Filipino Farmers Hold Anti-Government Protest In South

October 19, 2007 at 2:40 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 19, 2007) – Hundreds of farmers on Friday held a rally in Davao City in southern Philippines to protest the government’s failure to help alleviate the worsening poverty condition in the countryside.

Celso Pojas, regional spokesperson for the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said farmers were also protesting the proposed extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

About 900 people joined the protest, which coincided with the commemoration of the Peasant month, he said.

The government’s agrarian reform program may be extended after President Gloria Arroyo certified as urgent a bill seeking a 10-year extension of the CARP, which is set to end in June 2008, ten years after it was passed.

The CARP is primarily a social reform measure and addresses the need for a more equitable distribution of land ownership. Its end-goal is to improve the standards of living of beneficiaries and promote greater economic activity in the rural areas.

But Pojas said extending the CARP would only exacerbate the plight of the farmers who, until now, suffers from landlessness and usurpation from big landlords and multi-national companies.

“We never benefited from the CARP. Our farmers remain landless,” Pojas told the Mindanao Examiner newspaper.

“The big landlords and multi-national corporations are the ones who have benefited from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, not us farmers. The CARP’s distorted definition of agrarian reform and the law’s actual provisions reveal its unmistakable bias in favor of landowners and agribusiness. This program has never been a solution to our problem.”

“Most of the benefactors do not have the security of owning the lands they tilt due to the imposition of heavy amortization of Land Bank. While some of us were forced to enter ‘growership’ contracts and leasehold arrangements with big plantations due to the lack of support from the government,” he said.

Pojas said the poor implementation of the CARP is worsened by feudal exploitation as many landlords continue to wield power in the countryside. “We call for the scrapping of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program not for its extension,” he said.

In Zamboanga City, Filipino agrarian expert Julita Ragandang the CARP extension would benefit more farmers. “There are still many things to do,” Ragandang, who heads the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Western Mindanao, said.

Some seven million hectares of agricultural lands, from more than four millions all over the country, have already been distributed. More than four million farmers benefited from the CARP, according to DAR, which is the lead implementing agency of the agrarian reform program.

It undertakes land tenure improvement, development of program beneficiaries, and the delivery of agrarian justice. DAR conducts land survey in resettlement areas. It undertakes land acquisition and distribution and land management studies. The DAR also orchestrates the delivery of support services to farmer-beneficiaries and promotes the development of viable agrarian reform communities.

The passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), Republic Act 6655, in 1988 was hailed as a historic occasion. CARL promised to redistribute agricultural lands — in several phases — to those who actually till them.

Most of the government funding for CARP came from the recovered P50-billion of the so-called Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth; however, only P10 billion was allocated to the DAR, the rest of the money was distributed to other agencies, including P8-million for human rights victims under then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Belgium, Spain and Japan among the countries that are supporting the CARP. (Mindanao Examiner)

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