Bukidnon peasants in march vs. landlessness: stop land conversions in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/20 October) –One of the biggest threats
to farmers in Bukidnon is the issue of the continuing conversions of
rice and corn farms to agricultural-industrial plantations, Danilo
Menente, Kasama-Bukidnon chairperson told this reporter via telephone
Thursday.

He said farmers have been reduced to laborers in the farmlands as the
growing trend of conversions continues around the province.

“Dapat pugngan kini aron dili na mosamot ang kalisud sa kahimtang. Mao
kini ang nakapagutom sa mga tawo,” (This has to be stopped in order
not to worsen the situation. This is the cause of people’s hunger) he
added.

He added that if farmers can no longer avoid renting their land to
agricultural plantation owners, the government must make sure they are
given the right wages if they become laborers.

But Menente said landlessness is still the biggest problem of farmers
in Bukidnon.

The group has pushed for genuine land reform in the country in the
occasion of the commemoration of the Peasants’ month this October.

Kasama-Bukidnon said about 3,000 farmers from Bukidnon have joined the
regional march organized by peasants and support groups from October
19 to 21 from Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro.

The farmers converged in Malaybalay City and traveled in a 30-vehicle
convoy to Cagayan de Oro City where they joined an estimated 7,000
others from the rest of Northern Mindanao in the regional march
protest dubbed “Lakbayang Mag-uuma alang sa Yuta, Katungod ug
Katilingbanong Hustisya” (Peasant Protest March for Land, Rights and
Social Justice).

Menente added that they have participants from Malaybalay, Valencia,
San Fernando, Quezon, and other towns in southern Bukidnon. He said
their delegation also includes representatives from indigenous
peoples.

In a press release, however, Richard Colao, KMP Northern Mindanao
secretary general, cited alleged harassment of their participants in
San Fernando, Bukidnon.

He said on Oct. 18 that a para-military group allegedly allied with
Alamara, a tribal defense group, has “scoured” villages spreading word
that massacre awaits those who will join the rally.  But he added that
their participants instead increased with the alleged harassment.

Some 10,000 peasants from Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental were expected
to march from Bukidon and Misamis Oriental from October 19-21 and
converge in the Pelaez Sports center in Cagayan de Oro City to
drumbeat their demand for genuine agrarian reform in Northern
Mindanao.

In a press release, organizers said the protesters will start their
journey from Quezon town
in Bukidnon and from Lugait town and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Northern Mindanao said the
march will highlight not just land issues but also alleged human
rights violations against their sector.

Menente was quoted in an earlier press release as saying “global land
grabbing” has endangered the survival of small farmers and farm
workers in the province.

Menente, citing a definition by the Pesticide Action Network in Asia
and the Pacific, described global land grabs as unjust terms through
which transnational companies acquire ownership or control of lands in
poor countries with government approval.

He noted that Bukidnon hosts the country’s largest plantations planted
to banana and pineapple.

He said the phenomenon of “global land grabbing” in Bukidnon explains
the reportedly rising cases of human rights violations against farmers
in the province.

Menente cited the case of the 800 families of the
Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) Farmers’ Association, in Musuan, Maramag
town.

BTL members have claimed a portion of Central Mindanao University’s
farmlands in Musuan since the 1980s. The Department of Agrarian Reform
decided in their favor. But the Supreme Court had reversed the DAR’s
decision with finality.

Attempts by the group to stay in the lands they have been tilling for
almost 30 years were allegedly met by attacks by CMU’s security
guards. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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