Tag Archives: landgrabbing

Farmers to kick off long march to foil last ditch on Chacha

By Chocolate Moose Fernandez, Sugar Hicap and Billy Javier Reyes

Manila, Philippines- Touted as the first in Philippine history and the first political blockbuster of 2010, farmers from all over Mindanao, Panay and Negros islands, Central and Eastern Visayas, Bicol and the Southern Tagalog regions in the South, and peasants from North– Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions will march from their respective point of origins to the National Capital Region from January 12-22 to frustrate the last ditch efforts of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to push Charter Change.

Organizers of the 10-day Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan led by the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list said thousands of farmer marchers from Mindanao, Panay, Negros, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas, representing the South wing will merge with marchers from Bicol and Southern Tagalog provinces on their way to Manila, while marchers from Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon representing the North wing will converge in Hacienda Luisita park in Tarlac City on their way to the National Capital Region.

“Chacha under a corrupt, brutal and reactionary government is extremely dangerous. We don’t need Chacha in whatever form or mode. What we want is land and justice to victims of state repression. What we want is an end to all forms of landgrabbing and land reconcentration. What we want is for the Cojuangco-Aquino landlord clan in Tarlac to give up their illegal and immoral claim on Hacienda Luisita and let the farmworkers own the land and enjoy the fruits of their labor,” the KMP and Anakpawis party list said in a joint statement.

“The Chacha which Mrs. Arroyo has in mind is meant to perpetuate herself to power either as an hold over president or Prime Minister and allow the grand sell out of Philippine patrimony through 100 percent foreign ownership of land,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general.

Early this week, President Arroyo called her staunch allies in Congress to pass House Bill No. 6975 that seeks to implement the concurrent resolutions of the House and the Senate calling for a convention to amend the 1987 Charter. But KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said a sinister agenda and a cruel intention was behind the fresh moves of Malacanang and the President’s allies in pushing for Charter Change.

Ramos supported the statement issued by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes that President Arroyo wants Con-con to effect charter change with the election of delegates by October this year, because by that time Mrs. Arroyo, who is running unopposed in the second district of Pampanga, would be the district’s congresswoman, which would enable her to run for prime minister once her allies and other pro-Chacha congressmen decides to change the form of government from presidential to parliament.

For her part, Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said the Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para Sa Lupa at Katarungan will coincide with the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre and will expose agrarian related issues and problems nationwide involving big landlords like the Cojuangco-Aquino family in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco in Negros island and Hacienda Isabel and San Antonio in Isabela, the Calabarzon motivated -Ayala landgrabbing activities in Southern Tagalog to mention a few.

“Land monopoly in the country has further aggravated and intensified the exploitation of our farmers. Imagine, because of landlessness, they are perennially subjected to pay 50 percent, or 1/3 or 1/4 of their gross harvest as land rent. But only 19 to 21 percent of the total produce goes to farmers. This sorry state of agrarian reform in the country will be vividly depicted during the 10-day farmers’ march from all over the country,” Clemente added.

The Anakpawis official said the 10-day Lakbayan will also engage in mobile dissemination and propaganda campaign about the sorry condition of farm workers all over the country. She said daily income of rice farmers for the entire cropping season ranges from P 23 to P 40 per day.

Clemente said the family of Liberal Party presidential standard bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III failed to address and improve the lives of Luisita workers over the last three to four decades. According to her, daily take home pay of every farm worker in Hacienda Luisita is P 9.50, which is not even enough to buy a half kilo of NFA rice.

On the other hand, KMP’s Ramos said in defense of their rights to land in pursuit of social justice, farmers are perpetually subjected to various forms of human rights violations, militarization and repression.

