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Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA Pilipinas) is the national progressive center of unions, federations, associations and organizations of agricultural workers in the Philippines.

UMA works closely with other progressive people’s organizations in the Philippines such as the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May First Movement), and other organizations affiliated with the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN, New Patriotic Alliance).

UMA is a member of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)

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Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura

‘October Revolution Centennial Celebration’ rouses Metro Cebu  

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Young cultural activists perform at the Plaza Independencia, Cebu City as part of the October Revolution Centennial Celebration. (Photo CTTO)

CEBU CITY – Heavy rain failed to dampen the spirits of a hundred flag bearers accompanied by thousands of working people who marched the streets of Metro Cebu early evening yesterday, October 19.

The marchers waved a hundred red flags with the communist hammer and sickle insignia from the Fuente Osmena rotunda, through the busy Colon intersection and through the Plaza Independencia public park, where delegates of the Lakbayan ng Visayas inter-island protest caravan held a rousing program to open the October Revolution Centennial Celebrations (ORCC) here in the city.

“Many of you may have been startled to see these flags out in the open. For so long, this (hammer and sickle) symbol of workers and peasants has been demonized by oppressors and imperialists,” John Ruiz of Bayan Muna Central Visayas said in his opening speech.

“The Filipino toiling masses turn to the historic victory of the Russian revolution for invaluable lessons to guide our own struggle for national democracy and socialism,” said John Milton Lozande, Secretary General of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the national political center of militant agricultural workers’ unions and associations in haciendas and plantations.

Filipino activists are among progressives and revolutionaries all over the world who continue to draw inspiration from the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, also known as the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 led by Vladimir Lenin in Russia. The 1917 revolution established the first socialist state in the world.

“The revolutionaries who established socialist states such as the former USSR freed a significant fraction of the world’s working peoples from the clutches of class oppression. This historical fact is obscured and disparaged by the dominant bourgeois and imperialist discourse, but the toiling masses can only find hope, reason and perspective in the revolutionary proletarian standpoint exemplified by Lenin,” added Lozande.

The Philippine ORCC had its public launch on May 5, 2017 at the University of the Philippines, Diliman led by the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) and Bagong Alyansang Bayan (BAYAN). Since then, various activities such as study conferences, solidarity activities, and cultural presentations were held to bolster the ORCC. UMA is a member organization of ILPS and BAYAN.

Here in Cebu, several activist cultural groups from the ranks of young farmers and agricultural workers of Negros, Cebu and Bohol performed theatrical presentations to celebrate the working peoples’ struggle for land, justice and peace. Among these groups are Bansiwag of Bohol, Teatro Obrero, associated with the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Teatro Kaling, and Teatro Bungkal of Negros Occidental, whose troupe performed a 45-minute dance and movement cycle detailing the history of Negros and the continuing struggle of its toiling masses.

The performances were met with resounding applause and cheering from the audience composed mainly of poor peasants and workers, with students, church people, educators and other supporters of the Lakbayan. The program ended around 11:00 in the evening with the singing of the Filipino version of the Internationale, the anthem of the international working class movement.

“The victory of the October Revolution reminds us that the human race must not settle for the mad world that the moribund capitalist system supports – a world of brutality and decadence, unending wars, plunder, and famine founded on exploitation and oppression.”

“We will continue to fight imperialism and its neoliberal attacks to advance the struggle for national democracy – for genuine land reform, national industrialization, and social justice. Workers believe that with a socialist perspective, another world is definitely possible.” ended Lozande.

The Lakbayan ng Visayas will culminate in a big mobilization today, October 20. The ORCC will also be a main feature of the #LakbayMagsasaka Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo to be held from October 23-25 in Manila.

#LakbayMagsasaka | Protests hound agencies in Cebu for neglect of Visayan farmers

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Huge Lakbayan contingent temporarily blocked by security men near the US Consulate in Cebu Ciy.  Photo: Aninaw Productions

Thousands of farmers belonging to the Lakbayan ng Visayas inter-island protest caravan swarmed the streets of Cebu today to decry government neglect of Visayan farmers.

