Samar Peasants Demand:
“Food, Not Bullets!”
“Stop The Island-wide Military Campaign of The 8th Infantry Batallion!”
“No to Large-Scale Foreign Mining in Region 8!”
CATBALOGAN, WESTERN SAMAR, October 16— Led by the Kapunungan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Weste han Samar (KAPAWA), more than a thousand farmers from San Jose de Buan, Motiong, Calbiga, Paranas, Pinabacdao, Hinabangan, Matuguinao, Jiabong, Catbalogan and Calbayog converged this morning in Catbalogan to join in the celebration of Peasant Day and “World Foodless Day.” The mobilization, the biggest in the province since the assumption of the new Aquino administration, was simultaneously coordinated with another mass action in Tacloban City, as part of a regional campaign of peasant organizations spearheaded by the Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB) to highlight the present struggle of the sector against poverty, hunger and human rights violations.
According to SAGUPA-SB, the widespread landlessness of the peasants, the absence of any relevant government subsidy program for agriculture, and the anti-peasant policies such as the failed CARP (and its proposed extended version called CARPER), land conversion schemes and the pro-imperialist Mining Act of 1995, are among the major reasons for the rampant poverty and hunger of peasant families in Region 8.
The militarization in the countryside meanwhile, according to KAPAWA, continues to bring about human rights abuse and damage to livelihood which further aggravate the alarmingly high level of poverty and hunger being experienced in Samar especially by the poor peasants. Recent surveys conducted by the government has ranked the province sixth among the poorest, and fourth among the provinces with the highest incidence of malnutrition of children. “’Food, not bullets!’ is the loud cry of the peasants of Samar,” KAPAWA said in a statement.
A massive military campaign which covers significant portions of all the three provinces of the island of Samar is currently escalating. Aside from incidents of harassment and physical abuse of civilians by soldiers of the AFP, there have also been a number of recent reports of theft and desruction of crops by elements of the 8th Infantry Division in the interior barangays of Jiabong, Motiong, and San Jose de Buan. In Matuguinao, military helicopters have been reported to have been indiscriminately landing and trampling on rice fields.
“President Noynoy Aquino has given us much talk about reforms and his so-called righteous path; but with mounting state terrorism, the exact opposite is definitely what’s happening in Samar,” KAPAWA added.
The delegates from the town of Jiabong, meanwhile, said that they have an added reason to be worried about the recent series of military operations as this might be used to force the communities to accept the entry of the foreign-owned Manganese Mineral Belt Mining Corporation despite an existing provincial ordinance which prohibits large-scale foreign mining in the whole province for 50 years. According to Jiabongnon-Nagkakaurusa nga Parag-uma Hingyap Kauswagan (JINGYAP), the people of the town are against the setting up of a 2,000 hectare manganese mining concession in Barangay Bawang because it threatens Jiabong’s tahong industry, the vast farmlands in the town’s plains, and the forest watershed not only of Jiabong but also of neighboring Catbalogan.
The mobilization is considered to be a kick-off activity for a series of peasant and multi-sectoral mass actions in Samar which aims to drumbeat, among others, the call for the passing into law of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB); the institutionalization of a comprehensive agrarian subsidy program; the wage increase for farm workers; and an aid system for victims of calamities and infestation. The current peasant campaign, according to KAPAWA, shall treat as urgent the demand to put a stop to the escalating militarization and human rights violations in the island, and to large-scale foreign mining in the province and the whole region.
Reference: FILOMINO TABON-TABON
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