Haciendas like Luisita should be first to be distributed free, says solon
Big landholdings like Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of former President Benigno Aquino III should be prioritized in the free distribution of land under a final peace accord between the government and communist rebels, a lawmaker who observed the latest round of talks between the two sides said on Friday.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate of the Makabayan bloc cited the joint statement issued by the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines at the end of their fourth round of talks in the Netherlands on Thursday that said they had “firmed up their agreement on distribution of land for free as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform.”
Zarate said Hacienda Luisita ought to be on the list of landholdings “owned by the country’s biggest and most despotic landlords” that should be distributed for free to landless peasants under a peace deal.
“It is the concentration of lands to the few landlords that is one of the biggest roots of the five-decade revolution,” Zarate said in a statement from the Netherlands.
Land reform is a component of a broader agreement on socioeconomic reforms being negotiated by the two sides and which the rebels consider as part of the substantive agenda that deals with the root causes of the insurgency that had killed tens of thousands and stunted the country’s economic growth for nearly half a century.
“Despite the challenges and difficulties, now is the time to even push further this rare opportunity to have a political settlement on the decades-old rebellion in our country and to solve the dire destitution of our people,” Zarate said.
Various peasant groups provided negotiators a list of large agricultural estates that should be prioritized for free distribution, including the 6,000-hectare banana plantation owned by Lapanday Foods Corp. and the Lorenzos of Mindanao and the more than 30,000 hectares owned by the former President’s uncle, businessman Eduardo Cojuangco in Negros, Isabela and Mindanao, Zarate said.
The groups also included the 102,954-hectare logging concessions of DMCI-Consunji in Sultan Kudarat, the Yulo King Ranch in Palawan covering 40,000 hectares, the banana plantation owned by the Floirendos in Mindanao, the 3,100-hectare Fort Magsaysay military reservation, and the Clark Green City in Pampanga, which was part of the former US Clark Air Base.
The sizes and ownership of the estates listed by the peasant groups could not be immediately confirmed.
In Quezon, New People’s Army provincial spokesperson Cleo del Mundo said on Friday the rebels will join and initiate the free distribution of land to farmers once a political settlement has been reached.
The rebels vowed to dismantle the big haciendas in Quezon, particularly in the Bondoc Peninsula where many farmers had been killed or faced arrest and harassment in their struggle for land.
The district is one of the agrarian hot spots in Southern Tagalog where several families control big landholdings in the towns of San Francisco, San Andres, San Narciso, Buenavista and Mulanay, Del Mundo said. —WITH A REPORT FROM DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.