Land to Till NOT Farmers Killed
The government can very well prove their resolute stance on the land conversion ban now as the Calatagan farmers are nearing Metro Manila.
The march that the Sumilao farmers have started in Bukidnon has not yet ended. Amidst the rice crisis, we challenge Ms. Arroyo to hear the pleas of our Calatagan farmers who are marching their way to Manila to secure the lands that they till in Batangas. The farmers are protesting against the conversion of their agricultural lands to mining areas. Their 300-kilometer march symbolizes the unfaltering spirit of our people to fight for what is rightfully theirs. Their story is not an isolated case. This kind of story remains to be real for the majority of CARP beneficiaries.
The lands in Barangay Baha and Barangay Talibayog, Caltagan, Batangas were awarded to the farmers in 1990. However, the former landlord, Ceferino Ascue, sold the lands to Asturias Industries, a mining company, in 1995.
Contrary to the claims of AI that the lands have already mineralized, the farmers are still able to plant rice and corns in the area. The predicament that our Calatagan farmers are facing only further illustrates the worsening situation of our Agrarian Reform Law which was never implemented fully throughout the years. Millions of hectares remain to be undistributed and thousands more of applications for land conversions are pending in the Department of Agrarian Reform.
A few weeks from now, CARP will expire. Although, there have been victories for some farmers, like our Sumilao comrades, hundreds of others continue to hold onto a desolate hope. The rich land owners have found ways to elude the law by selling the farmers’ lands or by subdividing their haciendas or by any other means that their money can afford. Decades after the implementation of CARP, hundreds of farmers have already died in claiming their lands due to the armed resistance that the landlords are putting. We must give justice to all those who have sacrificed their very lives for this cause and let us continue to fight with those who still live to pursue this advocacy. Our farmers feed our nation. In the face of a food crisis, the government should, by all means, give the CARP beneficiaries what is due to them.
Student Council Alliance of the Philippines expresses its sincerest support to our comrades from Calatagan. “Lakbay Kalampag,” as the Calatagan farmers call their march, hopes to rattle the government once more to heed the call of its people. We further challenge Ms. Arroyo not only to call for the extension of CARP but also to set an example to the stubborn landlords, and place the Arroyo haciendas under CARP.
We also pose a challenge to our Congress people to reform CARP. Let us not wait for more of our farmers to die, award their lands.#
Paula Bianca P. Lapuz
Student Council Alliance of the Philippines
April 24, 2008