions in an overnight picket/vigil at the Department of Agrarian Reform-National office to register the call to scrap the bogus government’s CARP as it never solved the peasants’ basic problem of landless-ness.
Inspired from each other’s determination and strength to heighten the struggle against the Arroyo’s fascist attack against the mass movement, peasants and their advocates vowed to brace for the greater challenges in the coming years.
One month after then President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law in September 1972, it declared PD 27 to “emancipate the farmers from the bondage of the soil”.
In June 10,1988, RA 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) was passed to which President Corazon Aquino promised to solve not only the problem of landless-ness but also to provide support services to the farmer beneficiaries.
Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (National Peasant Movement) expressed that 19 years have passed, yet the peasants remain to experience extreme poverty and hunger as the landlords and foreign agri-companies continue to have monopoly and control over wide areas of agricultural lands and even farm implements. He said seven out of ten farmers are still landless contrary to the government’s claim that its program has benefited 2.201 million farmers owning a total of 3.826 million hectares of land.
“This unbearable situation is being aggravated by the government’s policies and programs on deregulation, privatization and liberalization being dictated and imposed by the IMF-WB and World Trade Organization,” according to Ramos.
Not satisfied, the government entered into bilateral agreements such as the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and RP-China Agricultural Agreements which sold out some two million hectares of rich agricultural lands, according to Ramos.
“Definitely this will result to the problem of food security not only to the peasants but to all Filipinos,” Pambansang Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Liberalisasyon sa Agrikultura (Cordillera-PUMALAG) Coordinator Fernando Bagyan, a Cordillera farmer-leader, told this reporter.
Jay Peña, regional council member of Apit Tako and secretary-general of Tignayan Dagiti Mannalon iti Abra (TUMAKDER) decry the government’s claim that mining and agriculture could very well go together.
The experience of peasants in Itogon, Benguet is a very concrete example of how the mining companies have destroyed their once productive agricultural lands and water sources, denuded their forests and poisoned their rivers said Peña.
The ongoing operation of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company has also damaged a total of 550 hectares all the way from Mankayan down to as far as Cervantes, Ilocos Sur the Cordillera farmers’ alliance noted.
Despite the growing and strong opposition of the Cordillera indigenous peoples, foreign mining applications covers around 1.252 million hectares of the total Cordillera land area of 1.8 million hectares, said Bagyan.
“There are still a lot of issues that is threatening our lives, livelihood, resources and so he urged his fellow peasants that there is no other way than to unify and consolidate ranks to be able to fight and win the struggle,” Bagyan said. # Virgie Dammay for NORDIS