By Baretang Bikolnon
LEGAZPI CITY – Progressive peasant groups around the Bicol region held its simultaneous picket caravans earlier to mark ‘World Hunger Day’ instead of World Food Day post-celebration saying that farmers are mostly affected by poverty and lack of food security caused by anti-farmer policies of Duterte administration.
Militants from Masbate, Sorsogon, Albay and Camarines Sur protested in front of their respective local government agencies such Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), National Food Authority (NFA), National Irrigation Agency (NIA), PNP and AFP Camps, Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
The province of Masbate with a total of 2,577 attendees has maintained the biggest mobilization in the region. 1,438 Sorsoganons joined the mobilization. In Albay, around 212 protesters joined the caravan while Camarines Sur recorded over 500 people.
According to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Albay, the protests were part of the national coordinated protest actions of the farmers and allied sectors that recognize the importance of farmers in the society.
“It only shows the frustration on the current regime that has nothing to do but enforced laws and programs that are against the interests of the toiling masses,” said Dan Balucio, spokesperson of Bayan Bicol.
The groups never stop charging Duterte on his unfulfilled promises especially to the peasant sector.
“The CA’s refusal to Ka Paeng Mariano as DAR secretary through the order of Malacañang proves that Duterte has completely abandoned its promise to the peasants in connection with genuine land reform, and on the other hand is undoubtedly upholding the interests of large landlords, comprador bourgeoisie and imperialist power,” said Alfredo Mansos, spokesperson of Bayan Albay.
Peasants against land use conversions
In Camarines Sur, a dialogue in DAR Provincial Office 2 happened between OIC Chief Admin Officer Rodel Martirez and the farmers of San Jose, Pili and Libamanan.
Farmers in CamSur condemn the government in its plans to expand the runway of Naga City airport in Pili town, planning for another domestic airport in San Jose town and other land conversion projects in the province.
Nelsy Rodriguez of Bayan CamSur said that these projects greatly affect the farmers tilling more than 200 hectares of land which will be covered in land use conversions.
4th District Representative Noli Fuentebella already approved the planned domestic airport in San Jose saying that it will improve the tourism. Even Department of Energy (DOE) Sec. Alfonso Cusi was in favor of the project since it is one of the priority projects of Duterte admin.
Peasants are mostly victims of EJKs, HRVs
On the other hand, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bicol (KMB) did not forget to address the skyrocketing number of victims of extra judicial killings and other human rights violations under the Duterte administration.
According to Karapatan-Bicol the number of Human Rights Violations victims under the Duterte administration has reached 632, with a total of 4,914 people, 25 killed and 34 imprisoned. Most of them are farmers.
“We have been suffering from severe militarization caused by Oplan Kapayapaan of Duterte. It seriously damages our livelihood as peasants. Because of the overwhelming militarization we were unable to till our lands because our co-peasants were being shot,” farmer Enrique Tumampil said.
According to Tumampil, they are being harassed by the AFP troops when they are going home and the AFP troops are arresting civilians to help them steal their chickens and goats.
“When we saw soldiers in our house, we leave our house and we are running that we could not even get our food or clothes. They [military] are destroying our house. Since I grew up I already knew previous presidents of the country. But in Duterte’s term, we farmers really experiencing worst because of Oplan Kapayapaan,” Tumampil added.
Charito David, chairman of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Masbate (KMM), countered Duterte’s earlier statement against Piston: “Mahirap kayo? Magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom”.
David stated that drivers are not the only one suffering but also farmers in Masbate who have long been suffering from hunger and are deprived of farmlands.
Bayan Bicol supports the demands of peasant sector. “It is just to hold the militant traditions of struggle, must be daring in organizing and expanding membership and launching actions to ultimately frustrate the US-Duterte regime’s fascism and dictatorship,” said Balucio.
Bayan Bicol will join the KMB in its #LakbayMagsasaka caravan going to Metro Manila starting tomorrow to address the democratic wishes of the peasant sector along with the calls to end the killings among the farmers. (with reports from Angel De Mesa and Jessabel Tabios/BaretangBikolnon.com)