Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee

Lupang Hinirang, Lupang Hinarang: Citizens’ Signature Campaign for CARPER 21 April 2009

by Atty. Kaka J. Bag-ao

Farmers Marched Against HR 737 to Protect the Right of Filipino Farmers to Own Lands

Farmers from Sumilao, Banasi and Calatagan marched from Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City to the Batasan to protest the Congress’ deliberation of House Resolution (HR) 737 which seeks to allow the acquisition by foreign corporations and associations, and the transfer and conveyance, of alienable public and private lands. Instead, the farmers reiterated their demand to Congress to immediately deliberate CARP Extension with Reforms (House Bill 4077) and enact the same before its adjournment.

The 26 farmers walked with the message “PASS CARPER NOW” painted on their bodies, and staged a short program before the DAR and Congress together with other farmers from PAKISAMA, PKSK and PARAGOS. They also made a symbolic “burying” of anti-CARPER solons including Iggy Arroyo, Mikey and Datu Arroyo, Luis Villafuerte, Pablo Garcia, Alfredo Marañon, Crispin Remulla, Jeffrey Ferrer, Jose Lacson, Mark Cojuangco, Ebbie Apostol, Eufrocino Codilla, Sr., Jack Duavit, Pryde Teves and Bernard Piñol. DAR Secretary Pangandaman, who has failed to defend the farmers’ rights as agrarian reform secretary, was also buried with the anti-CARPER solons.

Incidentally, these anti-CARPER solons including Speaker Prospero Nograles are also the main proponents of HR 737. Last April 2, Speaker Nograles publicly expressed to prioritize the deliberation and enactment of CARPER before adjournment. House Bill 4077 has not yet been deliberated in the House since its resumption on April 13, yet, House Resolution 737 has been proceeding swiftly before the House. Sumilao Farmer Yoyong Merida laments, “Bakit uunahin ng pamahalaan ang pagbibigay ng lupa sa mga dayuhan samantalang karamihan sa ating mga magsasaka ay wala pang lupa? Dapat iprayoridad ng kongreso ang pagpasa ng CARPER para maipamahagi sa ating mga Pilipinong magsasaka ang lupa at hindi para sa mga dayuhan.”

Further, the farmers insist that HR 737 is based on inaccurate grounds. HR 737 alleged that allowing foreign ownership will usher in foreign investments. Based on studies, however, foreign investors in the Philippines are not actually asking for ownership of land. Rather, they merely need to be ensured of stability of rules so they know what rules govern their businesses and that there are actually mechanisms that will help protect their capital. Moreover, contrary to beliefs that foreign corporations could usher in increase agricultural productivity and efficiency, studies prove that smaller farms are more efficient in producing food crops. In addition, in the country labor is an important concern. Mechanization will not be efficient in the context because of a massive labor force.

This Constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of land obviously involves a national security issue. Considering that there is no cap to the total area allowable for foreign ownership, there might come a time that we will run out of agricultural lands which serve as food sources. This, specially considering that foreign corporations cannot be dictated what type of crop (food instead of cash crop) will be planted therein. Also, many of the produce of commercial farms—likely to multiply upon grant of ownership of lands to foreigners-are targeted for export and the output is intended for other countries. This will be problematic for food security in the country. In such a situation, there is a possibility that the retention limit for ownership of agricultural lands will be increased by legislation, as foreigners will not accept coverage of their lands under the CARP. As such, there will also be stronger resistance from Filipino landowners.

Farmers from Sumilao, Banasi and Calatagan who stayed in Manila are asking the public to join the CARPER campaign, as national development is founded on solid building blocks like agricultural development. Giving the farmers land to till enhances their opportunities for better income. Increased income for the rural poor results in an improved economy. An improved economy means a better country. Agrarian reform means economic development and food security not just for the farmers but also for all citizens in the country.

The farmers are also asking the public to join them in a March to Congress to bring the citizens’ petition for CARPER bearing 1 Million signatures. The march to Congress is scheduled to be held on April 27, 2009.

If you want to help gather signatures and schedule a screening of Lupang Hinarang, a film made by Ditsi Carolino (the filmmaker who made Bunso and Minsan Lang Sila Bata), please contact the following for details and information:

Kaka Bag-ao:
Jane Capacio:
Mally Gargar (BALAOD): 09224456384; 09177171879
Reggie Aquino/Junard Devila (KAISAHAN): 4330760

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