#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

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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

So Called United Stand for Peace and Prosperity Activity shows Cojuanco-Aquino-Lorenzo Desperate to  Hold on to Lands in Hacienda Luisita

The so-called united stand for peace and prosperity initiated by some barangay captains and just a hundred of their paid followers on July 29 shows the Cojuangco-Aquino-Lorenzo’s desperation to hold on to lands in Hacienda Luisita.

According to UMA acting secretary general John Milton “Butch” Lozande, the Cojuanco-Aquino-Lorenzo’s want to portray that they have the support of the majority of the residents in Hacienda Luisita. And that only outsiders like those from Anakpawis Partylist and Kadamay are meddling in the land disputes between the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and the Cojuangco-Aquino-Lorenzos.

In particular, these barangay captains led by Rael Gatus of brgy. Mapalacsiao parrot the line of their benefactor landlord comprador clans.

AMBALA members occupied and cultivated the 358 hectare agricultural lands in brgys. Balete and Cutcut, which is rightfully theirs. Because they had been doing these since 2005. They would also want to reclaim 386 hectares of land still held by RCBC and Luisita Land Corporation (LLC) even if these were never converted into other use.

Last year DAR Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano had junked the appeal of Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), which used to own the 386 hectares property, to retain ownership of the land.

Ka Paeng also revoked the conversion order on the RCBC and LLC lands because they were never converted into non-agricultural use for more than a decade, which is a violation of the former CARP. RCBC appealed the DAR ruling.

It is also harassing AMBALA members and their advocates by filing trumped up cases against 36 persons including former Bayan Muna Congressman Teddy Casino and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) newly elected chairperson Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos.

But AMBALA members with the support from their advocates are resolute in continuing the “bungkalan” areas that they have recently occupied and cultivated.

They would also pursue in asserting their rights not only in said RCBC lands but in hundreds of hectares more being retained by the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), which the previous DAR administration with a Cojuangco-Aquino President then in power deliberately excluded from land reform.

UMA Says Duterte full of Bluster but Lacks Concrete Policies to  Improve Conditions of Agricultural Workers

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today stated that President Duterte’s regime is full of bluster but lacks concrete policies on how to improve the conditions of agricultural workers in the country.

In fact, his economic and political thrusts are turning right and would only benefit big plantation and hacienda owners. The extension of martial law in Mindanao up to the end of December and the scrapping of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), on the other hand, would further impinge on the labor and human rights of agricultural workers and the Filipino people in general.

According to UMA acting secretary John Milton “Butch” Lozande, President Duterte has never stated that the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) is one of his priority legislative measures. He has not also made an Executive Order on the 2 year moratorium on land use conversion, even if this was the decision on September 12, 2016 of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) which he heads.

But more disturbing is his scrapping of the peace talks with the NDFP, wherein the government peace panel agreed in principle for free land distribution as part of its agrarian reform program. This is in jeopardy right now, coupled with the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

His rightist Cabinet members still want to expand plantations of mainly export crops especially in Mindanao as part of the country’s economic program. Martial law would help facilitate this expansion as dissent would be suppressed.

The PNP is also in the process of setting up Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) groups in plantations in Mindanao which will surely lead to further violations of labor and human rights of agricultural workers.

With regards to job security, living wages, and benefits and services, these remain a dream for agricultural and all other workers in the country. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has come out with Department Order (DO) 174 but this only regularizes workers under recruitment agencies and not on the workers principal employers.

Sacadas from Mindanao were even recruited by companies owned by the Cojuangcos-Aquinos-Lorenzos and made to work in slave like conditions in Hacienda Luisita and other parts of Central and even Northern Luzon. A number earned only a measly P50 a week and justice for the way they were exploited remains elusive.

President Duterte did not even utter a single word to express solidarity with them, but instead frequently visits military camps to condole with soldiers.

