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Farmers call for ‘free land distribution’ ahead of peace talks

MARBAI farmers with a "shoot to kill order" from Lapanday Foods Corp. pelt the company's headquarters with bananas yesterday. Photo by Kilab Multimedia.
Farmers call for ‘free land distribution’ ahead of peace talks

Farmers called on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to adopt a program on free land distribution in negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), saying that only ending landlessness will resolve the ongoing armed conflict.

More than a hundred farmers from Mindanao and Southern Tagalog marched to Malacañang today to appeal to President Duterte to #StopKillingFarmers, noting that 46 civilian farmers have been killed under the current administration.

While farmers consider the resumption of the peace talks as a “positive development,” they called on Duterte to order the immediate pull-out of military troops targeting civilians in barrios.

“’Oplan Kapayapaan’ is a mere continuation of previous regimes’ fascist and US-instigated counter-insurgency programs that have failed miserably to address the root causes of the armed conflict and instead took a great number of civilian lives,” said Antonio Flores, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary-general.

Landlessness remains

In a study by Ibon Foundation, landlessness remains a major problem, with one-third of landlords and businesses controlling 80% of agricultural lands in the country. It also said that half of all farms are under tenancy, lease and other forms of tenurial arrangements that reinforce landlessness.

The research group also noted that 76% of agrarian reform beneficiaries are “unable to amortize the land granted to them and thus are at risk of losing their land.”

Most of the farmers in the protest were agrarian reform beneficiaries who travelled all the way from Mindanao to demand long-overdue land distribution.

An agrarian reform beneficiary being prevented by Lapanday Foods Corp. from occupying their land holds photos of slain farmers. Photo by The Breakaway Media.

Agrarian reform beneficiaries from Madaum, Tagum City yesterday pelted the headquarters of Lapanday Foods Corp. in Makati City with rotten bananas, in protest of the company’s refusal to distribute a 145-hectare land awarded to them since 2015.

Last December 2016, Lapanday guards shot at and injured several agrarian reform beneficiaries who tried to occupy the banana plantation that the company refused to give up despite an installation order by the DAR in favor of the farmers.

Around 70 farmers are staging a “Kampuhan ng Magsasaka para sa Libreng Pamamahagi ng Lupa” at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to reiterate the need for genuine land reform.

“We are here to show unity with our fellow farmers as we bring our plight and demands to the capital city, [for as long as] Lorenzo of Lapanday Food Corps. grab the lands which are rightfully ours,” said Salvador Barcebar Jr., vice-chair of Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (MARBAI).

The Lorenzos are a landlord family that also owns Central Azucarera de Tarlac in Hacienda Luisita.

Lapanday has a standing “shoot to kill order” against farmers who will enter the plantation, the MARBAI leader said.

Mariano: Hope in peace talks 

Meanwhile, DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano welcomed the farmers staging a kampuhan in the DAR Central Office.

Mariano expressed his support for the peace talks, saying that only a CASER that includes free land distribution will lead to genuine land reform. He reiterated that “inherent flaws, loopholes and defects of previous agrarian reform programs that have exacerbated land monopoly by few landlord-oligarchs.”

The secretary also expressed hopes that the peace talks would prevent further casualties of civilian farmers.

In a dialogue with agrarian reform beneficiaries, Mariano also announced an order to cover the 3,878 hectares of reservation area of the University of Southern Mindanao and Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), despite not having a Deed of Transfer from the any of the schools.

He said the said schools have previously prevented the DAR from acquiring and distributing the said lands, the ownership of which is being asserted by 405 farmer beneficiaries already tilling it.

With reports from Kilab Multimedia

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