Latest data from Karapatan human rights group revealed that 561 farmers were victims of extrajudicial killings, 119 of them were leaders and members of KMP, while scores of internally displaced peasants due to all-out war, militarization and massacre; and cases of abducted farmers and falsely charged rural activists continue to flood the monitoring bulletins of human rights groups and the concerned public. #

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Landlessness and Peasant Woes: A Lingering Calamity

IBON Features / October 2009

Disaster or no disaster, this year’s Peasant Month again finds the Filipino farmer still deep in distress from the effects of unprecedented land-use conversion, land monopoly, high rent, usury and low wages, lack of government support and a litany of social injustices

By Xandra Bisenio

IBON Features—Recent tropical storms Ondoy and Pepeng reportedly caused P20 billion worth of damages to agriculture and destroyed crops amounting to P11 billion. But disaster or no disaster, this year’s Peasant Month again finds the Filipino farmer still deep in distress from the effects of unprecedented land-use conversion, land monopoly, high rent, usury and low wages, lack of government support and a litany of social injustices—or the failure that was the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The CARP Extended with Reforms or CARPER, which Congess passed this year, will be hounding the peasantry for another five years as it retains the original CARP’s pro-landlord provisions.

Unprecedented land use conversion
The conversion of agricultural lands to commercial use has left farmers only poorer and with little or no land to till. Because of land use conversions (LUCs), farm area fell by 304,078 hectares between 1991 and 2002. Under the Arroyo administration, more than 20,000 hectares of agricultural lands awarded to farmers outside Metro Manila have been canceled, displacing more than 10,000 farmer families. In 1995, a total of 2,780 emancipation patents (EPs) and certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) covering 16, 213.36 hectares awarded to peasants were canceled mostly due to LUCs. In December 2006, the number ballooned to 108,141 EPs/ CLOAs canceled, covering 204,579 hectares.

No amount of lip service by the Arroyo administration calling for any moratorium can possibly recall these cases of extensive land use conversion: In 2007, through Executive Order 647, 21 barangays of the municipality of Nasugbu, Batangas covering 14,000 hectares of rice lands, sugar farms and coastal areas were declared as a major tourism destination and part of the Tourism Economic Zone. Last year, by virtue of DOJ Opinion No. 44, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) approved 22,900.34 hectares of agricultural lands for exemption from CARP coverage in the Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions for conversion to either residential or commercial use. Also last year, presidential brother-in-law Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo pushed for the conversion of his family’s 157-hectare Hacienda Bacan into agro-industrial uses, particularly for the production of ethanol. These cases of LUCs alone already cover 37,057 hectares of farmlands, surpassing 11,721 hectares approved for LUC during the Estrada administration and 19, 726.53 hectares under Ramos.

Earlier cases of farmlands converted for commercial, residential and eco-tourism ventures have also led to CLOA cancellations and the eviction of hundreds of peasant families such as the First Cavite Industrial Estate by Marubeni Corporation of Japan involving 232 hectares; Hacienda Looc in Batangas with 8,650 hectares, 400 hectares in Aplaya Laiya, Batangas and 218 hectares in Silang and Dasmarinas, Cavite.

Land monopoly fortified
While government claims that the CARP has successfully reached 80% of its reduced scope, genuine land distribution remains elusive. Only 1% of the entire Philippine population still owns almost 1/5 of the country’s total agricultural lands while 2 million farmers are left to divide another 1/5 among themselves.

Land reform programs have been slow to acquire most of privately owned-land, including commercial farms and plantations. According to Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, only 1.9 million hectares out of 6.2 million hectares of distributed agricultural lands from 1988 to present were private. Still, data from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2008 shows that the remaining 1.2 million hectares of private agricultural lands for distribution under CARP’s Compulsory Acquisition actually constitutes the largest percentage of the total remaining undistributed land at 94 percent. Meanwhile, 82% of the supposedly distributed agricultural lands still have pending cases and have not yet been physically distributed. It should also be noted that the scope of CARP had actually been reduced from 10.3 million hectares in 1988 to only 8.1 million hectares.

