Pamalakaya (NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SMALL FISHERFOLK ORGANIZATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES)
National Secretariat Office: 18- A MABUHAY STREET, CENTRAL DISTRCIT, QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES
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Social Justice is Best Defined, Addressed and Upheld in House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill
A Position Paper Endorsing the Passage of House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB). Submitted by Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) to the House Agrarian Reform Committee on the occasion of the committee hearing on House Bill 3059 otherwise known as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB)
May 20, 2009
The 100,000 strong Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), a national federation of small fisherfolk organizations strongly endorses the passage of House Bill No. 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) authored by the late Anakpawis party list lawmaker Crispin Beltran, and co-authored by progressive party list congressmen—Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna, and Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party.
If enacted into a law, HB 3059 or GARB will be the first real landmark piece of legislation that will truly address the country’s imperative need for social justice and rural people’s emancipation.
Pamalakaya raises the following points to explain why HB 3059 or GARB is undeniably superior, politically correct, socially just and morally upright:
• One of GARB’s outstanding features is the article on scope and coverage which is largely and comprehensively tackled in Article 3, Section 5, and Letters A-K of the proposed bill. This section of HB No. 3059 suggests the intent of the authors of the bill to cover all agricultural lands to ensure a thoroughgoing agrarian reform program that will benefit our farmers, the impoverished rural people and other sectors willing to till the land and contribute for rural development and the building of a robust national economy
• The free and comprehensive land distribution program component of GARB to address social and agrarian justice is best served by covering all agricultural lands, that include hundreds of thousands of hectares leased by the state to transnational corporations, commercial farms, agricultural estates and all lands operated as cattle and livestock farms, aquaculture and pasture and other lands covered by various schemes of non-land transfer and so and so forth as clearly defined by GARB.
• GARB’s expansive coverage is a corrective measure to the successive failures of agrarian reform programs in the country which is marred, defined and oriented by bogus development blueprints, fatally flawed land reform acts and left-and-right exemptions and agrarian reform machinations. During the Martial Law era, President Ferdinand Marcos’s Presidential Decree 27 limited the program of land reform to rice and corn.
• During the Cory Aquino administration, CARP exempted vast landholdings devoted to commercial farms, livestock and poultry farms, pasteur lands and aquaculture farms from the coverage of agrarian reform program, including government lands leased to transnational groups or other state undertakings including but not limited to eco-tourism, rise of export processing zones and across-the-nation construction of industrial and commercial enclaves.
• Also during the Aquino administration, other forms of non-land transfer schemes such as Stock Distribution Option, corporate farming and other joint venture agreements were implemented to deny the distribution and physical transfer of lands to farmer beneficiaries. There were other proclamations and opinions issued by the executive department and state departments like the DoJ Opinion No.44 that further emasculated the already weak and fragile land reform program in the country.
• The narrowing coverage of land reform courtesy of various exemption schemes since the Marcos era up to the present administration best explains why agricultural lands devoted to distribution were magnanimously reduced, and that the issue of breaking land monopoly remains a fundamental task for realization because after 20 years of CARP and 14 years of Marcos PD 27, the lands remain in the hands of landed monopolies, domestic aristocrats, landed oligarchs and foreign clients of the Philippine Republic.
• On the same premise, the day-to-day and continuing left-and-right agrarian disputes being confronted by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is merely a manifestation of limited coverage of CARP and the program’s failure to expand its distribution and widen its base of land reform beneficiaries.
• Originally under CARP, the DAR and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were tasked to distribute 10 million hectares of land, but this was reduced to 8.5 million hectares because of various reasons like exemptions, retention limits and other forms of land reform evasion.
• Based on the reports of DAR and DENR, the two agencies, over the last 20 years said they were able to cover 6.5 million hectares of agricultural lands for land distribution and are set to finish the distribution of 1.2 million hectares under an extended CARP. But up to now, DAR and DENR failed to answer the regular inquiry about the issue of coverage and physical transfer.
• The 6.5 million hectares of land could have been covered by CARP, but it does not necessary mean these lands were physically transferred and that titles and proofs of ownership were transferred and assured to farmers.
• There is a need to conduct a wholesale physical inventory and performance audit of these lands which DAR and DENR claimed had been covered and distributed to farmer beneficiaries. Agrarian reform NGOs like Sentra or the Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo believed that these lands which DAR and DENR claimed had been covered and distributed are still locked in cases of agrarian disputes which DAR and DENR either failed to report or have misrepresented in their yearly accomplishment report.
• In Southern Tagalog, based on the document obtained by Sentra, from 1994 up to 2007, about 1,302,375 hectares of prime agricultural lands have been placed by DAR under conversion and such terrible act led to the massive land reform reversals with the cancellation of land titles all over the region. The agrarian reform NGO said around 173,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands in the region have been already converted for commercial purposes; leaving tens of thousands of supposed to be CARP beneficiaries landless.