Tenant farmers, fisherfolk, and sugar workers from the Visayas are among the most destitute in the country. The Lakbayan protests emphasized that Duterte’s unfulfilled campaign promises, and the neoliberal policies and imperialist impositions in the economy cause further dislocation and extreme poverty in local peasant communities.

Over a thousand sugar farmworkers from Negros under the National Federation of Sugar Workers-Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (NFSW-UMA) spilled to the streets as they occupied the façade of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Region VII office.

According to John Milton Lozande, UMA Secretary General, sugar workers decry the DOLE’s performance, if not outright complicity in the anomalous implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) in the sugar industry.

SAP is a government program enacted in 1991 through RA 6982. It provides for bonuses, benefits and socio-economic programs for sugar workers. During the dialogue with DOLE officials, NFSW Chairperson Rolando Rillo said that most sugar workers in the region, including Negros Oriental and Northern Cebu, report that they do not receive any form of assistance from the program.

“Our problem with SAP is much like the coco levy and tobacco excise tax which the Marcoses have plundered. The government exacts a levy from sugar produce supposedly to help the workers, but our poor farmworkers have no way of taking direct control of the funds,” he said.

Rillo added that for the longest time, SAP funds were used by big landlords and sugar barons to further reinforce the feudal patronage system and to fund the private armies of hacienderos that augment militarization in the countryside. A similar program to SAP was first enacted in the 1950s, but was also institutionalized during Martial Law and favored Marcos cronies in the sugar industry.

Meanwhile, Lakbayan protesters also trooped to other government agencies this morning. Farmers from HUMABOL-Bohol and KMP-Cebu held a picket at the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to highlight President Duterte’s empty promise of free irrigation to farmers. Local peasant groups and fisherfolk from Pamalakaya held a dialogue with DENR officials to decry reclamation programs, rampant land use conversion and the anti-people No Build Zone policy. Protests and dialogues with the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Fisheries and other agencies are scheduled for this afternoon.

IMPERYALISMO, IBAGSAK!     

The Lakbayan protests merged this morning at the US Consulate with the call to end lopsided trade agreements affecting agriculture, US military exercises and military basing across the country and other neoliberal attacks against the Filipino people.

“The Duterte regime has proven itself beholden to US imperialist dictates,” said Rillo.  “His slogans for an independent foreign policy now rings hollow. He bows down to the US by doing nothing to change US hegemony in the country, while also making our economy increasingly dependent on multi-billion loans from China and other big powers,” he added.

“The country will remain backward and our farmers impoverished without genuine land reform. The feudal set-up in the countryside provides continued basis for imperialist leeches to fester,” he ended.

The Visayas Lakbayan will culminate here in Cebu tomorrow, October 20, while farmers led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) from Mindanao, Bicol, Southern Tagalog and North and Central Luzon regions will continue to march to Manila for the #LakbayMagsasaka Pambansang Lakbayan para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo from October 23-25.

 

Farmers, Church groups unite for genuine land reform and an end to extrajudicial killings

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INTRAMUROS, MANILA  — Various farmers organizations, religious leaders, Church-based organizations and land reform advocates gathered today to form the Coalition for Land, Against Martial Law and Oppression (CLAMOR) to express the broad peoples’ unity to advance genuine land reform, social justice and civil liberties amidst current turbulent times.

“The most urgent situation calls upon us all to unite and act collectively for social justice and the common good. We are calling for free land distribution to the tillers. We want to put a stop to the killings of farmers as well as other extra-judicial killings. The peasantry and other sectors will continue to resist the tyrannical acts of the present government and its impending declaration of Martial Law throughout the country,” said Danilo Ramos, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and a convenor of CLAMOR.

The broad coalition composed of farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolk, workers, agrarian reform and peasants’ advocates, together with church-people and religious, non-government organizations, artists and other rural development advocates and supporters are calling for a stop to the peasant political killings. As of September, there have been 91 victims of political killings from the peasant and rural sector.