The Voluntary Land Transfer (VLT) scheme has also been proven to undermine genuine land distribution, as DAR overseers attest that a huge 70% of VLTs involved landlords evading CARP coverage. Though DAR data shows the VLT mode’s accomplishment to have soared to 248% this year, its character of direct land transfer from landlords to farmers with minimal government intervention allowed relatives to be named as beneficiaries; DAR reports were tampered with to count ordinary, non-CARP land sales as CARP accomplishments and ‘joint ownership’ arrangements between landlords, agribusinesses and farmers saw the latter at the losing end. The World Bank’s concrete recommendation of completing CARP through a market-assisted land reform towards privatizing communal lands and promoting land markets, suits globalization and endorses VLTs, with limited government subsidy and assistance from international financial institutions. Thus, VLT and the voluntary offer to sell (VOS) modes are encouraged by DAR more than it perseveres in Compulsory Acquisition.

It is therefore not surprising that the landscape of land ownership in the Philippines has barely changed. In fact, big landlords remain dominant around the country, such as Danding Cojuangco Jr. owning 30,000 hectares in Negros, Isabela, Cagayan, Davao del Sur, Palawan and Cotobato; the Cojuangcos, Faustino Dy and Juan Ponce Enrile sharing 13,085 hectares in Iligan, Isabela; the Zobel-Ayalas with more than 12,000 hectares of land in Calatagan, Batangas and the Floreindo Family with 11,048 hectares in Davao and Davao del Norte.

Unjust rent, low wages and usury
Apart from the ages-old miserable working conditions of Filipino peasants prevalent in foreign and local agribusinesses, haciendas and farms, feudal rent, low wages and usury continue to immiserate the Filipino peasant.

The 60-40 to 10-90 distribution of gross harvest favorable to landlords remains intact. In the Southern Tagalog and Eastern Visayas , studies by farmers’ groups KASAMA-TK and SAGUPA-SB show that land tillers still receive a low 19%-21% of the gross sales of harvested palay.

The actual amount peasants earn fall way below the agricultural daily minimum wages that range from P151 to P212 nationwide: P20 per day in Negros, P50 in Samar and P69 in Cagayan Valley . In the 6,000-hectare sugar lands of Hacienda Luisita, farm workers receive a measly weekly pay of P9.50, in gross violation of the P273 daily wage set by the Regional Wage Board (RWB). In the sugar plantations of Batangas, over 50,000 agricultural workers receive P35 to P150 per day, still below the P211 set by the RWB. In the sugar lands of Negros where the RWB set wages at P203 per day, farm workers receive only P30 to P200 per day. In Far South Mindanao, where the RWB prescribed P205 per day for wages, farm workers get only P80 to P130 daily.

Extreme poverty compels farmers to usury, where they are obliged to pay high interest rates for credit. It ranges from 15%-35% per cropping season up to anywhere between 100%-300% per harvest and 400% per year, plus peripheral favors loan sharks demand from farmers.

Lack of support
That Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) have not progressed both in scope and in terms of support received demonstrates how CARP is bound to fail even despite its five-year extension. Chosen by government to supposedly focus CARP funds on, in these barangays, agribusiness companies engage Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) in contract growing, joint venture or lease arrangements for the production of crops for export. These were supposed to showcase the success of CARP.

However, only 3 out of 10 CARP beneficiaries are covered by 1,959 ARCs. ARCs also suffer from lack of government support. Only 7.9 out of 10 ARCs or 655,437 beneficiaries have received official development assistance. Most of these beneficiaries reportedly have pending land disputes, hinting that despite the hype, the farmers have not benefited substantially at all.

The CARP itself suffers from lack of support. According to a German Technical Assistance (GTZ)-commissioned review of the CARP in 2007, CARP lacked the support services and credit that farmer beneficiaries needed to prosper. The study revealed DAR’s admission “that about 3 million out of the 4 million farmer-beneficiaries did not receive any support services.” The GTZ further exposed that “only 50% of the required funding for CARP was allotted by government” and “60% of the funds allotted went mainly to personnel salaries”. This is amid the decline of the share of land distribution in the national budget from 8% in 2004 to merely 3% in 2009.