The Social Amelioration Program (SAP) for sugar workers continues to be denied to many of them because only the landlords and millers have the right to distribute this and corner even the socio-economic projects it funds.

Tiempo Muerto or the dead season continues to be a yearly ritual of hunger for sugar workers especially in Negros Island because most are denied to cultivate food crops by the hacienderos unless these are asserted by the sugar workers themselves.

Agricultural workers lives will only improve if there is genuine agrarian reform, and their wages dramatically increased to P750 a day, and their job security ensured through the eradication of contractualization.

In all three aspects, President Duterte is a failure. Instead he is obsessed with security measures that would turn him into a dictator and a puppet of the US government which controls his military and dictates the country’s economic policies.

Agricultural workers should instead assert their national and democratic rights and aspirations and together with the rest of the Filipino people struggle for genuine change. This includes calling for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao and the resumption of peace talks with the NDFP.

 

#Magtagumpay | Farmers poised to gain more victories in land struggle

mgtaguLEGAZPI CITY – National agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) is one with hundreds of farmers from all over the country gathered today at the Ibalong Centrum in Legazpi City for the 8th National Congress of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). The militant KMP is the biggest organization of peasants and farmworkers in the country.

According to UMA Chairperson Renato Mendoza, the KMP congress is convened amid alarming conditions confronting our farmers today.  “The declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, for one, has already affected hundreds of thousands of peasants not just in the Marawi and Lanao area, but also in various provinces in Mindanao. Outside Mindanao, farmers also suffer de facto martial law, with the AFP’s all-out war against progressive and revolutionary forces in the countryside. Civilians in peasant communities become victims of military atrocities,” said Mendoza.

In the Bicol region, where the KMP congress is being held, the recent declaration of “red alert” by state forces have resulted in more human rights violations in areas already reeling from militarization. Farmers have converged here in Legazpi City, defying terror tactics and intense military operations. More than a thousand farmer-delegates come from Bicol provinces Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

“Kapayapaan ang pangako ni Pangulong Duterte pero nanganganib na gumuho ang usapang pangkapayapaan sa NDFP dahil sa militarista at pasitang tunguhin ng rehimen (Duterte promised us peace but the peace talks with the NDFP is in peril of collapse due to the fascist and militarist direction of the Duterte regime),” Mendoza said.

“There can be no peace without justice. Government must heed our demand for genuine land reform and national industrialization, which will also address the roots of armed conflict in the country. All-out war, martial law, and US military intervention will only spark further unrest in the countryside. The dislocation of peasants and internal refugees is but a prelude to a new wave of landgrabbing for imperialist interests such as large-scale mining, so-called development projects and expansion of agribusiness plantations,” Mendoza emphasized.

The KMP Congress theme, “Magtagumpay!” challenges the odds posed by violent maneuvers of militarists and oligarchs in the Duterte regime, who are now desperate to maintain imperialist neoliberal economics and the country’s oppressive, semifeudal set-up.

“UMA fully supports the KMP in leading the peasant struggle for genuine land reform and national industrialization. Even with intense militarization in the countryside, aerial bombings, political killings, state terror and repression, peasants are poised to gain greater victories in our campaign to dismantle the hacienda system and land monopoly of big landlords and agribusinesses,” said Mendoza.

UMA cited the peasant struggle in Hacienda Luisita against the CojuangcoAquino family, and in Madaum, Tagum City, where agriworkers triumphed against the landgrabbing Lorenzo family of Lapanday Corporation. “The bungkalan or land cultivation initiatives of peasants thrive in these areas, due to collective and militant struggle,” Mendoza stressed.

Department of Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Lead Convenor Liza Maza, and Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao were also present at the KMP Congress to support peasant demands for genuine land reform and national industrialization.

The 2-day KMP Congress will end tomorrow, and will culminate in a protest march, July 14, to be joined by thousands of Bikolano farmers in downtown Legazpi City.

