DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The implementation of agrarian reform program in Boracay Island must begin with free land distribution in order for it to effectively succeed and bear genuine impacts to the lives of the farmers and indigenous people in the area.
The idea was raised by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (NDFP RWC-SER) in reaction to the government’s on-going rehabilitation of Boracay.
“The free land distribution component of a new agrarian reform program was agreed by both the NDFP and GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) at the RWCs-SER in the previous rounds of the peace talks,” said Julie de Lima, chairperson of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms, in a statement issued on Thursday.
To fully achieve agricultural productivity, sufficient support services must immediately follow the free land distribution, de Lima added.
The services, she emphasized, must range from short to long-term assistance to aid the beneficiaries in developing and making the land productive for the local and national economy.
The NDFP statement was issued in response to earlier an earlier declaration made by President Rodrigo Duterte that Boracay natives should sell their lands to big businesses.
“Agrarian reform imbued with the spirit of social justice, indigenous peoples’ rights, and working people’s rights is the Filipino people’s demand. We challenge the GRP to fast-track the negotiations on CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms) when we resume formal talks this month,” de Lima said.
She added that both the NDFP and GRP must iron out the few remaining contentious issues and come out with a common draft for the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of CASER.
She added that the case of Boracay falls squarely within the ambit of agrarian reform and rural development because the GRP itself has classified a big bulk of lands at issue either as agricultural or suitable for agriculture.
“A new and truly redistributive land reform program is necessary, as it would pave the way for a truly just and equitable agrarian reform to benefit the most qualified beneficiaries in Boracay,” de Lima said.
The most qualified beneficiaries, she added are “those who are actually tilling the land, or ready to till it, or to work the land in other productive ways such as agro-forestry, fishery, small-scale food processing, and the like.”
The Ati community in Boracay and those that have been displaced but willing to return should be given priority, she pointed out and that the issue of environmental justice must be served in implementing an agrarian reform program in the area.
“In the last four decades, the environmental situation of Boracay has immensely deteriorated. The GRP agencies’ aggressive and obsessive drive for tourist revenues has resulted in grievous human rights violations such as the displacement of its original occupants, the Ati community, including the killing of tribal leader Dexter Condez,” she said.
She also noted that there are various applicable provisions in the NDFP’s CASER draft that the GRP may find enlightening.
The rehabilitation of Boracay can, in fact, serve as a testing ground for the provisions of a signed agreement on agrarian reform and rural development, de Lima added. (davaotoday.com)