CARPER, another tropical depression?
For Filipino farmers, the CARPER is another storm to be weathered, a strengthening of the anti-peasant CARP. Under it there is no intention to plan agriculture and boost local productivity primarily to meet the people’s basic needs. It is seen to accelerate the maximization of ARCs for the benefit of big local and foreign agribusinesses, as well as perceived cronies of the administration.

In the wake of the recent typhoons, the Philippine Forest Corporation cited that the massive plantation of biofuel source jatropha provides sustainable income for small farmers. Note that of the 375,091 hectares planted to jatropha, 10,000 have been leased to Teves Co. owned by the brother of close Arroyo ally and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, and 7,450 hectares were committed in a joint venture with the local government of Camarines Sur headed by the son of another Arroyo ally Cong. Luis Villafuerte, who has recently advanced in grabbing 375 hectares of farmlands in San Miguel Bulacan for commercial development.

This October, no less than the US Secretary of Agriculture and 20 American agribusiness firms are coming to the Philippines in a “mission” to form partnerships with 200 local companies in in accordance with the US Agricultural Trade and Assistance Act. In July, South Korean Firm Jeonnam Feedstock Ltd has leased 94,000 hectares of farmland in Mindoro to grow animal feeds.

According to the KMP, President Arroyo is planning to sell 3 million hectares to foreign agro-corporations, reserving 1 million hectares for the Cojuangco-Kuok Group partnership, another for China-firm Fuhua Co., a hybrid rice corporation, 40,000 hectares to the Agriculture Department of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (ADGZAR) of China, 200,000 hectares to the Beijing Hualian Group (BHG) of China, and 60,000 hectares to the Pacific Bio-Fields Corp. of Japan.

Pushing the peasantry deeper in poverty
These ventures are seen to worsen the problems in the production of rice, vegetable and livestock industry brought about by the influx of imported agricultural products. Although some groups request for exemption, that the Philippines is party to the Asian Free Trade Agreement which will soon relax tariffs on imports including agricultural products is no consolation. The country is now the world’s no. 1 rice importer, pushing farmers and producers into deeper debt and poverty. From 2001 to 2008, farmgate prices of rice increased by only P6 per kg, from P8.17 to P14.13 per kg, while the price of rice has hiked by P12, from P17.54 to P29.38. Local production’s share to the country’s gross supply decreased from 74%to 70% while the share of imported rice increased significantly from 7% to 16 percent.

Weathering the storm
The implementers of the failed CARP still owe the Filipino people, especially the farmers, an accounting of the P162 billion allocated for the program that ran for 20 years. There is reason to believe that the P150 billion-budget allocated for the program’s 5-year extension may end up being used to further vested landlord and business interests.

Similar to the devastation suffered by the people on the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng, the hardships imposed by anti-peasant programs, whether it be the CARP or its extended version, are borne out of a system plagued with indifference to the needs and aspirations of the people. As ordinary Filipinos are helping one another in the difficult process of rising up from the destruction caused by the super-typhoons, it is becoming ever clearer that the realization of genuine agrarian reform lies in the relentless struggle of the Filipino peasants. IBON Features (Based on “An Imperative for Genuine Agrarian Reform” IBON Special Release, June 2009)

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UN told: Climate policies should be responsive

UN told: Climate policies should be responsive
By Vince Cinches in Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand- Philippine based rural groups under the People’s Action on Climate Change appealed to officials of the United Nations, who are gathering here for the intersessional conference to combat global warming, to ensure that genuine and binding climate policies – that is responsive to rural people’s needs and rights.