According to Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, former secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform and also a convenor of the coalition, “There is indeed a mounting clamor among the peasant sector and the public in general to end the systematic terror being unleashed by the Duterte government against the rural folk and the people. The tillers, those who produce our food, have no land of their own and are mired in poverty and hunger. The moment they assert their rights, they become targets of repression and state-sponsored killings. The families of the victims are crying for help and shouting for justice. Their loved ones who were killed are not mere statistics in the growing list of victims of extrajudicial killings but also a clear testament to the continuing landlessness of the Filipino peasants and the alarming brutality and impunity with which the government carries out its repressive acts againts the rural folk and the people.”

“We also want to reach out to the families of those killed in the name of the government’s anti-drugs war. We are all victims of the killing spree. This rampage needs to stop. Enough is enough. Together, we will seek justice,” Ramos said.

The newly-launched coalition announced the holding of a broad rally on Wednesday, October 25 to be led by farmers and rural-based organizations. That day will mark the nationally-coordinated Peasant Caravan or Lakbay Magsasaka actions to demand genuine land reform and an end to extrajudicial killings, including peasant political killings. Sectors will hold protest programs at Welcome Rotonda, University of Sto. Tomas and Mendiola.

CLAMOR is convened by CBCP National Secretariat for Social Actions, Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo, KMP, United Churches of Christ in the Philippines, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Servants of the Holy Spirit, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart,  Bishop Broderick Pabillo, ARISE, Stop the Killings Network, Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan, Task Force Mapalad, Bataris-Aurora, KATARUNGAN, Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bondoc Peninsula, AMIHAN Peasant Women Federation, Pamalakaya, National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates and ARBs One Movement-Southern Mindanao.

Among the lead convenors of CLAMOR are Mariano and Archdiocese of Manila Auxillary Bishop Most. Rev. Broderick Pabillo. #

 

#LakbayMagsasaka | Visayas Rural Poor Summit to Duterte: Listen to working people’s woes

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Cebu City,   October 18 –  The city has not witnessed anything like this in years that Cebuanos –  motorists, ordinary folk and other onlookers along the streets of downtown Cebu could not help but stare at the sight of more than 2,000 farmers marching with banners and red flags.

The street demonstrations and “salubungan” (welcome) of delegates to the Lakbayan ng Visayas may have interrupted Cebu City’s usual routine yesterday in far more profound ways, said John Lozande, Secretary General of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

Police reported that the protests caused minor traffic in this city’s major thoroughfares.

“What we are witnessing is the naked power of our working people –  farmers long-oppressed by the hacienda system, mill workers, contractual laborers, our jeepney drivers, coming together to air their demands against a populist President who reneged on his promise of change,” said Lozande.

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

Farmers under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) have openly declared support for jeepney drivers and small operators even as local 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.”

“Duterte’s own pronouncements are exposing himself to be a despicable tyrant,” said Lozande, referring to President Duterte’s insensitive statements addressed to protesting jeepney drivers and their supporters. Duterte reportedly suggested that “the poor must be left alone to fend for themselves.”

The Lakbayan ng Visayas is an inter-island protest caravan against hunger and state fascism. Negros farmworkers under UMA and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) are among the thousands of peasants who converged in Cebu yesterday.

Farmers decried that they are witnessing both hunger and brutal repression under the Duterte regime. In Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, 8 farmers became victims of political killings from July to September alone, due to Duterte’s all-out war policy.

Today, the farmers will hold a Visayas Rural Poor Summit. UMA said that among the issues that must be decisively addressed is the plight of Negros farmworkers who experience extreme hunger during the tiempo muerto (dead season) or off-milling season in the sugar industry.

NFSW is also campaigning for a P50 increase in farmworkers’ daily wages, and 50% increase in the pakyaw (group wage) rates in sugar areas.

“Duterte must listen to working people’s woes,” said Lozande. “The iron-fist, scorched earth policy that Duterte employs to address the roots of discontent and strife in the country will only further isolate his regime.”

The Lakbayan ng Visayas peasant camp-out at Plaza Independencia will go on until October 20.

Meanwhile, KMP member-organizations from Mindanao, Bicol, Southern Tagalog, North and Central Luzon regions, are preparing for the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo or #LakbayMagsasaka which will culminate in protests in Manila from October 23-25.

