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Luisita farmers buck DAR’s ‘block farming’ scheme

Written by  Charlie V. Manalo
Saturday, 25 May 2013 08:00 [ ] 
While the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and its Central Luzon chapter the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) are amenable to the government’s farm service assistance on the 6,212 Luisita beneficiaries, the groups rejected the Department of Agrarian Reform’s market dictated block sugar farming and instead asked DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes to respect the collective will of the farmer beneficiaries to pursue their own production endeavor.
According to UMA chairman Lito Bais, Luisita farmworkers have been waiting for so long for government subsidies but the DAR should not get it wrong to think that they will give in to the conditions in return of farm aid.
“We demand service of any kind free of any conditions and obligations. We know how to make our farm lands productive; its’ a matter of resources and sheer political will,” he stressed.
The UMA leader added the “DAR is in no position to tell what is good for us. In fact if they have done their work in the first place; land distribution of Hacienda Luisita has not been at a snail’s pace.
“Indeed we are entitled for services just like all land reform beneficiaries in the country but not on DAR’s terms. The farmworkers will not allow DAR to treat Luisita’s land distribution like a business transaction,” the peasant leader said.
The Supreme Court had earlier ordered DAR to implement the distribution of 4,916 hectares of land controlled by President Aquino’s family for more than five decades.
On February 27, DAR released the list of 6,212 beneficiaries.
UMA slammed the attempt of DAR, Department of Agriculture and the Sugar Regulatory Administration, National Dairy Authority, Agricultural Training Institute and the Land Bank of the Philippines to force a market-driven style program to camouflage the governments’ non-land transfer scheme under Republic Act 9700, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper) Law.
“The Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS) was designed to promote market-oriented scheme like the Stock Distribution Option, leaseback agreement, contract growing and joint venture; it’s a scheme aim to frustrate actual and physical land distribution of Hacienda Luisita,” Bais added
He also said the farmworkers under Ambala are against block sugar farming because it will only re-concentrate their farm lands back to the Aquino-Cojuangcos or to some other interested parties.
“We don’t want the 4,915 hectares of Luisita farm land be part of the government’s profiteering racket that will deprive farmer beneficiaries of their right to decide on their own planting and cultivation method.”
“If they really want to help; first, they should proceed on the land distribution without any further delay. Second, they should help the beneficiaries to pursue the P1.33billion that the HLI owed to the farmworkers. That is the very concrete way to help us to get social justice and not another scheme that will make surely get us into a compromise spot,” Bais said.
In its decision, the high court ordered Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to pay P1.3 billion ($31.7 million) to the farm workers for the sale of 200 hectares of land. In 1989, the stock distribution option (SDO) was implemented in the hacienda and the farm workers, as stockholders, are supposedly entitled to get their share from the sale of land, among others. Over the years, parcels of land have been converted and sold, including the 80.51-hectare lot for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) road network but farm workers did not receive a single centavo.

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