FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NOVEMBER 30, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 0916.611.4181
One hundred fifty two years after the birth of Andres Bonifacio, the founder of the revolutionary movement Katipunan, exploitative conditions in vast haciendas and plantations remain in the Philippines.
The national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said that farm and agricultural workers continue to slave away to produce cash crops for the interests of foreign enterprises and the local landowning elite – the same cycle of oppression that Bonifacio and the Katipunan sought to change.
“Land reform and the emancipation of farmers and the people were the main aims of the Philippine Revolution of 1896. Up to this day, however, brutal oppression in these types of landholdings persists and continues to cause misery to farmers and agricultural workers,” said Ranmil Echanis, UMA Secretary General.
The hacienda system was introduced by Spanish colonialists in the 19th century to produce crops for export. This system was further encouraged by the colonial regime of US imperialism which maintained and depended on feudalism as its social base.
“US Imperialism enlisted the loyal support of the local elite who allowed themselves to be tamed by the US for local political leadership. This became necessary for the US to ensure the continuous supply of raw materials such as sugar, hemp, coconut and other agricultural products from its new colony. This also favors the interests of the local ruling elite who were either landlords themselves or compradors.”
“The loyal adherence of the local landowning elite and big comprador bourgeoisie to impositions of imperialism make up the semi-feudal economy which plagues the country up to the present,” said Echanis. Spanish-era haciendas like Hacienda Luisita and plantations established during the American colonial period like Del Monte Foods, Inc. are still in existence and continue to operate.
These landholdings are part of the millions of hectares of agricultural land that are tied down to onerous contracts between supposed land reform beneficiaries and giant agribusiness firms. The government’s failed agrarian reform program CARP has worked perfectly for the interest of giant companies as it encouraged agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to become outgrowers or to lease their lands with onerous contracts or agribusiness venture arrangements (AVAs).
“Instead of sincerely providing land to the tiller, the government is still targeting expansion of plantations,” added Echanis. “Plantations have also bred many forms of precarious employment victimizing agricultural workers enduring hard labor and exposure to harmful chemicals while being paid only slave-like wages.”
In Mindanao alone, these include the following: 256,360 hectares for sugarcane; 150,000 hectares for cacao by 2020; 116,000 hectares for rubber; 87,903 hectares for coffee plantations; and almost one (1) million hectares of oil palm plantations by 2030. In addition to these, multinational fruit giant Dole Philippines has expressed its intention to expand to at least 12,000 hectares of land for its pineapple plantation; same with Unifrutti, which recently invested P3.7 billion for an expansion of 2,600 hectares of land for banana Cavendish plantations in Moro areas such as Maguindanao.
Foreign plunder continues to result in dispossession and displacement of numerous lumad, Moro and peasant communities. “The guardia civil of yesteryears are now replaced by the state and private security forces who brazenly violate the rights of the people,” said Echanis.
“Bonifacio, the hero of the ‘anakpawis’ or toiling masses, continues to inspire farmers and agricultural workers to organize themselves and fight for genuine land reform and national sovereignty, ” ended Echanis.
In Congress, UMA supports the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 252 filed by Anakpawis Partylist.