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UMA condemns illegal arrest of spokesperson, activists in Davao City

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Lito Lao, UMA-SMR Spokesperson at NFSW 8th Congress (file photo)

The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) vehemently condemns the illegal arrest of Lito Lao, spokesperson of UMA-Southern Mindanao Region (UMA-SMR), who was held together with other peasant and human rights leaders last night, June 28, by elements of Task Force Davao (TFD) in a checkpoint in Lansang, Davao City.

Aside from Lao, also arrested were Pedro Arnado, regional chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-SMR); Gerry Alborme, Secretary General of KMP in North Cotabato; and KARAPATAN-SMR secretary general Hanimay Suazo.

According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, UMA secretary general, the grounds for their arrest by TFD security personnel for being “suspicious individuals” is a great lie. “As leaders of people’s organizations, Lao and the other activists arrested by TFD are all well-known, and are practically local personalities especially in Davao City. The arrest is plain harassment and can be a prelude to a general crackdown on activists and people’s rights advocates.”

Only last May 8, President Duterte even met with Arnado and Lao, together with leaders and members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) during the President’s much-publicized visit at the farmers’ protest camp-out in Mendiola.

Lao and the others were eventually released after the intervention of Karapatan paralegals and Exodus for Justice and Peace.

The activists just came from Tagum City to document cases of human rights violations. According to Karapatan-SMR, cases of human rights violations are growing in the region since martial law was declared in Mindanao a month ago.

A partial list includes the following: 5 political killings; 2 frustrated killings; 8 strafing incidents; 3,417 individuals threatened, harassed, and intimidated; 14 cases of destruction of property; 23 illegally arrested; 2,000 individuals forcibly evacuated due to aerial bombing and mortar shelling; and 2 cases each of killed and frustrated killing due to indiscriminate use of weapons against civilians.

This includes the illegal arrest and detention of 3 banana workers and their supporters who organized and supported the strike of Shin Sun workers when some 100 military men, 30 police officers and 20 scabs attacked their picketline on June 2 in Compostela Valley.

These growing human rights violations including the arrest of the 4 human rights defenders must be vehemently condemned. “We call on Duterte to immediately lift Martial Law in Mindanao – this call echoes with people advocating for just and lasting peace not only in Mindanao but in the whole country as well,” said Ramos.

Sugar farmworkers unite to dismantle various Cojuangco haciendas

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Nearly three decades after the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP, farmworkers under sugarcane haciendas launch simultaneous actions against the powerful Cojuangco landlord clan.

In Tarlac, national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) joined local farmworkers in a caravan yesterday in Hacienda Luisita barangays to assail undeclared “martial law” within the controversial sugar estate.

Hacienda Luisita is controlled since the 1950s by the family of former Presidents Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, who enacted CARP in 1988, and Benigno Aquino III, under whose regime the CARP expired in 2014. Large parcels of prime agricultural land in Luisita is still heavily guarded by private security and armed state forces.

Yesterday, around 100 policemen were deployed to guard a 500-hectare fenced area in Brgy. Balete which is claimed by commercial bank RCBC. SWAT teams were also seen toting high-powered firearms in checkpoints. Today, farmers and their supporters formed a human chain near an army headquarters located right smack in the middle of a thriving land cultivation area also in the same barangay.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos says successive land reform schemes under CARP failed to uplift the lives of downtrodden sugar workers in Hacienda Luisita. Instead, farmworkers were to exposed to various atrocities, including the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004.

“First, Cory implemented the oppressive Stock Distribution Option or SDO. Today, despite a Supreme Court decision for total land distribution, Hacienda Luisita is still under the effective control of the Cojuangco-Aquinos through the aryendo or illicit leaseback set-ups. The Cojuangcos are now also business partners with another despotic landlord family, the Lorenzos of Lapanday, who controls thousands of hectares of banana plantations in Mindanao,” said Ramos.

