Farmers march to protest “fake” land reform

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Some 2,000 peasants from Misamis Oriental marched in protest here, Monday, the 40th anniversary of Presidential Decree 27 – the first of what they call the country’s “fake land reform laws.”

The march traversed the 15 kilometers between Barangay Agusan and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) regional office in Barangay Carmen and fell within the National Peasants Week.

“The land reform program of government has changed names but until now, seven out of every 10 farmers in the region still do not own the land they till,” Richard Colao of KMP-NMR said in Bisaya.

A larger march was also held in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon Province by Kasama Bukidnon, a peasant group under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Northern Mindanao Chapter that organized the Cagayan City march.

Danilo Mente of Kasama Bukidnon said their action in Malaybalay City involved some 3,000 farmers.

Colao, in an interview, maintained that the land reform programs of incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, which is an off-shoot of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper) of his predecessor and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of his mother, have all but failed.

In Misamis Oriental, he said, the landholdings of the Lugod and Rodriguez families in Gingoog City, which spans over 7,000 hectares, have yet to be covered for farmer redistribution.

“What’s worse is the continuing culture of impunity under the Aquino administration which has already claimed the lives of four peasant leaders of Misamis Oriental since 2010,” added Colao.

In a 2011 academic paper, Dean Roel Ravanera of the Xavier University-College of Agriculture said the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp), signed into law in 1988 by the late president Corazon Aquino, had loopholes.

The paper, entitled “Commercial pressures on land in Asia: An overview”, said Carp had schemes like “Voluntary Land Transfer (VLT) that allowed landed families to keep their holdings.

As a result, based on Ravenera’s study, at least one million hectares of arable land in the country remain undistributed 20 years after CARP, which originally aimed to distribute 8.1 million hectares, became law.

This led to the passing of Carper – RA 9700 – which extended Carp by five years.

“The new law eliminated the VLT scheme and made compulsory acquisition the primary mode of acquisition,” Ravanera noted.

“Despite the extension and adaptation of CARP, much opposition is expected from landed elites who wield power over government policies,” he nevertheless warned.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development, in cooperation with the International Land Coalition, funded Ravanera’s study. (Cong B. Corrales for Pecojon.PH/knr)