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(UPDATE)Southern Tagalog farmers say new land reform law will bring catastrophes to land tillers

by Axel Pinpin, contributor

Manila, Philippines – The militant KASAMA-TK (Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan) expressed dismay over the extension of 20-year old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and warned of massive re-concentration of land to the hands of big landlords and foreign companies in the country.

“In the midst of destruction and damaged brought by typhoon Ondoy to the agriculture sector in the region, we should gear for more catastrophic events that will be brought by CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPER),” Imelda Lacandazo, spokesperson of KASAMA-TK said during a picket-protest in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City where more than a hundred of farmers staged a die-in to dramatized their condition.

The Provincial Agriculture Office in Laguna reported that 7,300 hectares of rice field were submerged during the height of flood caused by the overflowing of Laguna Lake that leads to a 21% reduction of the total production of rice in the province.
Lacandazo noted that even before the typhoon, rice fields in Laguna were already flooded leaving the farmers in destitute after the cropping season.

According to the group, this situation is aggravated by high land rental and usury, low wages of farm workers and low-prices of agricultural produce.

Earlier, the group picketed in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources while their leaders are presenting the group’s demand in a dialogue with Sec. Lito Atienza. They are pressing the DENR to stop the construction of Laiban Dam in Tanay, Rizal saying that it will displace indigenous people in nine communities.

The group is also calling to immediately discontinue the R1 Coastal Road Extension Project in Bacoor, Cavite adding that 100,000 families will lost their houses and source of livelihood.

“Kailan pa matututo ang gubyerno sa mga mapangwasak nilang proyekto? Kitang-kita naman na kung hindi sa mga diumano’y proyektong pangkaunlaran ng gubyerno, hindi sana natin sasapitin ang mga ganitong kalamidad,” Pedro Gonzales, secretary general of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya in Southern Tagalog (PAMALAKAYA-TK) stated in his speech during the rally.

Gonzales also blamed the Laguna Lake Development Authority for its negligence in controlling the structures built along the shore of the lake that caused flooding in the nearby communities.

The leaders of KASAMA-TK and their provincial chapters held a dialogue with the secretary of DAR to discuss several agrarian disputes in the Southern Tagalog region.

The agrarian cases, according to Lacandazo, have long been keeping the farmers landless in spite of the implementation of the bogus CARP. She mentioned the Hacienda Yulo in Laguna, Camella Homes owned by Manny Villar in Batangas and Ayala Properties in Cavite among others.

“The conditions of the farmers are miserable, with the CARPER now signed into RA 9700, it will be wretched,” the group added.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 calamity farmer victims in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog region on Tuesday night are gearing up for a rural camp-out at the national office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to press their 10-point immediate demand to Malacanang, the DAR and the Department of Agriculture, which they argued will address the rural crisis worsened by storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng.

In a joint press statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Anakpawis party list, the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) will present the set of demands on the eve of their long march from DAR to Malacanang on Oct.21 dubbed as Farmers’ March for Land, Justice and Rehabilitation”

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said the devastating impact of typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng is best addressed by the following measures:

1. Free distribution of land to landless and land lacking farmers all over the country. In particular, farmers from Central Luzon represented by AMGL demanded the immediate and unconditional free distribution of 375 hectares of land in San Miguel, Bulacan allegedly landgrabbed by Rep. Luis Villafuerte, the 3,100 hectares of prime agricultural lands inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation and the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of the late President Corazon Aquino in Tarlac province.

In Southern Tagalog, peasant groups demanded the free distribution of all agricultural lands owned and controlled by rich families like the Ayalas and the Yulos in the region. Kasama-TK also pressed the government to stop all Calabarzon projects in Southern Tagalog, including the controversial Laiban dam project.

2. Support housing projects for farmers and rural people whose homes were destroyed or uprooted at the height of tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng.
3. Rehabilitation of farms and granting of seeds and seedlings for rice, corn, vegetables and d other farm crops
4. Financial grant of about P 10,000 to P 15,000 per hectare
5. Zero interest credit line to the Land Bank of the Philippines amounting to P 10,000 to
P 15,000 per hectare
6. Provisions for farm implements such as tractors, hand tractors and carabaos.
7. Setting up of potable water supply.
8. Moratorium on irrigation fees imposed by the National Irrigation Authority and private irrigation systems.
9. Livelihood to rural people
10. Automatic repudiation of farm debts, if not moratorium in payment of principals and interests on acquired loans from landlords and local financial institutions. (With reports from Roy Morilla and Bb.Joyce Cabral

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