Youth groups unite behind peasant caravan’s call for genuine land reform, immediate action on Hacienda Luisita
Peasants and farm workers who came from as far north as Cagayan Valley and as far south as Negros were joined today by progressive youth groups who affirmed the former’s call for genuine land reform as ‘urgent’ and a ‘youth interest’.
Anakbayan spokesperson Charisse Bañez said poor farmers would choose a genuine land reform program, such as the one advocated in House Bill 374 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, over government dole-outs ‘any day of the week’.
The Anakbayan leader noted that the justifications given for the government’s P21 billion Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, such as its aim to encourage poor people to go to school and have medical check-ups, did not hold water since ‘many far-flung rural areas don’t even have schools and health centers in the first place’.
“If the president is really concerned with the welfare of the Filipino peasant, he will give them the means to have a proper diet, buy medicines, and send their children to school by raising their household incomes. This is possible only by giving them their own plot of farm land, and not by handing them P1400 a month” said Bañez, in reference to the maximum amount available to each family under the CCT.
NUSP national president Einstein Recedes meanwhile warned that the continued prevalence of landlessness in rural parts of the country, coupled with impending tuition and other fee increases next year in state colleges and universities due to budget cuts, would prove to be a ‘double whammy’ for college students from peasant families.
For his part, LFS national chairperson Terry Ridon called Aquino’s refusal to intervene in the ongoing Hacienda Luisita dispute proof of his ‘insincerity’ in addressing the issue of landlessness.
“It seems that the saying ‘birds of the same feather, stick together’ holds true for the fat Luisita predators who prey on landless peasants by dictating inhumane working terms such as their infamous P9.50 weekly wage” said Ridon.
Before operations in the Aquino-owned estate were stopped by a 2004 strike, and farm workers occupied a portion of it and planted it with palay and vegetables, they were dependent on the P9.50 weekly wage given by the owners of the hacienda.
Meanwhile, SCMP secretary-general Kristine Valerio dismissed the P4 billion received by the Akbayan partylist group as an ‘expensive whitewash’ for what is being widely criticized as a failed land reform program in the country.
“With the majority of farmlands still in the hands of landlords, it is dishonest for Akbayan to claim that their pork barrel fund will benefit the Filipino farmer” said the student leader.
She cited a report by the nationwide organization of Filipino farmers, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), which said that out of 163,014 hectares which were targeted for distribution to farmers in 2009, only 64,329 were actually distributed.