$ 1- B food project to spur landgrabbing across-the-nation, farmer groups say
Four of the country’s biggest rural-based groups—the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the peasant women federation Amihan and the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) on Tuesday said the ambitious $ 1 billion food joint project of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and Malaysia’s Kuok Group will spur massive landgrabbing in the countryside at the expense of small farmers across-the-country.
“This is first-rate landgrabbing,” the four groups said in a press statement. “This is sell-out and mass murder of peasant land rights to the highest order,” the four groups added.
The Philippine government pledged more than one million hectares of prime agricultural lands for this project, of which 100,000 hectares have been identified as Priority 1 areas in Luzon and Mindanao and another 480,000 hectares of Priority 2 areas for recommendation to San Miguel and Kuok.
Priority Areas 1 include the provinces of Mt. Province, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Sarangani, while Priority Areas 2 is consist of the provinces of Isabela, Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Negros Oriental, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Sultan Kudarat and Surigao del Sur.
To kick off with the project, SMC and Kuok agreed with the government to start the project within the first half of 2009 in some 18,494 hectares of logged over areas in Davao del Norte. The joint project dubbed “Feeding the Future” will plant rice, sugar, corn, vegetables as well as production of meat and dairy products.
KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said the inclusion of rice in the program was just a deodorizer or part of the publicity blitzkrieg so the project would be accepted by farmers and the Filipino public.
“The real intention is to landgrab and appropriate agricultural lands for exports. This Feeding the Future Project is nothing but a recipe for landlessness, destruction and all-time-high exploitation,” Ramos added.
For his part Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap dismissed the Palace-backed SMC-Kuok joint project as treason to the highest level.
“Whether Malacañang admits it or not, the joint SM-Kuko food venture is a spin off the 20-year old bankrupt CARP where multinational and foreign agro-business corporations are allowed to control vas tracts of land for a lifetime through lease, management, grower or service contracts,” said Hicap.
The Pamalakaya leader insisted that under the Feeding the Future Project the national government will allow SMC and Kuok to appropriate over 1 million hectares of prime agricultural lands through different schemes like lease, management and contract growing for 25 years and renewable for another 25 years.
“This $ 1-B SMC-Kuok joint project is a lifetime winner take all bonanza awarded by the Macapagal-Arroyo government to perennial landgrabbers and land monopolies. This is absolutely anti-farmer, pro-big landlord and big business groups, anti-agrarian reform and anti-environment,” added Hicap.
According to KMP and Pamalakaya, the enactment of House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran and co-authored by his successor Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela Party list Reps. Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan will stop the government from selling and disposing lands to private and land monopoly interests.
Pamalakaya and KMP also said the passage of GARB or HB 3059 will provide the legal power to millions of Filipino farmers to demand land distribution for free to landless, land-lacking and willing-to-till peasants all over the country.
“Legally, politically and morally speaking, the passage of GARB will stop the government from selling, leasing and disposing agricultural lands to big time land grabbers and super-profit oriented agro business corporations. So it is legally, politically and morally necessary for Congress to seal the approval of the progressive agrarian reform bill,” both groups added.
KMP and Pamalakaya said the enactment of GARB will also allow the national government to absorb between 10 million to 12 million jobless people all over the country because of free land distribution that would be accompanied by robust rural support infrastructures in the countryside which would absorb unemployed Filipinos.
They said GARB’s political and economic capacity to create jobs is very superior and would spur rural and urban development with millions of the country’s labor force being absorbed by the promising and vibrant economic activity in rural areas.
Pamalakaya said the slowdown that started in 2008 will be carried through in 2009, unless the government makes radical decisions for radical reforms to arrest the rising tide of economic distress in the country.
GARB which critics said as confiscatory and unconstitutional, seeks to cover all agricultural lands, including those re-classified and exempted agricultural lands and public lands sold or leased by the government to agribusiness groups and foreign corporations.
The covered lands will be nationalized and distributed for free to landless, land lacking and willing-to-till farmers across the country with enough guarantees and support subsidies to make agricultural more productive and responsive to the needs of producers and the Filipino public.
“The moribund, illusion-bred and loopholes-peppered CARP should be thrown to the dustbin of history. In the next six months, the legislation and the debates should now focus on GARB, nothing more, nothing less,” said Pamalakaya and KMP.
Both groups said GARB with all its guaranteed protection rights including security of tenure will further reactivate the economy and create more secure and stable jobs to millions of farmers in the country.
“GARB will galvanize rural economic activity that would spill over the urban areas and provide decent paying jobs to millions of jobless folks in towns and cities. If Congress will give GARB a chance, it will show the road to genuine development and prosperity, unlike CARP which champions the cause of landlords and their closet allies within the ranks of pseudo farmer groups and non-government organizations. CARP also legalizes landgrabbing spree which is very evident in the SMC-Kuok bogus food project,” KMP and Pamalakaya added. #