In a joint statement signed by leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Amihan peasant women federation, the PACC asserted that climate change is not only jeopardizing the rural people’s future, but the advocacy is being used by multi-national and trans-national corporations (TNCs) who are the main contributors to global warming to rake in more profit from our miseries. ” It is a known fact that these climate culprits are the main reason why we are experiencing massive hunger and poverty is continuing with its plunder and environmental destruction in an unprecedented manner,” according to PACC statement furnished to The Pamalakaya Times.

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the UN-IPCC unprecedented concentration of global warming gasses is causing the decline of our harvest.

“It is a known fact, that even without vast tracks of agricultural lands around the world are being controlled and converted by plunderers into cash-crop plantations such as biofuels and other corporate schemes that alienates and forcibly driving us out from land,” the PACC said.

The PACC said large tracts of forests have been lost in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia due to conversion of forests to oil-alm plantations for biofuels export. This drive for the export market makes countries like the Philippines to embark more biofuel plantations at the expense of food production and to the detriment of farmers and the environment. The destruction of the world’s forests also lead to the conversion of agricultural plantations for export oriented crops, farms fo cattle raising and monoculture tree plantations.

” It is alarming that these land grabbers and climate culprits are talking about climate change as another scheme to strengthen their hold over land resources. Also, upland farmers and indigenous peoples that depend on the forests are displaced. Further defeating any moves of the grass roots for food security and healthy environment,” said PACC signatory and KMP national auditor Antonio Flores.

Flores who represented the farmer group in the parallel conference sponsored by the PACC and the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) said the land is being degraded with the use of agrochemical products lik pesticides and fertilizer. These chemicals run on fossil fuels largely contributing to the GHG emissions and increasing the threats to our lives and livelihoods. “The TNCs are robbing us of our lands, our health, our lives and the future of our generations,” ina statement read before hundreds of environmental activists from countries in Asia and the Pacific.

Amihan spokesperon Zen Zoriano said rural groups from all over South East Asia are urging UN and other country representatives to make the ongoing UNFCCC intersessional meeting here in Bangkok becoming more responsive and should lead to an international agreement that will genuinely address climate change and environmental degradation in the region.

“UN should not entertain false solutions that pushes business as usual scenario and rescind any agreements that promotes the control of large corporations on our lands and resources, the degradation of our environment and impede the genuine development of our nations. Biofuels, land use conversion, deforestation, use of agrochemicals and other anti-people and anti-environment practices that do not address the problems of climate change should be rejected,” Soriano said.

PACC said climate negotiation should always put first the needs and rights of poor people like the farmers in Southeast Asia and not the interest of northern rich countries and their big business. National governments of third world countries should learn from its experience in pursuing globalization policies like liberalizing and privatizing our land does not lead to economic development but widespread poverty and devastated environment. #

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House probe on Rep. Luis Villafuerte’s landgrabbing in Bulacan pressed

House probe on Rep. Luis Villafuerte’s landgrabbing in Bulacan pressed

Farmer groups on Friday urged the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged involvement of Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte on landgrabbing case involving 375 hectares of agricultural lands in municipalities of San Miguel and Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan province.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), and farmer groups Lingap Magsasaka and the Upland Farmers Association asked House Speaker Prospero Nograles to designate the appropriate house committees to probe Rep. Villafuerte, whom they accused of conniving with the officials of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Region III in acquiring the lands previously awarded.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said the landgrabbing escapade of Rep. Villafuerte violated the land rights of some 200 farmer beneficiaries or around 1,000 farmers in two towns of Bulacan.

“Speaker Nograles should look into this crime of landgrabbing perpetrated by one of the staunch allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Ramos said.

“Rep. Villafuerte, the despotic landlord from Bicol expanded the tentacle of his landgrabbing escapade in Bulacan. This is a political reward to him for his untainted loyalty and dedication to the ruling syndicate in Malacañang,” said Ramos.