#LakbayMagsasaka – Peasants Dare Duterte: Stop Expansion of Plantations!

Peasants from Bukidnon, Floirendo usurped lands in Tagum Development Corporation (TADECO), and CARAGA today dared President Duterte to stop expansion of plantations.

This was aired out today by the peasants in a street conference held in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) as part of the Lakbay Magsasaka activities this October. The event was organized by the Resist Expansion of Agribusiness Plantations (REAP).

The peasants stated this challenge to President Duterte in his response to his remarks at the opening ceremony of the Agrilink/Foodlink/Aqualink 2017, when he said that “vast tracks of land are being used to produce cash crops for export to other countries, at the expense of food crops for our own people’s needs”.

If that is the case, then the President should act favorably to the Bukidnon, TADECO and CARAGA peasants’ aspirations for land ownership. At the same time, he should stop the planned additional 1.6 million hectares plus of lands targeted for expansion of plantations.

Around 100 farmers from farmer organizations BUFFALO-TAMARAW-LIMUS (BTL) in Bukidnon dared Pres. Duterte to respect the farmers’ right to till the lands and 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”.

Despite the farmers’ historical and actual use of land, the educational institution is favoring big multi-national companies such as Del Monte and Davao Agricultural Ventures (DAVCO) by planning to lease the contested lands. Instead of considering the farmers as partners for research and local development, CMU turns its back against higher learning educational mission to serve the marginalized sectors. Farmer leaders of the organizations have been harmed and killed in their three decade of struggle.

On the other hand, agrarian reform beneficiaries 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 Floirendo and turned into banana plantations under TADECO.

These were supposedly distributed to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), but Floirendo’s TADECO still controls said lands.

CARAGA peasants, on the other hand, have dared the Pres. to stop the planned expansion of 200,000 hectares of oil palm in their region. At present, CARAGA host the second largest hectarage of oil palm in the country with 17,369 hectares. Yet it still remains one of the poorest regions in the Philippines with a 43.9% poverty incidence.

If President Duterte is true to his word, he should act favorably to the just demands of the peasants not only from the three places mentioned earlier but to the whole country as well. If not, his popularity ratings would continue to sink especially among the peasant masses that have been waging land struggles for several decades now.

Already, 91 peasants have been extra judicially killed during his term, but the peasants will continue to struggle until their just demands are met.

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#LakbayMagsasaka | Young activists bring peasant issues to millennials, general public  

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Lorna Tecson of KAUGMAON-KMP (R) in Aninaw’s live Facebook broadcast, October 16.

CEBU CITY – “Nanay” (Mother) Lorna Tecson crossed the Tañon Strait between Negros Island and Cebu and travelled with fellow peasant leaders a few days ahead of the inter-island protest caravan, Lakbayan ng Visayas. Representing her organization KAUGMAON, Nanay Lorna is to talk to about the killings in her home locale, Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental.

Sitting in a makeshift TV studio with young activists of the Cebu-based Aninaw Productions, an alternative media group which runs podcasts, community radio programs and live mobile broadcasts on their Facebook page, Nanay Lorna freely narrated how her own family came across military harassment and atrocities. Local farmers like her are constantly subjected to red-tagging and profiling. KAUGMAON is the local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Negros Oriental.

Lorna’s husband, Alberto “Leboy” Tecson, a fisherman and local leader of Pamalakaya, was shot dead in front of their children on July 24, the same day President Duterte delivered his 2nd State of the Nation Address. Tecson is the 2nd victim in an “extra-judicial killing-spree” in Guihulngan City which has now claimed a total of 8 victims in a span of only three months.

The Aninaw broadcast also sought to bring the issue of Tiempo Muerto (dead season) or the off-milling season in the sugar industry which plagues impoverished farmworkers annually. The broadcast attracted over 2,000 viewers – a fairly insignificant figure compared to the millions of viewers that big networks reach everyday with regular newscasts.

