Tarlac city execs back Luisita farm workers

TARLAC CITY, PHILIPPINES- The regional farmers group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) commend the Tarlac city council for passing a resolution rejecting the referendum or forcing the farmworkers to choose “stocks” or land distribution and supporting the clamor of distribution of Hacienda Luisita to the farmworkers.

On Resolution No. 293, adopted on July 14, 2011, the 12-member city council led by vice mayor Miguel A Tañedo, stated that though they welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the stock distribution plan (SDP) implemented in Hacienda Luisita “we view with concern the modification contained in the same decision which states that the farm worker-beneficiaries ‘shall have the option to remain as stock holders of Hacienda Luisita Inc.;” and “referendum will only obfuscate the real objective of land reform which is to give land to the tillers;”

The Tarlac city council recognized the farmworkers demand for genuine land reform and junking of the referendum. City councilor Emily L. Facunla personally delivered a copy to Ambala at their camp-out at Brgy. Balite. Councilor Facunla is the sister of councilor Abel Ladera who was killed on March 3, 2005, a supporter of the striking farmworkers and the 2nd victim of extra-judicial killings that followed the infamous “Hacienda Luisita Massacre.”

“The farmworkers are very happy with the visit of councilor Facunla, especially when she expressed support of the ‘bungkalan’ (bungkalan). She is the first government official, aside from the barangay officials, who visited the camp-out,” said Fidel Castro, Amgl vice-chairperson who is regularly staying at camp-out. Ambala who occupied the lands fenced by Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) at Brgy. Balite since July 15 is on the fifth day of preparing the land for cultivation. They have surveyed more than 10-hectares of 1-hectare parcels and used tractors to plow the land.

The group said that RCBC fenced about 184-hectares of land, planned to be converted as an industrial park for Japanese companies. Amgl said that RCBC could not purchase the land without knowing they are under dispute and added that they should resolve their problem with the Cojuangco-Aquinos and not prohibit the farmworkers who are the legitimate owners of the land. “If Ambala farmworkers do not cultivate these lands now, these would only be converted and the opportunity to produce food in Hacienda Luisita would be minimized.

The bungkalan is a historical action of the farmworkers as Hacienda Luisita lands are on the brink of being converted as what the Cojuangco-Aquinos intend to do,” Castro said. Ambala said that they are on the stage of finalizing the list of beneficiaries of the land and after doing so, they expect that the farmworkers would immediately work on their land. The group said that “bungkalan” would certainly give them source of food and livelihood, a total contrast when lands used to be cultivated with sugarcane. Amgl and Ambala said that they would lead a regional protest in Tarlac City on July 21, where at least a thousand farmworkers would come out to be joined by farmers from different provinces.

On the next day, they would proceed in Manila to file the motion for reconsideration at the Supreme Court and participate at the Inter-faith rally sponsored by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). “We invite the different sectors to witness and participate in the bungkalan. This is a historical event as these lands used to be under Spanish colonial control and Cojuangcos feudal rule for almost 50 years. This is the liberation of the land, the would eventually serve the interest of the people, not by a rich few,” Castro said. #

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