Naga City — On the 45th year of Presidential Decree 27 (PD 27) or the Martial Law edict decreeing the “Emancipation of Tenants from the Bondage of the Soil”, Bicol farmers have started the #LakbayParaoma regional peasant caravan in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes to highlight the dire situation of farmers and poor peasants comprising 75% of the region’s population.

Despite government claims of growing regional economic growth, Bicol remain as the 4th poorest region in the country, with Masbate as the region’s poorest province.

“There is no genuine land reform. PD 27 and the succeeding bogus CARP has exempted the lands from actual land distribution and as a result, rendered farmers across the country landless and poor,” said Antonio Flores of KMP.

Bicol is rich in natural resources suitable for agriculture and marine industry with 13 fishing grounds but vast tract of farmlands and coconut areas remain under the control of big landlords. Haciendas still exist in Bicol and lands devoted to agriculture are being converted to real estate and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects.

In Masbate, agricultural lands in Bantolinao and Napayawan island in Aroroy municipality are eyed for eco-tourism projects and a gambling facility that will result to the loss of farmers’ and fishers’ homes and livelihood.

Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Mapanirang Pagmimina at Kumbersyong Agraryo (UMALPAS KA) said the local government of Aroroy is using the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to get rid of the people in affected communities to give way to gambling financier Stanley Ho and business partner Bongbong Marcos’ eco-tourism projects.

Private guards and goons of Filminera Mining Company, also in Masbate, are wantonly committing human rights violations against farmers and small-scale miners in the community. Early this year, Alfredo Cabatingan, 65, was detained for 21 days without charges by Filminera’s goons after they bulldozed his farmland in Bgy. Capsay.

This month, Bicol farmers are set to launch region-wide land cultivation or bungkalan to expand the 500 hectares collective cultivation already

happening in the following peasant areas – Brgy. Concepcion Grande, Hacienda Manubay, Delvo Estate, Hacienda Almeda, Hacienda Abella, Hacienda Gimenez, Hacianda Federis, Hacienda Tyhangco and Guballa Land Property.

Bicolano Lakbayanis will converge in Naga City today and will proceed to the National Capital Region for the national #LakbayMagsasaka protest for agrarian reform and against fascism. ###