Land not bullets

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today condemned the shooting of banana plantation farmworkers reclaiming 145 hectares of government-awarded land inside the plantation of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC). in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.


At around 7:20AM today, private security guards of the LFC opened fire against farmworkers and agrarian reform beneficiaries belonging to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (MARBAI). Based on initial reports, at least seven farmers and land reform advocates were injured in the strafing incident.


“The farmworkers are only reclaiming the land that is rightfully theirs so they can start planting food crops for their consumption. Farmers are only exercising their moral and democratic right to till the land but security guards, upon the order of the Lapanday management, opened fire and strafed them,” said Antonio Flores, secretary General of KMP.


Among those injured were Emmanuel Buladaco of Tagum City, Rico Saladaga of Brgy Tibagon; Talban Miparanum of Brgy Kingking; Belardo Francisco of Brgy. Tagdangua; Jojo Gomez of Brgy Magnaga all located in Pantukan town and Jose Balucos of Brgy. Teresa, Maco in Compostela Valley. The wounded farmworkers were rushed to the regional hospital in Tagum City.


During the dispersal, LFC personnel sprayed chemicals on the protesting farmworkers using the aircraft utilized for aerial spraying in banana plantations. The farmworkers took refuge in a nearby church.


On December 9, hundreds of MARBAI farmworkers launched collective actions and entered the LFC compound to assert their installation to the awarded lands. Despite the harassment from security guards, they successfully entered the plantation. This morning, the security guards attacked the farmworkers as LFC personnel was scheduled to harvest bananas in the disputed land.


In the 1990s, the land, formerly owned by Hijo Plantation Inc. was voluntary offered for land reform coverage. The land was awarded to employees and three groups of ARBs were organized which later formed themselves into cooperatives.


In 1999, the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Cooperative 1. (HEARBCO 1) entered into growership contract agreement with Hijo Plantation Inc. (now Lapanday Foods Corp.) and Global Fruits Corp. for a period of 10 years. After years of growership contract with Lapanday, the HEARBCO 1 incurred more than P1-B debt and a section of farmers subsequently rejected the renegotiated growership contract with Lapanday because it is grossly disadvantageous to them. They organized and formed MARBAI and filed for petition for reinstatement to their tillage. A compromise agreement between HEARBCO 1 and LFC was agreed in 2011 reducing the debt to P800,000. In December 2015, Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator Jose Nilo Tillano issued an order reinstating the MARBAI farmworkers.


“Two years after the order was issued, the farmworkers are still not installed on the lands. We call on DAR to act swiftly and decisively on this matter to prevent any more violence,” said Flores.


Last Friday, despite harassment from security guards, the farmers successfully entered the LFC compound as they asserted to reclaim the land. On November 18, hundreds of ARBs from Mindanao led by MARBAI, started launching actions and protests to reclaim the lands and start farming again. Thousands of farmworkers were unjustly terminated by the LFC in 2011.


Lapanday Foods Corp. is owned by the family of former Department of Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo. ###


Reference: Antonio Flores, Secretary General, 0921-2726682