The KMP leader further asserted that House Speaker Nograles is legally, morally and politically obliged to lead the House of Representatives to investigate one of their peers who is implicated in the one of the biggest agrarian crimes of the millennium. “This is a make or break situation here for the entire House leadership,” Ramo said.

Villafuerte, former President of the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) is a close ally of President Arroyo. He led other pro-Arroyo congressmen in crushing the impeachment complaints filed against the President, and initially sponsored the Charter Change resolution seeking to convene both houses into a Constituent Assembly, which critics said was a ploy to extend the term of President Arroyo beyond 2010.

The KMP said the 200 farmer beneficiaries are holders of Emancipation Patents (EPs), Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and Certificate of Land Transfers (CLTs) and have been tilling the 375 hectare land since 1963.

The group leaned that on March 2, 2009, DAR Region III issued an exemption order canceling all land titled distributed to farmer beneficiaries because of their “failure” to develop the awarded lands for agricultural production, which the beneficiaries denied.

“What failures the DAR Region III officials were talking about? There is no truth to DAR allegations that farmer beneficiaries re-missed their work to develop the lands awarded to them. That’s one big baloney, a hoax meant to inflict agrarian reform reversals on farmers. The allegations were orchestrated by DAR to justify the landgrabbing spree of Rep. Villafuerte,” asked KMP.

“The regional office of DAR made this sweeping cancellation of land titles to allow Rep. Villafuerte to declare the 375-hectare land as his private property. This is very, very unfair, this is injustice to the highest order to all farmer beneficiaries,” the KMP said.

KMP said Rep. Villafuerte has employed the services of members of the Scout Ranger of the 56th Infantry Batallion who joined the congressman’s private army in harassing farmer beneficiaries.

The peasant group said the intimidating presence of members of Army and Villafuerte’s armed goons prevented farmers from attending their farm lots inside the 375 hectare agricultural land that encompassed the barrios of Malapad na Parang, Sibul and Calumpang in San Miguel, and barrios Durumugan and Kalawakan ng Bayan in Doña Trinidad Remedios.

Reports reaching the KMP national office in Quezon City also revealed that Rep. Villafuerte plans to put up a mango farm and several fishponds inside the sprawling 375 hectares of agricultural lands. The lawmaker also intends to raise bamboo and malunggay, and build housing units, which the group theorized as parts of the eco-tourism and agribusiness projects envisioned by the Camarines Sur solon. #

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Fishers to pit own SONA vs. GMA SONA

Fishers to pit own SONA vs. GMA SONA

The chairperson of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday announced it would have its own State of the Nation Address (SONA) ahead of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s SONA on July 27.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the fisherfolk alternative SONA to be held in UP Diliman on July 20 would be billed as “Like Fishes Over Troubled Waters”, which will be co-sponsored by Anakpawis party list.

He said fisherfolk resource persons would discuss disturbing trends in local fisheries like the across-the-country sell out of coastal communities to foreign investors, and left and right lease of public lands and foreshore land areas to big corporations abroad.

Hicap announced the schedule of its own SONA a day after Presidential Chief of Staff and former AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr. revealed that the President’s SONA on July 27 would deal largely on the infrastructure accomplishments of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration since last year.

Esperon, who is tasked to monitor the implementation of government infrastructure projects, last week, said that 38 infrastructure projects are already completed and 37 more projects are set to be finished by the end of the year. He said the funding for these projects are complete or are in place.

“It is going to be a battle of SONAs. But our SONA is based on truth and vast experience of ordinary, yet struggling coastal people in fishing communities. We will flood and deluge President Arroyo with fishery facts and figures that will further expose her crimes against the fisherfolk and the Filipino public in general,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said problems concerning the massive privatization and conversion of coastal communities will be highlighted by stories of reclamation in Laguna Lake, Manila Bay, Cordova reclamation and South Reclamation Project in Cebu province. Hicap said the phenomenon of offshore mining in Cebu, Bohol, Antique, Palawan and Ragay Gulf will also be tackled during the fisherfolk SONA.

