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Farmers protest over stalled reforms

Demonstrators say they still don't own land after 40 years

Protesters say promises have been broken repeatedly on agrarian reforms (photo by Lance Daniel Baconguis) Protesters say promises have been broken repeatedly on agrarian reforms (photo by Lance Daniel Baconguis)
  • Cong B. Corrales and Lance Daniel Baconguis, Cagayan de Oro City
  • Philippines
  • October 22, 2012
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About 5,000 peasants and farmers marched today in Cagayan de Oro City, the provincial capital of Misamis Oriental, in protest at what they said was the government’s continued failure to issue land titles in parts of northern Mindanao.

Richard Colao, a spokesman for the protesters, said that seven out of 10 farmers in this area still “do not own the land they till” despite an agrarian reform process which started 40 years ago under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Since the Philippines passed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) 24 years ago, he said the government has redistributed about seven million of 8.1 million hectares of agricultural land in the Philippines.

But Colao accused the local authorities of prioritizing large companies in the north of Mindanao at the expense of farmers.

Danilo Menente, a local farmer who joined the protest, said the government had made many promises in the past which it had failed to meet.

“We continue to wait,” he said.

Protesters critical of agrarian reform in the Philippines have accused the government of failing to meet its own targets for redistributing land, with many saying delays have continued under the presidency of Benigno Aquino.

The government’s regional farming reform officer in this area of northern Mindanao, Felix Aguhob, said his office had redistributed more than 35,600 hectares from a total of nearly 37,600 hectares under CARP.

Apolinar Banaag of the government’s Legal Services division said that 1,000 hectares had been redistributed so far in 2012 and that overall the beneficiaries received nearly 1.5 hectares each.

Protest spokesman Colao claims there are still 7,000 hectares of farmland that CARP does not cover. He challenged the government to initiate more wide-ranging agrarian reforms to improve conditions for farmers.

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