DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 31, 2008) - Filipino farmers decried Thursday the government's failure to address the worsening land problems in the Philippines.
“Farmers are not fooled by Mrs. Arroyo’s rhetoric and bloated figures. Such reports cannot mitigate the hunger, disease and the loss of dignity that the crisis has afflicted the rural poor,” said Pedro Arnado, deputy chairman of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao.
He also criticized President Gloria Arroyo's State of the Nation Address this week spelling out her land reform achievement. Arnado's group said 1.651 million hectares of land and the 600,000 ancestral domains reportedly distributed by the Arroyo presidency under its land reform program in the last seven years were mere figures which "hide the suffering condition of farmers and lumads."
Lumad is one of more than dozen indigenous tribes in the southern Philippines. Arnado said problems of farmers on Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program are worsening and is contributing largely to the country’s “chronic” economic disorder.
“Behind these figures, the truth glares us in the face: most CARP lands have already been foreclosed by Land Bank because farmers are hardly able to pay for the high amortization rates, farm lands are without irrigation, farmers have no access to subsidy for farm implements and technology, or these have already been grabbed by multinational corporations.”
“We have no one else to blame for the shortage of rice. It is not at all topography, it is only because we have a president who promotes land conversion in order for multinational companies to get their super profits while our farmers lose their lands and our nation suffers from the worst state of food insecurity in history,” Arnado said in a statement.
He said Mindanao agricultural lands are subject to the encroachment of agri-business investments when Arroyo promised in her previous State of the Nation Address to turn the region as the country's food basket.
He said some 200,000 hectares of lands in southern Mindanao alone have been converted into banana and pineapple plantations by Del Monte and Dole corporations while millions of hectares are also threatened with the looming ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
KMP also dared the Arroyo government to bare the “vast” area of lands which have remained under the property of landed families or those leased to foreign agribusiness and mining corporations.
“We call on the president to never again use the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the Filipino masses for her lies, if she has any dignity and shame left. We will not be with her as she has summoned. We can’t let her bring the nation further into any ‘roller coaster’ disaster,” Arnado said. “Our stand remains, GMA has no moral and political ascendancy to rule this government. She must go,” he said.