The feisty anchor Mel, speaking in the local vernacular, nevertheless stated the importance of bringing  these issues to the general public especially the youth  —  the so-called “millennials” that they reach through broadcasts in social media could be made aware of issues related to land reform, food security and other concerns of ordinary Filipino people.

“Tiempo muerto and the issue of peasant killings are rarely discussed in mainstream media. We didn’t know of Leboy’s killing until we met Nanay Lorna here, and they are not the only victims,” Mel said. According to Karapatan’s latest tally, 91 farmers have become victims of political killings since President Duterte assumed office.

Today, October 17, more victims of militarization are set to converge here in the city for the Lakbayan ng Visayas, an inter-island protest caravan which is part of the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo this October. Thousands of farmers from Negros, Panay,  Bohol, and Eastern Visayan islands are set to camp-out at Plaza Independencia.

A week earlier, on October 13, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) with the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth), and peasant advocate / artist groups Sinagbayan and SAKA also launched a live Social Media Forum at Roots Katipunan in Quezon City with farmers from Hacienda Luisita and the Buffalo, Tamaraw, Limus (BTL) associations of Bukidnon. Campus journalists vowed to bring peasant issues in the pages of their publications.

“In the next few days, you can expect that we will not only provide broader print space to air these issues – (the youth) will fervently march alongside the farmers and the people in their bid to expose the anti-people policies of the Duterte regime, seek justice for the killings, and to advance the struggle for free land distribution and genuine land reform,” CEGP National President Jose Mari Callueng said in a statement read at the forum. The forum’s social media broadcast attracted over 4,000 viewers on Facebook.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Secretary General John Milton “Butch” Lozande, lauded the young activists’ efforts and encouraged similar initiatives. “Farmers’ concerns are actually dead beat in media, but there is a host of issues in the countryside that the public must be aware of. The perennial land problem is actually the root of the country’s woes,” he said.

“All forms of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation as manifested in the abusive hacienda and plantation system must end. Farmers and the Filipino people will continue to march and protest without genuine land reform and national industrialization,” said Lozande.

The Lakbayan ng Visayas camp-out in this city will run until October 20. Meanwhile, peasant groups led by KMP from Mindanao, Bicol provinces, Southern Tagalog and Central and Northern Luzon will converge in Quezon City on October 23. The Lakbay Magsasaka protests will culminate in a big mobilization in Manila on October 25.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  October 17, 2017

Reference: John Milton Lozande, Secretary General, UMA, 09100314479 

 

#LakbayMagsasaka | Bukidnon, Davao farmers struggle vs. big plantations  

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Agricultural workers under the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) in different parts of the country expresses its solidarity and will join our brothers from Bukidnon and Davao del Norte in the protest caravan demanding genuine agrarian reform and an end to worsening state fascism” says John Milton Lozande, secretary general of UMA.

“Agrarian unrest is intensifying amid martial law in Mindanao and the spate of extra judicial killings which has already claimed the lives of 91 of our fellow farmers, we demand the President to put an end to this if he really values the tillers of the land” Lozande added.

He also warned that following the declining satisfaction ratings of the President, the basic sectors support will continue to decline if basic social justice issues such as agrarian reform are not addressed. Supporting genuine agrarian reform was one of Duterte’s campaign promises. While the President initially showed support to initiatives of the Department of Agrarian Reform under then Secretary Rafael Mariano, Lozande said that Duterte’s actions prove otherwise. “Duterte has betrayed the peasant sector by rejecting the appointment of Mariano, favoring landlords, oligarchs and multi-national companies.”

From October 12-25, farmers from across the country will show their outrage to the government’s failed promises by embarking on a national protest caravan dubbed as “Lakbay Magsasaka”. Among those who will troop the national capital earlier are President Duterte’s fellow Mindanaoans from Bukidnon on October 12 and Davao del Norte on October 15.

Around 100 farmers from farmer organizations BUFFALO-TAMARAW-LIMUS (BTL) in Bukidnon are set to bring their plight to the Department of Agrarian Reform central office as threats of eviction and harassment intensify. The farmers have been tilling the lands inside Central Mindanao University (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”.

