Saturday, January 26, 2008

Negros Farmers Gearing For Big March

CEBU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 26, 2008) - At least 5,000 farmers from all over Negros in central Philippines will march across the island starting Monday to call on Congress and the Arroyo administration to pass a law extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beyond 2008 along with its land distribution component.

Dubbed “Lakat-Negros: Lakbayan sang mga Mangunguma para sa Reporma sa Duta kag Katarungan” (Walk-Negros: Farmers’ March for Land Reform and Justice), the march will start from two convergence points—Sagay City in the North and Kabankalan City in the south—and will converge in Bacolod City on January 31 for a general mass action. Jose Rodito Angeles, president of peasant federation Task Force Mapalad, said that along the way, the marchers will be joined and reinforced by other farmers’ groups and support organizations that have formed themselves into a broad coalition called Negros CARP Reform Movement (NCRM).

“Lakat Negros intends to dramatize the demands of the Negros farmers for immediate extension of CARP with land distribution. We emphasize on land distribution because some groups, including those in government, are pushing for CARP extension with provisions only for support services component and none for land distribution,” Angeles said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

He said it is very important for the farmers to ensure that the land distribution component remains intact in extended CARP because there are hundreds of land cases in the island of Negros that have yet to be resolved under CARP.

“Ini nagapakita sang determinasyon sang mga mangunguma agud angkunon ang duta sa idalum sang repormang agraryo sang gobyerno (This shows the determination of the farmers to have their own land through the government’s agrarian reform program),” said Jose Rodito Angeles. TFM-Negros spokesperson Edna Sobrecaray said that aside from land, Lakat Negros is also about justice.

“In a larger sense, this is also a campaign for social justice that has yet to be fully realized in the province,” she said.

Sobrecaray said the route itself is symbolic as the farmers in the south will pass through the towns and cities under the Fourth and Fifth Districts whose congressional representatives are “intent on delaying or scrapping CARP extension.”

The Arroyo properties in Negros Occidental, mostly owned by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, have yet to be placed under CARP coverage.

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