• Group hits HLI block-farming scheme

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    A militant peasants’ organization on Sunday criticized the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for its bid to subject Hacienda Luisita to a sugar block-farming scheme.

    The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), in a statement, claimed that the scheme would allow the Cojuangco family to retain control over Hacienda Luisita.

    Hacienda Luisita is a vast sugar land located in Tarlac, which is owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

    The KMP issued the statement in the wake of reports that the DAR will campaign for the implementation of sugar block-farms measuring 30 to 50 hectares each that will be managed as one farm so that the activities on the small individual farms are aligned and implemented according to the plans of the whole block.

    “The DAR’s so-called block-farm project in Hacienda Luisita is another scheme by the DAR to perpetuate the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s control over the lands,” said KMP secretary-general Antonio Flores.

    Flores said, “Under the guise of providing so-called support services, the DAR paved the way for the President’s family to control the whole process of production. It will give the Cojuangcos and their dummies power to dictate on farmers what crop to produce like sugarcane, where and when to plant and where to sell their produce. Controlling the cycle of production is tantamount to controlling the lands.”

    “Worst, the sugar block-farming scheme maintains the feudal profit-sharing scheme similar to the notorious stock distribution option [SDO],” he said.

    “The only difference is that the SDO gave worthless stock certificates,” Flores added.

    The militant group cited that the Supreme Court, in its ruling on the distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands, underlined that “the policy on agrarian reform is that control over the agricultural land must always be in the hands of the farmers.”

    “Instead of stopping the implementation of the SDO and other nonland transfer schemes after the Supreme Court decision, the DAR itself promotes these antipeasants schemes that give control over the lands to landlords and agribusinesses under the guise of partnership, contract growing, joint ventures, foreign funding and loans,” Flores said.

    The Sugar Block Farming Program was launched in January last year, with 16 pilot block farms in 12 sugar-producing provinces—Albay, Antique, Batangas, Bukidnon, Capiz, Davao del Sur, Iloilo, Leyte, Pampanga, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Tarlac.

    Under the program, DAR shoulders the cost of farm tractors and business development services, while the Department of Agriculture covers the development of irrigation facilities and improvement of farm-to-mill roads. The Sugar Regulatory Authority, on the other hand, handles agri-technology support and overall management of the block farms.

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