Despite the farmers’ historical and actual use of land, the educational institution is favoring big multi-national companies such as Del Monte and Davao Agricultural Ventures (DAVCO) by planning to lease the contested lands. Instead of considering the farmers as partners for research and local development, CMU turns its back against higher learning educational mission to serve the marginalized sectors. Farmer leaders of the organizations have been harmed and killed in their three decade of struggle.

Meanwhile, hundreds of agrarian reform beneficiaries from Davao del Norte under the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries One Movement (AOM) will also troop to the agrarian reform agency to demand issuance of long-delayed installation orders to reclaim their lands.

After being awarded lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the farmers lost control of their lands when companies owned by landlords duped them into different land ownership schemes such as agribusiness venture agreement (AVA), leaseback, and joint venture agreements. Land distributed was again re-concentrated to the hands of a few landlords such as the powerful Floirendo oligarchy. An estimated 28,816 hectares of banana plantation is controlled by Floirendo-owned Tagum Agricultural Development Company (TADECO). The said lands should be owned by 1,890 agrarian reform beneficiaries who are now reduced to laborers/agricultural workers enduring slave-like conditions.

Lozande says that “Lakbay Magsasaka” is just one of the many assertions of the peasants of their rights amid escalating attacks in their communities under Duterte’s growing authoritarian rule. The government has recently created Inter-agency Committee on Legal Actions (IACLA) to allegedly investigate and prosecute terrorists, but activists believe that this will be used to silence them as critics of the government.

The creation of IACLA further strengthens a militarized civilian bureaucracy under Duterte’s regime. Duterte has appointed a number of ex-military men in vital cabinet positions. With the rejection of Mariano, farmers are concerned that a military man may be considered to lead DAR in an effort to quell demands for genuine agrarian reform.

However, Lozande ended that despite these threats, they will not be cowed to fight for their fundamental rights. “There will always be unrest among the oppressed peasants until genuine agrarian reform is enacted. Our collective unity of farmers, agricultural workers across the country is our weapon for just and legitimate victories.”###

#LakbayMagsasaka | US-Duterte Policies Real Threat to Country’s Food Security

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) lambasted the US-Duterte regime for continuing neoliberal policies of previous regimes.

These neoliberal policies threaten the country’s food security. In a media conference today to highlight #LakbayMagsasaka: Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka Para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo from October 16-25, speakers from UMA said that, “This is vastly different from what the President is saying that the main threat to food security is caused by terrorism and armed groups. This might just be a ploy to clamp down on peasants asserting their rights to the land including resisting expansion of agribusiness plantations, and increasing the wages and benefits of agricultural workers.”

According to UMA Secretary General John Lozande, who is currently in Visayas to prepare for the Cebu leg of #LakbayMagsasaka from Oct 17-20: “President Duterte stated that we should not rely on the agricultural products of ASEAN neighbors forever, while at the same time not doing anything to get out of the dictates of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) which imposed the lowering of tariffs of imported sugar to just 5% on January 1, 2015 from the previous 38%.” Lozande also represents the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).

“This would increase the importation and even smuggling of imported sugar into the country. At the same time, the government has not done enough to curtail the importation of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which even the hacienderos are complaining about,” Lozande added.

The government also has only extended the quantitative restriction on rice purchases as imposed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in place for three more years instead of totally rejecting it. The import restriction should have been implemented on July 1 this year, but at the same time the country’s private traders are still allowed to import 805,200 tons of rice yearly until 2020.

But more than that, food security cannot be attained by the country if the peasants including agricultural workers do not have control over the land that was supposed to be distributed to them through the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). And as long as policies associated to it, among others, like allowing Agribusiness Ventures Agreements (AVAs) to function remain in place. A new law such as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) should instead be enacted.

In Negros Occidental alone, 70% of the lands supposedly distributed by the DAR have already been leased to financiers and hacienderos. While in Hacienda Luisita, the DAR then headed by Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano determined through its validation process that 83% of the lands allocated for distribution have either been leased or sold back to the landlords through deception and coercion.

