The Duterte regime is relentlessly pushing for the liberalization of the agricultural sector, including agricultural lands, to allow foreign ownership and plunder. Despite this, progressive congress representatives continue to lobby for reforms that will benefit peasants.
These reforms are linked to the longstanding struggles waged by peasant organizations. These are also part of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) which was drafted in 2016 during peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Agrarian reforms become increasingly significant amid all-out attacks against the sector—from the liberalization of rice to the relentless killings of peasants struggling for their right to land.
Progressive parties under the Makabayan bloc refiled the Genuine Agrarian Reform bill (GARB) at the House of Representatives. This bill lays down a comprehensive framework for genuine land reform. It aims to dismantle land monopolies and implement a free, fair and just land distribution policy within five years. It will cover all private agricultural lands, agribusiness plantations, those that have been tilled by farmers but were taken away by the government, landlords or foreign institutions, and other public agricultural lands.
GARB also includes comprehensive support for peasants including the provision of sufficient subsidies for their production. This will also encourage farmers to organize or join cooperatives to enhance their production. This will provide a mechanism against grabbing of farmer beneficiaries’ lands.
At present, farmers asserting their right to land, including those awarded with Certificate of Land Ownership, are gravely repressed. Many loss their lands for failing to pay high amortization dues. In relation to this, a bill was filed to write off these dues to and award these lands to them.
The Makabayan bloc also filed the Rice Industry Development Bill. It declared that rice farmers who are tilling farmlands shall not be subjected to land rent that is more than 10% of the average net harvest per hectare in the last three consecutive years.
Meanwhile, other representatives filed bills to ensure full insurance for beneficiaries of the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and to construct a communal irrigation, half of which will be paid by farmer beneficiaries in a certain span of time.
They also pushed for the construction of warehouses and the provision of milling facilities for every rice-producing municipality and city. This will also support all transportation requirements. The loan will be payed at a set amount for 25 years.
In the Senate, Sen. Ralph Recto refiled a bill mandating the placement of a “timbangan ng bayan” (weighing scale) in all markets to deter the proliferation of defective weights. He also pushed for the construction of farm-to-market roads across the country.