Meanwhile in Negros, notorious landlord and Marcos crony, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., an estranged brood of the Cojuangcos of Luisita, still controls around 5,000 hectares of land under the CARP’s “corporative scheme,” another non-land transfer scheme akin to the SDO.

According to NFSW Secretary General John Milton Lozande, more than 200 farmworkers from 11 Cojuangco haciendas in Negros Occidental have set up a protest camp in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) local office in in Bacolod City to demand the termination of Danding’s corporative scheme and revocation of various joint-venture agreements forged with CARP “beneficiaries.”

The corporative scheme was enforced in the following haciendas in 1998: Hda. Balatong, Hda. Nieva, Hda. Bonifacia, Hda. Soledad, Hda.Candelaria, Hda. Fe, Hda. Caridad and Candaguet, Hda. San Antonio, Hda. Ara-al, Hda. Kaiyaman and Hda. Adelina and has since comprised the Eduardo Cojuangco Jr or ECJ landholdings. The protests in Bacolod City are led by the ECJ Farmers and Farmworkers Alliance in Negros or EFFWAN.

“The SDO, corporative scheme and joint-venture are onerous contracts and landgrabbing schemes made legal by the CARP. This is the reason why farmworkers reject any extension of this pro-landlord policy and instead push for a genuine land reform program composed mainly of free land distribution to actual tillers,” said Ramos.

Ramos is referring to the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill filed as HB 555 by Anakpawis Partylist and Makabayan bloc, a piece of legislation which is widely supported by farmers across the country.

UMA also said that before the cancellation of the 5th round of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the negotiations were nearing positive developments, especially since both parties have already agreed to free land distribution as component in the crafting of a Comprehensive Agreement for Socio-Economic Reforms or CASER.

“We are enraged that instead of addressing basic socio-economic problems to solve the roots of peasant unrest and armed conflict, the Duterte regime is gearing towards Martial Law and militarist solutions fed to him by ex-generals and other imperialist lapdogs within his Cabinet,” said Ramos.

“Duterte’s peace agenda now appears to be totally undermined with the piling up of various military atrocities in peasant communities in Mindanao and other parts of the country where state forces are under ‘red alert.’ The farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita and Negros have already showed us how to daring land occupation and cultivation actions. Farmers have no recourse left but to continue the fight and dismantle the centuries-old hacienda system,” ended Ramos.

 

 

 

Agriworkers Call for Release of Detained Union Leaders in Mindanao

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) is calling on the Duterte government to order the release of 3 banana workers and their supporters who were arrested on June 2 in Compostela Valley.

According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of UMA, the arrests sends a chilling effect on the rights of workers to strike in the light of the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

Originally 14 workers and advocates were arrested by a combined force of 100 military men, 30 police officers and some 20 scabs. Most of those who were arrested were beaten up and the place where the workers stayed during their strike was destroyed.

Eleven of the workers were released on the same day except for three. Namely, those still detained at the Compostela police station are Vicente Barrios, union president of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (SUMIFRU Packing Plant 232).

Another is Pio Salar (President, Freshmax Workers Union) and Eric Noble (Vice-Pres, Shin Sun Workers Union) are detained in the Compostela Police Station. There has been no case filed against them.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had earlier declared before the workers strike on March 23 that their recruiter, ECQ Serve Human Resources was engaged in the forbidden practice of Labor-only Contracting (LOC). DOLE also ordered the immediate return of the 287 workers previously employed under the agency.

In a research made by Ibon foundation on the conditions of the Shin Sun workers, it found out the following. They are only paid by their recruitment agency at P291 a day, even if the minimum wage in Davao region is set at P307 a day.

Their actual wage though is a measly P135 a day because of various salary deductions. These are for supplies, working tools, and mandated contributions for welfare benefits. The workers, however, found out that their agency never remitted their contributions to the SSS, Philhealth, and Pagibig.

Those who conducted the arrests and destruction of the strike area told the workers that the Labor Law is not enforced because of martial law.

