Mobilize thousands to fast-track freeze on land conversion, campaign for peasant rights

National Democratic Front of the Philippines Southern Mindanao Region
Press Statement | September 19, 2016

The National Democratic Front in Southern Mindanao urges all peasants, Lumads and other revolutionary forces to mobilize tens of thousands to actively campaign for the moratorium on land conversion of agricultural lands and other peasant rights. Only through organized, sustained and militant mass movement will there be any chance to secure democratic rights at the present favorable situation.

The NDFP welcomes the commitment of GPH Department of Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano to endorse to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte the suspension of further conversion of agricultural land for industrial and commercial purposes. Similarly laudable is the former peasant leader’s initiative to also condone penalties of agrarian reform beneficiaries who have failed to pay their amortization.

Such measures are necessary elements of socio-economic reform because it intends to provide relief to the productive forces—peasants and Lumads—long exploited by the semi-feudal landscape of the country’s agriculture and economy. Both peasants and Lumads, especially in Mindanao, bear the detrimental consequences of converting lands to commercial and industrial use.

While a freeze on land use conversion is a consequential step, it must also expand on precluding the excursion and expansion of agri-business plantations and foreign and large scale mining ventures in order to significantly push the dismantling of imperialist, feudal and semi-feudal control over vast tracts of the country’s productive lands.

At present, more than 12% of Mindanao’s agricultural lands are occupied by export crop plantations mostly owned by transnational corporations. To make matters worse, there are plans to expand 116,000 additional hectares for rubber, 87,903 hectares for coffee, and 60,000 hectares for cacao plantations by 2016. In Southern Mindanao alone, about one million hectares of land have pending applications for Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA).

Similarly, there is an urgent need to review, renegotiate or abrogate onerous trade agreements under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of the World Trade Organization entered into by previous neoliberal-groveling reactionary regimes that have seriously damaged the productivity and welfare of the peasantry.

Next month, October, marks the Peasant and Lumad Month and concurrently the second round of the peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP. The NDFP urges all revolutionary mass organizations, legal organizations and allies to popularize and ensure thorough discussion of genuine land reform and national industrialization.

In the same vein, the NDFP warns peasants and Lumads to be wary of disgruntled big landlords, foreign large scale mining capitalists and their domestic bourgeois comprador partners and their armed cohorts who are out to sabotage the former’s interest for genuine land reform. For years, previous reactionary government have given them leeway to accumulate vast tracts of lands and continue their exploitation and plunder of our natural resources. We must seize every opportunity to achieve considerable gains and continue to be vigilant against saboteurs from the rabid faction of the ruling class.