• In 1993, Sentra and client peasant groups held a preliminary assessment of CARP from 1988 to 1993, and one of the striking results of program was revealed— a total of 10,958 certificate of land transfers (CLTs), 9,133 EPs and 2,303 CLOAs were cancelled by DAR covering 32, 041 hectares of prime agricultural lands affecting over 22,000 CARP beneficiaries.
• For the fisherfolk sector, HB 3059 or GARB incorporates the vast hectares of fish ponds and aquaculture farms for coverage under the proposed bill. Before HB 3059, fishponds and aqua farms are previously exempted from coverage and distribution to fisherfolk organizations and cooperatives from previous agrarian reform programs including the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) by virtue of Republic Act 7881, which is an amendment to CARL.
• At present, there are about 925,075 hectares of fish ponds and aquaculture farms all over the country currently exempted from land distribution courtesy of CARL and RA 7881. If passed into law, GARB will cover these fish culture farms and will eventually distribute these to 250,000 fish pond and aqua farm workers across the country through their organizations and cooperatives.
• HB 3059 or GARB politically and economically empowers the fish workers in fishponds and aquaculture farms. The fisherfolk will enjoy the environment of cooperativization, cultivation and management of these fishponds and aqua farms through their organizations and cooperatives.
• These fishponds and aqua farms are in the hands of fishpond landlords, local and foreign aquaculture corporations. Transnational groups such as Dole Philippines maintains 663 hectares of aqua farms and prawn farms in Mindanao, as well as Victorias Milling Corporation (500 hectares), San Miguel Corporation (50 hectares as of 2000) and other big landlords and agro-business groups in Bulacan, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Panay and Mindanao Islands.
• Fishponds and aqua farms which cater mainly for export market are covered by fishpond lease agreement or FLA. These fishponds and aqua farms which are set up in converted agricultural lands, rivers, lakes, gulfs and bays and in high seas are leased with the government for a period of 10 years, 25 years and 50 years, which can be negotiated for extension for another 25, 50 or 75 years as in the case of Dole Philippines in Mindanao.
• When Congress passed RA 7881 as an amendment to CARL, Pamalakaya monitored cases of conversion cases where sugar barons in Negros Occidental and big landlords in other provinces across the country converted their sugar estate landholdings to fish ponds and prawn farms to spoil any attempt to cover their landholdings from CARP or from any agrarian reform program.
• HB 3059 or GARB assures fishpond and aquaculture workers the enjoyment of the fruits of their labor, guarantees their security of tenure, promotes higher wages and decent working conditions, which are not guaranteed or upheld by CARP and all the agrarian reform programs before it.
• CARP’s comprehensive failures kept our poor fish workers in fish ponds and aquaculture farms like slaves. They are kept underpaid and overworked workers in labor concentration camp-like fishponds, aquaculture farms and corporate fishpens all over the country, receiving P 50- to P 120 a day for their usual 8- 12-hour per day work in fish farms.
• If GARB is passed and these aqua farms are awarded to fisherfolk beneficiaries through their associations and cooperatives, 65 percent to 85 percent of the net income in aqua farms will go to aquaculture workers.
• As of now, the present sharing system in aqua farms and fishponds covering 125 to 200 hectare is that 65 percent to 75 percent goes to the aqua farm owner, the caretaker gets P 3,000 and 25 percent of the net income, and the guard gets P 2,000 and 5 percent of the net income. The fish workers are not given any share from the net income and merely receive a measly pay of P 200 per day.
• In aqua farms and fishponds measuring 12 hectares, the owner gets 75 percent to 85 percent of the net income, the caretaker and the guard gets P 1,500 monthly and additional 5 percent of the net income each, while fish workers merely receive P 120/per day for their more than 8 hour work. The passage of GARB will liberate the fish workers numbering about 250,000 from this exploitative set up and will benefit 1.5 million people directly and indirectly dependent to aquaculture and fish farming.
• In the same vein, HB 3059 or GARB will discourage the proliferation of fish pond lease agreements and foreshore land lease agreements which are effectively used by big aqua farm and fishpond owners and fish culture operators to acquire additional land holdings for export production of fishery products, or to classify fishing areas for privatization and conversion of fishing grounds to other purposes like industrial, commercial and eco-tourism.
• Under HB 3059 or GARB, these former parts of fishing areas like foreshore lands will be restored back to their productive states as parts of sound marine environment and will restrain big interests in fish culture industry to convert more agricultural lands, public lands and mangrove areas to aqua farms and the likes.
There is an imperative need to address the farmers and the rural people’s quest for genuine agrarian reform program, and make social justice a real thing of the near future to correct the historical injustice of the past and the present. The enactment or passage of HB 3059 or GARB is the best way to start this long and enduring process of breathing life to a true-blue and emancipative agrarian reform justice. #