Hicap said the forum aptly billed “Like Fishes Over Troubled Waters” will also discuss the implications of bilateral agreements the Arroyo government entered with foreign states like the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa), the RP-EU Partnership and Cooperation Pact, the forthcoming RP-US Free Trade Agreement, the RP-China Agreement and other economic deals the government recently clinched with Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Brazil.

Hicap said these agreements are closely linked or attributed to the moves of Malacañang and allies in the House of Representatives that seek to convene Congress into a Constituent Assembly to revise the 1987 Constitution and lift the ban on 100 foreign ownership of land, aside from allowing President Arroyo to extend her stay in power.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap said around 200 fisherfolk leaders from the provinces of Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon, all in Southern Tagalog Region, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales in Central Luzon, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes all in Bicol region and Cebu, Bohol and Negros Occidental.

For his part, Pamalakaya vice-chair for Luzon Salvador France said, the alternative SONA will also launch the group’s campaign for the P 32-billion oil and production subsidy to small fisherfolk.

France said the fighting demand of the small fisherfolk for monthly production subsidy to arrest the uncontrollable hikes in the prices of petroleum products and the global economic and financial crisis is long overdue.

He recalled that the demand for production subsidy was submitted to the office Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap on July 2008. France said the demand which was written in two-page letter had been in the office of agriculture secretary, but Secretary Yap is not doing his homework.

The main purpose of the P 32-billion production subsidy is to keep the wheel of production in the fisheries sector in the Philippines moving, because it is currently battered by high prices of oil products and skyrocketing prices of fishing gears and equipments.

Under the annual P 32-billion production subsidy for the fisheries sector proposed by Pamalakaya, all fishermen who own a small motorized banca will receive a minimum P 4,500 monthly oil subsidy, while those who operate non-motorized banca will receive P 2,000 monthly production subsidy.

According to Pamalakaya, the P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. It said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy for 630,000 non-motorized fishing boats operators across the country will cost the national government some of P1.3 billion per month or roughly
P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for a little over small fishermen will cost he government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

The group said 100 percent of the production subsidy for fisherfolk operators of small fishing boats will go to oil, while around 50 percent of the proposed subsidy for owners of non-motorized fishing boats will go to gas subsidy, while the rest will go to other production and food needs of small fishermen.

Pamalakaya said the production subsidies for small fishermen could be addressed by immediately and indefinitely suspending the annual payments of foreign and domestic debts that eats up more than one-third of the annual national budget.

It said the proposed fishery production subsidy program is about 10 percent of the national government’s allotment to debt servicing. It would be better if we suspend if not totally stop paying these fraudulent loans acquired and accumulated by the previous and present administrations for their own corruption purposes. #

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Aurora’s ecozone plan, a reward to Angaras for licking GMA’s boots, group says

Aurora’s ecozone plan, a reward to Angaras for licking GMA’s boots, group says

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Tuesday said the controversial 500-hectare Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority (Aseza) was a reward to the Angara group of politicians in the province for “licking the boots” of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Aseza is nothing but a political reward in exchange for the Angaras all-out support to the ruling mayhem in Malacañang,” Pamalakaya and KMP said in a joint statement.

“Senator Edgardo Angara, son Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and sister Aurora Gov. Bella Angara-Castillo are now reaping the fruits of their all-out puppetry and connivance with Malacañang. This clique of politicians is now parading Aseza like a prize trophy before the affected people of the province,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

“I think the project which will displace thousands of farmers, fisherfolk and Dumagat natives should be billed as Angara Special Economic Zone Authority because it is not for the benefit of the people, but for the narrow interest of Malacañang and the Angara family,” added Hicap.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap said his group is supporting the fight against Aseza, dismissing the project anti-rural people and anti-environment. “We strongly demand the Angaras and their partners-in-crime in Malacañang to stop this economic and political madness in Aurora. The 500-hectare productive agricultural land belongs to the farming and fishing people of Aurora, and not to the Angaras and their political clients in the Palace,” the fisherfolk leader added.

