#LakbayMagsasaka | Poverty causes Duterte instability, say agriworkers in “street conference”

October 18, 2017

By Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura

Impoverished working people are rising up under Duterte – protests are everywhere not because of some imagined destabilization plot, but because the Philippine economy is inherently unstable due to landlordism and foreign plunder.

This is the statement of agricultural workers under the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) who attended a “street conference” yesterday at the peasant protest camp-out in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) main office in Quezon City.

The street conference coincided with the second day of a nationwide transport strike to oppose government moves for a jeepney phase-out.

Farmers have openly declared support for jeepney drivers and small operators even as peasant organizations launched distinct mass actions all over the country airing equally legitimate demands as part of #LakbayMagsasaka activities this October, which is considered “peasant month.”

Peasants from Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Caraga region formed a “Bigkisang Magsasaka” or human chain as protest and dared President Duterte to stop the expansion of agribusiness plantations. The event was organized by the REAP Mindanao Network, a network of advocates resisting the expansion of agribusiness plantations in Mindanao.

UMA said that Duterte must stop the allocation of another 1.6 million hectares for expansion of plantations.

Expansion of agribusiness plantations threaten the livelihood of tillers in Bukidnon. Around 100 farmers from farmer organizations BUFFALO-TAMARAW-LIMUS (BTL) dared Pres. Duterte to distribute 517 hectares of Central Mindanao University (CMU) lands to BTL farmers.

The farmers have been tilling the lands inside CMU for three decades but the Supreme Court in 2007 cancelled their certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) by upholding that the lands shall be used by CMU for “educational and scientific purposes.” However, BTL farmers said that the CMU is only planning to lease their ricelands to MNC plantations for production of export crops like pineapple and bananas.

Among these firms are Del Monte and Davao Agricultural Ventures (DAVCO). BTL farmers have been constantly harassed, their leaders killed, in the three decades of their struggle.

On the other hand, farmers from Davao del Norte under the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries One Movement (AOM) are daring Pres. Duterte to give them back control of 2,276.44 hectares of their lands usurped by the Floirendo-owned TADECO banana plantations.

These areas were supposedly distributed to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), but these are still under the effective control of the Floirendos.

Caraga peasants, on the other hand, dared Duterte to stop the planned expansion of 200,000 hectares of oil palm in their region. At present, Caraga hosts the second largest areas of oil palm in the country with 17,369 hectares. Yet Caraga remains one of the poorest regions with a 43.9% poverty incidence.

According to UMA, if only President Duterte sincerely acts upon just demands of farmers and working people like our jeepney drivers, his popularity ratings would continue to soar and he would not be paranoid of “destabilization” plots. Farmers have been waging land struggles for several decades now because the scourge that is feudalism still exists.

Farmers under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) are currently holding local protests in provincial centers leading to the October 25 big mobilization in Manila of the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo or #LakbayMagsasaka.

Photo: Bigkisang Magsasaka of Mindanao farmers affected by expansion of agribusiness plantations