According to the Network Resisting Expansion of Agribusiness Plantations in Mindanao (REAP Mindanao Network), there are already 1.2 million hectares of lands that are under different AVAs such as joint ventures, lease contracts, built-operate-transfer, management contracts, service contracts and production, and processing and marketing agreements with the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).

These agreements eventually reduce ARBs back to their status as farmworkers with low income and insecure land tenure. AVAs became extremely favorable for agribusiness TNCs like Dole and Del Monte, because these gave them control over CARP lands.

Duterte targets up to 1.6 million hectares more for the expansion of corporate plantations, most of which are in Mindanao. But these only covers rubber, sugarcane, oil pam, Cavendish banana, cacao, and pineapple. These do not include farms under contract growing with agribusiness (e.g. Nestle in growing coffee Robusta on 57,000 hectares and coffee Arabica on 15,000 hectares), rice and corn plantations for corporations (e.g. hybrid rice plantations of SL Agritech), and flower plantations.

“Duterte’s recent statements that he wants to reduce plantations and increase lands for food crops ring hollow. This is not what is happening on the ground. His neoliberal economic policies are contrary to his statements,” said Lozande.

“Peasants asserting their rights to the land, for better wages and benefits, also become victims of the US-Duterte regime. Peasant leaders are killed and ordinary folk are intimidated. As of Ausgut, 81 peasants have already been killed by the US-Duterte regime, including some leaders of UMA. Martial law has been declared in Mindanao to sow terror among peasant and lumad communities who are asserting their rights to the land, and even against workers on strike like those from Shin Sun Tropical Fruit Corp. in Compostela Valley.

“The situation of the peasants including agricultural workers will further be exposed to the general public during #LakbayMagsasaka. Farmers from the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus associations of Bukidnon, who are striving to keep their vast bungkalan, and the TADECO ARBs from Davao del Norte are currently on their way to Manila. We call on the public to stand in solidarity with farmers against neoliberal policies and suppression of their rights by the US-Duterte regime,” ended Lozande.

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For reference, please contact:

Aurello “Gi” Estrada

09179450552

Cimatu appointment spells intensified plunder and rights violations in Mindanao

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Environment, labor, indigenous people’s rights and land reform advocates come together to establish the REAP Mindanao Network in 2015. (FILE PHOTO) 

The Network Resisting Expansion of Agribusiness Plantations in Mindanao (REAP Mindanao Network) warned that the confirmation of ex-militaryman Roy Cimatu is tantamount to intensified plunder in the island.

REAP joins environmental groups in condemning the speedy confirmation of an ex-military man who is unfit to head the DENR. John Milton Lozande of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), one of REAP’s convener-organizations, said that Cimatu has no background in environmental management and protection. “Cimatu rather has a gruesome track record in attacking those who defend their lands and environment,” Lozande added.

REAP is a broad network of organizations and individuals opposed to the aggressive expansion of agribusiness plantations in Mindanao.

REAP believes that contrary to the mandate of the agency of protecting the environment, the DENR under Cimatu leadership will intensify environmental plunder by protecting big mining and  agricultural businesses.

Cimatu, like other military honchos who have colluded with businesses, is a known logging protector. In 1994, Cimatu, then a colonel of the Philippine Army headed “Task Force Lumad” with the Davao del Norte police, which protected the C. Alcantara and Sons (Alsons) logging company in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. The integrated forestry management agreement (IFMA) granted to Alsons resulted in intimidation and violence against forest dwellers – farmers and indigenous people. Task Force Lumad was created to quell resistance of the Salugpungan in defending their ancestral lands from plunder by training CAFGU paramilitaries among the Ata-Manobo people, creating a divide among the indigenous people that resulted to bloody armed conflict and human rights violations.

Not only is Cimatu guilty of acquiescing environment plunder but he is also a corruption conduit. He is among the retiring AFP chiefs involved in the “pabaon scandal” who received send-off money under the Arroyo administration. Cimatu allegedly received P80 million from the people’s money.

Furthermore, Cimatu’s confirmation strengthens militarization of bureaucracy under the Duterte administration that poses increased threats to people defending their socio-economic rights. Since Duterte’s assumption, environmental groups have recorded at least 23 environment-related killings, most of which are indigenous peoples and peasants resisting large-scale mining and agricultural plantation projects.