For his part, KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella urged Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to investigate the involvement of Sen. Angara and son Rep. Angara, urge them to stop their project and reprimand the two lawmakers for orchestrating the massacre of farmers’ rights to land.

“We ask the Senate and the House leadership to take punitive actions against the Angaras for betraying public interest. This is matter of life and death to 6,400 farmers and their families. Will they stomach this diabolical project in the name of political accommodation and blatant display of puppetry to Palace and its transnational clients?” Marbella said.

The KMP leader said Aseza project in Casiguran, Aurora is a clear proof of the bankruptcy of the 20-year old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) which proponents are trying to extend for another five years.

“CARP’s bankruptcy and comprehensive failure is very evident in Aseza case. Imagine, the 500-hectare land tapped to host the ecozone project is covered by CARP, yet the same law provided the room for maneuver for the government and the Angaras to landgrab the lands from struggling farmers,” Marbella said.

KMP and Pamalakaya said the passage of Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 will effectively stop the Angaras and the Macapagal-Arroyo government from landgrabbing the 500-hectare rice land and ensure the distribution of these agricultural lands to landless, land-lacking and willing-to-till farmers in the province. #

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Southern Tagalog farmers play “golf” and deliver “above par” protest to call for DAR chief resignation

Southern Tagalog farmers play “golf” and deliver “above par” protest to call for DAR chief resignation

Around 80 farmers belonging to the militant peasant group Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) held a golf session this morning in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Elliptical Road in Quezon City to call for urgent resignation of agrarian reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman.

“Mr. Pangandaman is like the 20-year old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP. He is bogus, pro-landlord and anti-farmer. Since CARP is dead and he has no business in staying inside DAR, we suggest him to immediately leave his office and go on a permanent vacation,” Kasama-TK spokesperson Imelda Lacandazo said in a press statement.

Lacandazo, also vice-chairperson of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said “the golf inspired above par performance” of the Southern Tagalog farmers is meant to denounce the various golf projects undertaken by the unholy alliance of Malacañang, the DAR and the Ayala group of companies, which is the owner and private developer of almost all golf projects in the region.

Kasama-TK and KMP said DAR allowed the Ayala group to deny peasant land rights to land, landgrab farms and convert these agricultural lands into golf courses for big business groups and their investor-clients. They said tens of thousands of farmers in these golf course areas will be evicted to pave way for Ayala golf courses.

According to both groups, the Ayala real estate group is planning to construct three major golf courses in the province of Rizal, Laguna and Batangas, particularly in Macabud, Rizal where a 36-hole golf course will be constructed inside the 2,800 hectare farmland, also inside the 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo in Canlubang, Laguna and inside the 8,650-hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas.

“These are big ticket items for the golfing republic of the corrupt, pro-landlord and anti-peasant regime of President Arroyo. This time it is our turn to stage this symbolic protest action against any kind of land use conversion and landgrabbing spree in the region,” Lacandazo said ,as she led her peasant colleagues in hitting the “golf balls” bearing the names of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Pangandaman and their incorrigible golfing partners,” they added.

After the “golf session” the farmers proceeded to and staged a day long protest at the House of Representatives in Batasan Complex to challenge House Speaker Prospero Nograles and the House leadership to immediately tackle the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059, which they said was intentionally sidelined by the House Committee on Agriculture for nearly 14 months.

GARB, which is backed by KMP, Kasama-TK and staunch allies like Pamalakaya fishers group, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Amihan peasant federation was authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran, and co-authored by Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela party list lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

The bill if enacted will facilitate the coverage of all agricultural lands and have these lands distributed for free to landless, land lacking and willing-to-till peasants across-the-country. #

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