Farmers protest World Foodless Day, show CARPer
is not edible to farmers and the root cause,
alongwith landlessness, of poverty and hunger
of Filipino peasants
Farmers from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines), KMP Negros and KASAMA-TK (KMP Southern Tagalog) protested in front of the Dept. of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City corresponding the World Food Day observed globally.  The peasant groups dubbed it as World “Foodless” Day and put the blame of poverty and hunger on massive landlessness and the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with “Reforms” or CARPer.  The groups were joined by other peasant groups such as Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), Tungkong Mangga farmers, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Pamalakaya-Pilipinas, Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and supporters from Anakpawis Partylist, International League of Peoples’ Struggle-Philippines (ILPS) and NNARA-Youth.

“World Food Day in the Philippines is a World ‘Foodless’ Day’ as peasants are still landless and they are continuously displaced as landlords and landgrabbers make use of the anti-peasant provisions of CARPer,” said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson.

“We farmers from Negros are major victims of CARPer, landlords are using it to criminalize agrarian cases, accusing our leaders and members of various criminal charges,” KMP Negros spokesperson Greg Ratin said.

“CARPer on its more than 1 year of existence and 21 years of its predecessor CARP has never served the farmers of Southern Tagalog.  Worse, it is a convenient tool of landlords to keep their lands and throw peasants out of their farms,” Axel Pinpin said, KASAMA-TK Secretary-General.

The groups cooked symbols of CARPer in front of the DAR office to show that it has not worked for land reform and food security.  They said that it is not “edible” to farmers and pushed for the passage of House Bill 374 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), sponsored by Anakpawis Rep. and KMP Chair Rafael Mariano and Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Partylist, Kabataan and ACT.

Instead of CARPer, KMP and the peasant groups are promoting their campaign dubbed as “Bungkalan” (cultivation).  It is an organized effort to cultivate lands that remained idle and transformed it to highly productive agricultural lands.  Farmworkers from Hacienda Luisita and Negros were able to implement that is now estimated to cover 2,000-hectares and 6,000-hectares, respectively.

“Hacienda Luisita farmworkers under the leadership of AMBALA are able to enjoy the fruits of their labor on land.  Rice farms now reach 2,000-has., with hundreds more planted with fruits and vegetables.  This is the Genuine Land Reform we are pushing about, not the market-oriented, pro-landlord schemes of CARPer,” Flores said.

“In Negros, we were able to cultivate the lands with the massive participation of farmers who used to work on the vast sugarlands.  As the world market demand for Philippine sugar declined, mills closed down and work opportunities for the sugar farmworkers became scarce.  We have no option but to cultivate those idle and make them productive.  Now, even those not under our organization are also cultivating lands.  Landlords are now retaliating by criminalizing agrarian cases,” Ratin said.

APC and ILPS also sent their messages of support and said that the bungkalan campaign is just and historical.  It is only now, after vast lands were subjected to market-oriented sugar industry for decades, were transformed to serve the people and break out of US imperialism.

“Those who support CARPer should learn from the rich experience of farmers from Hacienda Luisita and Negros.  CARPer is a misnomer, it does not serve the interest of Filipino peasants, it is just a source of financial opportunism of pseudo-peasant groups, a milking cow of landlords and an instrument of foreign agro-corporations.  It should be junked and GARB should be passed in Congress,” said Flores.

Aquino’s denial of land reform
“Noynoy Aquino should contemplate as more and more farmers are protesting here in Manila against his neglect of the land issue.  He omitted it three times on his inaugural and SONA speech and first 100-day report,” he added.

The groups then marched towards in front of the Dept. of Agriculture and National Food Authority warehouse along Visayas avenue.  They protested against the continuing liberalization of agriculture and rice importation.

The farmers also vowed more and bigger protest actions against Aquino’s anti-peasant programs and policies such as CARPer, his proposed Public-Private Partnership Program and the continued extra-judicial killings and arrests of peasant activists.  On October 21, farmers from Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Hacienda Luisita, Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions would march towards Mendiola, Manila to call for land and justice, junking of CARPer and Stock Distribution Option (SDO). 

“Aquino should ready himself as thousands of farmers would be coming to Manila.  If he is not mentally prepared for it, he could get crazy,” Flores said.  #

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