Mis. Or farmers hold protest on 40th year of Marcos land reform edict

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 October)—At least 2,000 farmers from Misamis Oriental under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao Region marked the 40th year of Presidential Decree 27 or the Farmers Emancipation Act signed by then strongman Ferdinand Marcos  with a 15-kilometer protest march today.

The protest march—from Barangay Agusan to the covered court of the Provincial Capitol, Velez St., this city—came a day after the commemoration of the National Peasants’ Week (October 14-21), Richard Colao, KMP-NMR spokesperson said over the phone Monday.

Colao said that from the Provincial Capitol, where they held a short program, they will march to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR 10) in Macanhan, Barangay Carmen for a picket.

He said that except for the names nothing has changed in the land reform program of government after 40 years, adding, “seven of every 10 farmers in the region still don’t own the land they till.”

He claimed that in Misamis Oriental alone, the landholdings of the Lugod and Rodriguez families in Gingoog City that spans over 7,000 hectares have not been covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).

“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 he took oath in 2010,” said Colao.

Meanwhile, Danilo Menente of Kasama Bukidnon, a member organization of KMP-NMR, said in a phone interview that some 3,000 of their members will also stage a protest action in Malaybalay City today in solidarity with their counterparts in Misamis Oriental.

Menente said he doubted how the Aquino administration would use the P54-billion coco levy fund it got from San Miguel Corp. which is supposed to be used in implementing Carp.

In his 2011 study titled “Commercial pressures on land in Asia: An overview,” Xavier University-College of Agriculture Dean Roel Ravanera said that implementation schemes under CARP, which was enacted in 1988, “such as the voluntary land transfer (VLT) provided a convenient solution for landed families to keep their lands.”

According to the study, Carp targeted to distribute 8.1 million hectares. However, 20 years into its implementation, there are still at least one million hectares of arable land that remain undistributed. This led to the passing of Carper—RA 9700—to strengthen CARP with a five-year extension, it said.

“The new law eliminated the VLT scheme and made compulsory acquisition the primary mode of acquisition. Despite the extension and adaptation of CARP, much opposition is expected from landed elites who wield power over government policies,” according to the same study.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development in cooperation with the International Land Coalition funded Ravanera’s study. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)