Farmers march for land distribution
Accuse government of dragging its feet over agrarian reform policy
Farmers taking part in a march to demand the immediate distribution of land
Angry farmers from the central island of Negros Occidental began a march yesterday as part of a nationwide campaign to pressure the government into completing its agrarian reform program by 2014. The marchers headed to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Bacolod City to seek quicker distribution of land. A delegation was to travel to Manila and link up with other farmers from around the country before picketing the main DAR office in Quezon City. The farmers accuse President Benigno Aquino of “not prioritizing” the plight of the poor. “It has been two years now since he promised us a better life. But we still go hungry,” said Romeo Española a farmer’s leader. He said the government has dragged its feet in implementing the agrarian reform program. The agrarian reform department has only distributed 86,209 hectares out of 210,323 hectares the government promised to share out last year, farmers say. They also say the department has spent $4.7 million on training but has not provided support services, like seeds and irrigation. "We have land, but we have nothing to plant on it," said one farmer, Jose Charito Celis. The Catholic Church has been supporting the farmers' call for full land distribution in two years. Bishop Vicente Navarra of Bacolod is scheduled to celebrate Mass with the farmers tomorrow in a show of Church solidarity. Task Force Mapalad, a national organization of farmers and farm workers, noted that the country's agrarian reform law stipulates the distribution of at least a million hectares of land to farmers by 2014.