By ARTURO BOQUIREN
On November 2, 2007, I pointed out in this column the continuous reproduction of semi-feudalism in the Philippines (to access the column, type “semi-feudalism” and click “Search Nordis” in the Google search section of the Nordis website). The struggle of the Sumilao farmers for land, the fight of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and other peasant groups or movements, and the failure of the Philippine government to give justice to victims of the Mendiola massacre more than two decades ago validate the assertions I made in that column.
To avoid being covered by government land reform, a number of landowners or landlords has converted agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses and, yet, even if the provisions of the government land reform program were followed, it has been possible to frustrate farmers from owning the land they till. Hence, to a significant extent, in the Philippine context, semi-feudalism has strongly contributed to global warming because plants and forests have been performing an excellent role in carbon sequestration. On the other hand, de facto, Philippine land reform programs provide a way out of land reform via land conversion of agricultural to non-agricultural land uses.
Carbon sequestration is the process in which carbon dioxide is captured from the atmosphere to be trapped in the bodies of plants and trees. Carbon sequestration ensures that carbon dioxide gases are prevented from contributing significantly to global warming. The reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is seen as an important strategy to reduce the gases causing the global warming taking place in the earth’s atmosphere for several decades now.
Thus, in the Philippine context, it is not only capitalism, including imperialism, that significantly contributes to global warming, but semi-feudalism as well. Indeed environmental problems have a politico-economic foundation even if progressive politics alone do not automatically imply environmentally-correct action and lifestyle.
It is relatively well-known that capitalist greed for profit that holds no regard for environment is a fundamental reason why there is an ongoing global warming. The contribution of semi-feudalism, however, is relatively not known but the mass of data supporting its role in the ongoing climate change should not be very difficult to accumulate.
It should be easy to see the role of US imperialism in retaining and protecting feudal exploitation in the country today. For instance, by aborting the complete realization of the goals of the Philippine revolution of 1896 alone, US imperialism retained and encouraged feudal exploitation. The 1896 Philippine revolution practically espoused non-recognition of friar and landlord property rights to land. In contrast, American occupation has recognized the said property rights and thereby facilitated the continuity of feudal rule in the Philippines.
Under the American occupation and for so many years under an “independent” Philippines, only sham land reform programs have been implemented in the countryside. The basic strategy of landlord bureaucrats or bureaucrats allied with landlords has been to frustrate the emergence of a genuine land reform by introducing various types of loopholes. One of the basic loopholes has been in the form of making farmlands too exorbitant for farmers to purchase.
The other strategy has been in the form of advocacy for market-based land reform strategies that provide illusion that market power, rather than political power, will be decisive in ultimately realizing a genuine land reform for farmers. Markets can help farmers but it is fundamentally political power and not the market that will ultimately give farmers the land they till. #
(Note: I am trying to produce a briefing paper on global warming that environmental advocates may use. Please check my blog at www.geocities.com/arturoboquiren. I hope to upload the said material by end January. For comments, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).