Land reform is key to inclusive growth–Green Action PH

January 26, 2017

by IBON Foundation

As thousands of farmers camp out in Davao City to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre and to demand land to the tiller and just peace, the multi-sector Green Action Philippines (PH) network called on the Duterte administration to prioritize agrarian reform in its development plan to achieve inclusive growth. The network stressed that this involves free land distribution to millions of landless and poor farmers and farm workers, which remains unfulfilled to this day.

More than 20,000 farmers rallied on the Mendiola Bridge in January of 1987 to assert genuine land reform under then-President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino. Thirteen farmers were killed and hundreds were injured when state forces opened fire at the protesters.

Quoting research group and Green Action PH lead convenor IBON, the network underscored that a genuinely equitable distribution of land and rural assets is the necessary starting point of rural development. However, the group commented that land distribution is not discussed as a component of the Duterte administration’s draft Philippine Developmemt Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 agriculture and fisheries strategy.

This will allow farmers’woes to continue, lamented Green Action PH. Today, landgrabbing and rural poverty is even aggravated by the rampant commercialization of agricultural land through land conversion and corporate plantations. Citing official reports, Green Action said that more than half a million hectares of arable land have been converted to non-agricultural use by local businesses and their foreign partners within the last three decades.Latest available Landbank information also shows that 75% of amortizing agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) cannot pay, while the rest of ARBs are still subjected to various forms of land distribution circumvention by landlords.

The network underscored that agricultural development starting with genuine land distribution should be undertaken by government. This can ensure that ample support to the sector will increase farmers’ incomes and improve their livelihoods, make more Filipinos capable of catering to the local market, and create extra revenue to put into national industry. This will not only enhance the dynamic relationship between agriculture and industry but will also promote rural industrialization, the network said.

Despite several extensions throughout 30 years, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) has failed to do this. Peasant group and Green Action PH member Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines also said that hundreds more farmers are being killed in their struggle for land and social justice.

Green Action PH spokesperson Sanshen Maglinte meanwhile concluded that the Duterte administration can prove its pro-poor stance by implementing meaningful reforms in assets, income and wealth – genuine agrarian reform included. This will be key in bettering the lives of majority poor Filipinos and thus to achieving inclusive economic growth, Maglinte said.