Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mindanao rural sector urge legislators to pass HB 4077 without amendments

Farmer leaders and beneficiaries calling for CARP Extension without 'Killer' Amendments.

DAVAO CITY— Civil society composed of farmers’ peoples organization., non-government organizations and religious sector unite and urge Congress to pass House Bill 4077 without the amendments being proposed by House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Representative Luis Villafuerte that would only weaken agrarian reform implementation.

House Bill 4077 is the consolidated bill which aims to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program for another five years from 2009 to 2013 with a total budget of P100 billion, being supported by most agrarian reform advocates and farmers' organizations nationwide. The salient features of the said bill are: extension of land acquisition and distribution, funding for support services, liberalized terms on agricultural credit facilities and gender-responsiveness to women beneficiaries.

The group marched from Freedom Park, Roxas Blvd. and passed through Speaker Prospero Nograles' Congressional Office in Quirino Avenue then proceeded to block the newly constructed Gov. Generoso Bridge in Bankerohan to highlight the plight of the small farmers and farmworkers. The marchers chose the bridge which to many symbolizes the rise to power of Cong. Nograles, who became House Speaker just right after the inaguration of the said bridge.

“Kinahanglan pa ug mga hilabihan nga kalihukan susama sa pagbarikada sa dalan aron lang mahibaw-an nila ang among kahimtang. (There is a need for extreme actions such as blockading the bridge for them to know our demands),” Manang Lita Tandag from Compostela Valley lamented.

With little time and different controversial laws pending in Congress, the group is alarmed that the two proposed separate amendments by Speaker Nograles and Rep. Villafuerte will be incorporated with House Bill 4077 that is now up for plenary.

Villafurete proposal seeks to stop the Land Acquisition and Distribution aspect of the program and gives emphasis on the validity of implementing Compulsory Acquisition only for lands issued with notices of coverage on or before June 30, 2008. Furthermore, only lands offered before December 31, 2008 under the Voluntary-Offer-to-Sell scheme will be valid. In short, under the Villafuerte amendment land distribution will no longer applicable after 2008.

House Speaker Nograles on the other hand proposed House Resolution 737 which proposes allowing foreign investors to operate and own vast tracts of agricultural lands. Also, plantations which are under labor administration, cultivated, and developed for exports crops will be excluded from CARP’s Compulsory Acquisition scheme.

“Our House Speaker decided to have a ‘win-win’ solution by including these amendments. But we see it as another compromise disfavoring our small farmers,” May Capili,advocacy officer from Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM) expressed.

The group also vowed to make the anti- agrarian reform legislators especially representatives of their respective provinces accountable to the people. “We will make sure that Mindanao’s rural poor sector will remember their names especially now that election is fast approaching. The people have voted them to be their voice in the legislature but they are doing otherwise,” Rosauro Tapal, secretary-general of UNORKA-Mindanao warned.

The Mindanao Coalition for Agrarian Reform is composed of Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), Builders for Rural Empowerment and Human Rights Advocates Networks (BRETHREN), Mindanao Farmworkers Development Center (MFDC), Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Ugnayan ng mga Lokal na Nagsasariling Organisasyon ng mga Mamamayan sa Kanayunan (UNORKA) and with the support of the Dioceses from Davao, Digos, Tagum and Mati.##



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