This is absurd as the constitutional rights of the workers and the people have not yet been suspended even if martial law was declared. Thus we reiterate our call that the 3 union leaders should be released immediately and that the DOLE implement its earlier decision that was favorable to the workers.

Sugar workers to Duterte: Fight for Peace

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Sugar workers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao march the streets of Bacolod City for genuine land reform and continuation of peace talks.

BACOLOD CITY — The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), which just successfully held its 8th National Congress here in city, expressed apprehension over President Duterte’s recent pronouncements that may negatively affect prospects for just and lasting peace in the country.

In a protest action in downtown Bacolod today, Rolando Rillo, newly-elected President of NFSW, said that “Sugar workers were eagerly anticipating positive developments in the peace process (between the government and the National Democratic Front), especially after both have declared that they agree to free land distribution and wide-ranging socio-economic reforms.”

“But Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao and his inclination towards militarist solutions will only worsen state repression that workers and peasants suffer even without his open declaration of martial rule,” he said.

“Duterte must stop fighting against our own people. He must fight for peace,” added NFSW Secretary General John Milton Lozande.  Sugar workers also fear that Duterte’s public threats against communist peace negotiators in a speech in front of Navy officials in Davao City yesterday would be tantamount to the termination of the talks.

NFSW, a national federation under the wing of national agriworkers center  Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), said its members are not afraid to voice opposition against the bogey of Duterte’s martial law. UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos called on its member-unions and associations nationwide to intensify campaigns for genuine land reform and a just and lasting peace, while launching bold protest actions against Duterte’s martial law.

“Bandying Martial Law about to solve deeply-rooted social problems should never be ‘normalized’ – no amount of government spin and fear-mongering will change the fact that the masses reject martial law,” said Ramos.

The military already admitted that the Marawi crisis is not the only problem that Martial Law seeks to solve – which could mean that it is geared towards Marcos-style fascist repression of people’s rights. “We will join ranks with those who have campaigned against the return of the Marcoses in Malacanang and those who protested against the Marcos burial, besides mobilizing our own members and networks nationwide,” said Ramos.

Aside from numerous active district chapters and local unions and associations in Negros Occidental, the NFSW Congress re-established its links to its organizations in Bukidnon, Socksargends, Panay, Batangas, Tarlac, and Cagayan Valley. NFSW was founded in 1971, and was immediately involved in the struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship. Like other militant organizations during that time, NFSW members suffered human rights violations  such as arrests and torture under Marcos. The most appaling incident was the Escalante Massacre in 1985, where around 19 hacienda workers were killed, and many others were wounded.

Despite these challenges, NFSW still dared to continue its organizing work among sugar workers both in the field and mills, until its ranks swelled to 30,000 at the start of the 80’s. “NFSW’s contribution the downfall of the US-Marcos dictatorship is significant,”said Lozande. UMA and NFSW said that they are determined to solve the roots of unrest in the country such as land monopoly and the perpetuation of the hacienda system, and lack of basic industries.

“Duterte’s decision to cancel the 5th round of peace talks with the NDF, his threat to arrest communist consultants once they return to the country, and his toying with the idea of suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas, does not bode well in settling civil unrest. The masses of workers and peasants are most interested in forging socio-economic reforms through the peace process, and Duterte is undermining all the positive developments in the talks with his rash statements,” said Ramos.

“Duterte should not rely on militarists and neoliberal stalwarts in his Cabinet who are the most rabid supporters of declaring and expanding martial law, and scuttling the peace talks. Duterte’s coterie of rightists in his administration underestimate the strength of the masses who are struggling to end feudalism and imperialist control in the country,” added Ramos.

Lozande further emphasized that “NFSW was not cowed when martial law was declared a year after its formation in 1971. We only had only members in Negros island then. Today we are one with the rest of the Filipino people who are resolute in resisting further oppression and state repression.”