Lozande said, “These attacks will intensify amid recent government pronouncements of engaging in joint venture agreements with big agribusiness companies. Vast tracts of Mindanao remain targets for expansion of agricultural plantations. About 12% or 500,000 hectares of Mindanao’s agricultural land in the five regions of Mindanao are covered with agricultural plantation crops primarily for the export market, endangering local food security.”

Recently, the Department of Trade and Industry announced another possible joint venture for oil palm plantation with Malaysia, a current industry dominator. This development is in line with Duterte’s pronouncement of immediately developing some 300,000 hectares for oil palm plantations.

“Expansion of agricultural plantations and plunder of environment will mean hunger, escalated militarization and human rights violations in affected communities in Mindanao. Cimatu at the helm of DENR will play the role of one of Duterte administration’s henchmen in plundering Mindanao instead of solving the problem,” Lozande ended.

SUGAR WORKERS AND SMALL FARMERS ORGANIZATIONS HOLD ASSEMBLY ON THE LOOMING SUGAR INDUSTRY CRISIS  

More than 300 leaders and members of sugar workers and farmers organizations are expected to attend an Assembly on the Sugar Industry Crisis today October 4, 2017 at the Sugar Workers Development Center in Bacolod City. It will discuss the issues and resolutions on the recent predicaments gripping the sugar industry.

The milling season of Crop Year 2017-2018 opened with a starting price of sugar at only P1,370.00/Lkg. This is a very unstable price which is far below than last Crop Year 2016-2017 starting price of P1,800.00/Lkg. It seems that the recent price of sugar never recovered when the issues of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) erupted last crop year despite the slowdown in its importation.

This opening price of sugar brings restlessness to big and small planters, Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) and sugar workers alike. This seemingly heralds a bleak future, if not another wave of crisis similar to that from 1975 to 1977 and from 1984 to 1987 in the sugar industry. A Sugar and More Summit was conducted last September 7, 2017 in Bacolod City right after the opening of the recent crop year.

The meeting was initiated by big sugar planters and millers to discuss the predicament. The gathering forwarded a list of resolutions that were submitted to concerned agencies outlining a list of policies and demands to the government that will supposedly protect the industry. While seemingly assuming the position that represents all sugar industry stakeholders, their list of resolutions is devoid of substances that touch the welfare of the sugar worker which is the most affected sectors and the backbone of the sugar industry.

If the price of sugar is low on its opening harvest in the month of September, it further slides down during the peak season harvest in the months of November until March. The opening price pegged at P1,370.00/Lkg is near to a break even cost of production of sugar and is a gauge of the instability of the industry. Further expecting the price to get worse are the current oversupply stocks of sugar that accumulates from the previous crop years that reached to 750,000 Metric Tons (MT). The usual buffer stocks every start of harvest should be between 200,000 to 250,000 MT level as an assurance for price stability and income.

While this price developments unfolds, “We believe that the looming crisis of the sugar industry could mainly be attributed to the government’s inclination to Neo-Liberal economic policies, and not simply on the over importation of sugar-based products like the HFCS”. This is coupled with backwardness of the Philippines basic industrial base and absence of genuine agrarian reform that effectively affects the small farmers, ARBs and farm workers”.

While President Duterte indulges himself to EJKs, militaristic posturing and idolizing of the late dictator and plunderer President Marcos, he is not in the mood in improving the lives of our farmers and farm workers by making a genuine national economic transformation and redirection.

“By continuing the path of economic programs of previous administrations, President Duterte has no penchant to change the cycle of poverty on which reasons many of our poor citizens are forced to depend their needs on economic income like in the illegal drugs trade.” “This sugar workers Assembly on the Sugar Industry Crisis is the crucial measure of the sugar workers to depend and protect its ranks against Neo-Liberal attacks on Labor and land dispossessions”.

Reference: John Milton M. Lozande (Secretary General)

MP No. 09100314479

October 3, 2017, Bacolod City