The raging flames of rural unrest is being fueled further by the Duterte regime. Its successive anti-peasant and anti-people policies are set to displace thousands upon thousands of peasants, fisherfolk and minority people from their farms, fishing grounds and ancestral land that serve the interests of big bourgeois compradors and big foreign capitalists. Duterte remains deaf to the clamor of millions of landless peasants for genuine land reform.
Duterte has accelerated land grabbing and land-use conversion to pave the way for infrastucture, tourism and energy projects. In Central Luzon, tens of thousands of families are set to be driven away from their agricultural land and fishing grounds by the construction of expressways, airports, so-called ecozones and other real estate projects covering thousands of hectares.
Several thousand families are also set to be displaced in Southern Luzon as the Duterte government fast-tracks the construction of facilities to address the transportation and logistic operations of big business enterprises. Tens of thousands of families will also be dislocated with at least ten major infrastructure projects planned in Davao and other Mindanao regions.
Megadam projects such as those in Kalinga, Tarlac, Quezon and Iloilo which are set to displace tens of thousands of families and inundate close to a hundred thousand hectares of land, mostly ancestral lands of minority peoples.
In compliance with imperialist dictates, Duterte has paved the way for the complete liberalization of rice importation through the rice tarrification law. This will cause a sharp loss of income and grave sufferings to more than two million rice tenant farmers and farm workers even as they continue to be burdened by feudal rent, absence of mechanization and state subsidy. Under the guise of lowering domestic rice prices, the liberalization of rice imports is bound to debilitate local rice production and result in import dependence of the country’s rice supply and high prices in the long-run. The ultimate aim of the measure is to force rice farmers into bankruptcy, force rice lands to become idle and thus pave the way for conversion.
The economic dislocation of hundreds of thousands of rice tenant farmers will add to the grave state of rural unemployment. Over the past two years, more than one million agricultural jobs were lost, mainly as a result of widespread land conversion and continuing downtrend in agricultural production. The Philippine countryside is overflowing with surplus labor.
Duterte’s measures aggravate the socioeconomic conditions of millions of peasant tillers who continue to suffer from landlessness in the absence of a genuine land reform program. The reactionary land reform program of the past 30 years failed to address the peasant’s clamor for social justice and free free distribution of land to the tillers of the land. It has merely served as a real estate transaction. More than 90% of “beneficiaries” have yet to complete payment of their amortization. The rest remain essentially landless with many compelled to enter into agreements or arrangements where they have been deprived control over their land.
Land remains concentrated in the hands of a few. Large haciendas remain in the hands of the Cojuangcos, Roxases, Aranetas and other big landlords. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land are controlled by big plantations. Peasants and farm workers continue to suffer from feudal and semifeudal forms of exploitation, including onerous land rent, usury, high costs of inputs and extremely low wages.
To placate widespread peasant discontent over landlessness, displacement due to land-use conversions, rise in rural joblessness and loss of income, Duterte is busy drumbeating and staging shows of “land distribution.” Duterte’s “land reform,” however, is a big fake. In fact, he is distributing mere documents requiring recipients to pay regular amortization. His order to prioritize the distribution of government lands amounts to nothing and aims only to cover-up his fealty to the big landlord class and plantation owners and refusal to subject them to land reform.
Duterte’s false land reform declarations aim only to hoodwink the peasant masses to give up their cause for land reform and thus condemn them to a lifelong of suffering. He pretends to be a champion of land reform in the futile attempt of drawing the peasant masses away from the New People’s Army (NPA).
Duterte is using his fake land reform to justify all-out suppression against the peasant masses. He seeks to justify the abuses and brutalities committed with impunity by his military, police and paramilitary forces. There is a rising number of cases of extrajudicial killings, warrantless arrests, arbitrary detention, intimidation and threats, forced “surrender” of entire communities and other human rights violations.
Duterte, however, is unable to conceal the gross socioeconomic conditions of the peasant masses who are gravely suffering the consequences of his anti-peasant and anti-people neoliberal policies. He will fail to attenuate the growing restiveness in wide countryside.
Widesrpread peasant unrest demands mass action. The peasant masses should be aroused, organized and mobilized in great numbers to wage all forms of struggle to oppose land grabbing and land-use conversion, rice import liberalization and other neoliberal policies, clamor for the return of the coco levy funds to the small coconut farmers, and to advance their demand for genuine land reform. They should be emboldened to resist martial law and assert their democratic rights guaranteed under international humanitarian laws as well as under the reactionary constitution. Peasant demonstrations must be mounted in order to harness their strength in numbers, to advance their anti-feudal struggles and shatter Duterte’s reign of terror.
The revolutionary forces must exert all-out effort to transform peasant unrest into revolutionary resistance. The NPA and the revolutionary masses must continue to intensify people’s war by waging armed struggle, building organs of political power, and carrying out agrarian revolution.
By carrying out land reform, the NPA continues to gain the deep and wide support of the broad masses of peasants. Amid worsening socioeconomic conditions under the Duterte regime, the peasant masses are being further roused to support and join the people’s army and take part in the revolutionary armed struggle to overthrow the reactionary state of the big landlord class and the big bourgeois compradors.