Luisita farmers pushed into sugar block farms


MILITANT peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Tuesday said Hacienda Luisita farmers are being pushed to the wall by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) leaving them with no option but to enter into another one-sided and onerous non-land transfer scheme in the vast sugar estate owned by the President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s family.

“Hacienda Luisita farm workers are once again being fooled and pushed to the wall by the Cojuangco-Aquino controlled DAR. They are offered with a very expensive tiny portion of the land and then enticed by Aquino’s DAR with sweet and juicy promises of so-called support services if, they will enter into the sugar block farming scheme,” Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general, said in a statement.

The KMP was referring to three Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) documents stating the valuation of 3, 394 hectares at P230, 646, 777.49 or P67, 957.21 per hectare and the DAR’s campaign for the implementation of sugar block farms or the pooling of 30 to 50 hectares of lands that will be managed as one farm.

The peasant group obtained three memoranda by the LBP to DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes dated May 6 referring to a “certification of deposit” amounting to 34, 051, 861.13 for the acquisition of 497 hectares as compensation for the landholdings of landowner Hacienda Luisita Inc.

The two other memo dated May 14 and May 15 refers to “valuation and claim folder profile and valuation summary.” The May 14 memo valued 1, 093.55 hectares at P74, 176, 407.37 while the May 15 memo valued 1, 804.98 hectares at P122, 418, 506.99.

Based on KMP’s computation, the three documents showed that the 3, 394 hectares was valued at P230, 646, 777.49 or P67, 957.21 per hectare.

“It’s 1989 all over again,” Flores said recalling “in 1989, the farm workers were duped by the Cojuangcos and the DAR to enter into the stock distribution option scheme promising that they will become stockholders of Hacienda Luisita, Inc.”

Under the DAR’s “Block Farm Project” briefer, agrarian reform beneficiaries will retain ownership of the lands, will be hired as farmhands, depending on the ARB organizations (ARBO) arrangements with individual enrollees” and that “financing scheme maybe through partnership, joint venture, contract growing, foreign funding, loans, etc. whichever is agreeable to the ARBO.”

Flores said the DAR’s claim that the beneficiaries will retain ownership over the lands is “totally deceptive” saying “real ownership should be accompanied with control over the lands.”

“The issue here is control. The CLOA (certificate of land ownership award) to be distributed by the DAR next month is a mere scrap of paper that requires farmers to pay for the land in a period of 30 years,” Flores said.

He added that under the block farming scheme, Luisita farmers will continue to be waged farmhands, cannot claim ownership because they don’t have control over the lands, and are forcefully tied with the onerous conditions of so-called partnership, joint venture, contract growing, and other arrangements, similar to the stock distribution option scheme.

The peasant leader also noted that even the Supreme Court in its landmark decision last year states “the policy on agrarian reform is that control over the agricultural land must always be in the hands of the farmers.”

Flores maintained that “under the guise of providing so-called support services, the DAR paved the way for the President Aquino’s family to control the whole process of production.

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


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