About 500 farmers and supporters led by Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma - Bukidnon (KASAMA Bukidnon, Peasant Association in Bukidnon), Organisasyon sa mga Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (OGYON, Organization of United Small Farmworkers) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas - Northern Mindanao Region (KMP NMR) set-up camp at the grounds of provincial capitol in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on December 5 to call for their economic rights such as to land, wage, benefits and against unfair practices of traders and cartel.  The peasant camp-out would culminate on December 10 as their marking of the International Human Rights Day.  KASAMA Bukidnon and KMP NMR are the provincial and regional chapters of KMP, respectively while OGYON is a provincial chapter of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

KASAMA Bukidnon and KMP-NMR reported that 80% of farmers at the province are landless who are systematically subjected to exploitative conditions such as high land rent, usury, underpricing, low wages and even harassment brought about by militarization.  The groups said that vast lands in the province are controlled by a few, rich and powerful landlords that continuously oppress the small farmers and farmworkers.

In addition, the groups said that even the minimum wage set by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board is grossly violated by landlords that employ farmworkers on their plantation.  Bukidnon farmworkers are usually paid P80 to P120 per day and harvesting- hauling of sugarcane is only paid P100 to P120 per ton or roughly P0.10 to P0.12 per kg.

As farmers usually loan from landlords, they are subjected to 40 to 50% interest in kind as a sack of husked rice for a P1,000 loan.  This is always pre-conditioned that the harvest would only be sold exclusively to the landlord who dictates the farmgate price.

“The Aquino government is negligible here in the province.  His promise of change is an illusion and we farmers in the province are still landless, incessantly exploited by big landlords.  Even the wage levels set by the very wage board is violated as if it does not exist.  The more than hundred million peso Social Amelioration Fund (SAF) which is the collected P10 per per 50-kg produced sugar by the Bureau of Rural Workers (BRW) seemed like a myth here in the province,” said Danilo Menente, chair of KASAMA Bukidnon.

The groups said that their are campaigning for the tenancy share of 20% from 15% of the gross harvest, minimum wage P252 per day, the distribution of the Social Amelioration Bonus for sugar workers, P1.50 increase in farmgate price of a kilo of bananas, P1 increase in per kilo of abaca and the stop of military operations.

“It is very clear, the experience of Bukidnon farmers are the same with farmers from different parts of the country.  We are resolutely demanding president Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino for genuine land reform, the junking of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with ‘Reforms’ (CARPer) and the passage of House Bill 374 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB),” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General.

“Bukidnon farmers are fighting for their economic rights under the Aquino government who boast of being democratic and promised would effect fundamental change in the country.  Ironically, farmers continue to be victims of extra-judicial killings and rights abuses.  To date, 13 peasants became victims of EJK and KMP leaders continue to be targets of political persecution such as Dario Tomada, former leader of SAGUPA - SB (KMP Eastern Visayas), Darwin Liwag, Vice-chair of KASAMA - TK (KMP Southern Tagalog), Esmeraldo Bardon, chair of KMP Camarines Norte and the rest of Lumban 3 and Daet 4.  In addition, Felicidad Caparal, organizer of agri-workers arrested during the Arroyo regime is still in prison like the Morong 43 health workers,” Ramos said.

“Agrarian reform is just a dream under the Aquino government.  Filipino peasants are learned that president Aquino who is a hard-core landlord and puppet of US imperialism would not implement land reform.  He is a puppet of big landlords and the military is like mad dogs for his interest,” he added.

“Farmers nationwide are on unrest as each day the Aquino government rules, president Aquino proves himself as anti-peasant and pro-landlord.  He never promised any change particular for the Filipino peasants and worse boast of programs such as the Public-Private Partnership and his counter-insurgency program guided by the US, which are clearly contrary to the interests of peasants nationwide.  We call on farmers from different parts of the country to mobilize for genuine land reform as Bukidnon farmers have done.  We farmers have no one to rely on but our own ranks,” Ramos called. #

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