Farmers gather in Naga City in preparation for a journey to Manila for a series of protest rallies. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
MAJORITY IN CONGRESS IS SCARED TO PASS THIS BILL . . .
Rep. Ariel Casilao
NAGA CITY — At least 2,000 farmers from the six provinces of Bicol gathered at the Jesse M. Robredo Coliseum here to begin the journey to Metro Manila, dubbed as “Lakbay Paraoma” (Journey of the Farmer), to stage protests there until Oct. 25.
The Bicol farmers, boarding 48 buses, would assemble with other farmers across the country along their route to the country’s capital to demand the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 555, or the genuine agrarian reform bill.
The farmers also planned to demand an end to land-grabbing and killings of farmer leaders.
Rep. Ariel Casilao, of the peasant party-list group Anakpawis, said agrarian reform had been neglected even by the Duterte administration.
Casilao was joined by fishing sector leader, Fernando Hicap of the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya.
“Until now thousands of hectares of land are under the control of hacienderos,” Casilao said.
He said the government still had a backlog of four million hectares for distribution to some 2.7 million beneficiaries.
HB 555 was filed by Casilao with other members of the Makabayan bloc in the House — Carlos Isagani Zarate, Emmi De Jesus, Antonio Tinio, Arlene Brosas, France Castro and Sarah Jane Elago.
The bill seeks to distribute land to tillers for free and would cover all agricultural land regardless of crops.
“Majority in Congress is scared to pass this bill because they own or protect thousands of hectares of land,” Casilao said.
“They are scared they might lose it,” he said.
On Saturday, hundreds of militant farmer activists in Masbate province commemorated World Hunger Day, reiterating their call for a unified stand on land reform, according to Charito David, chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Masbate. —With a report from Mar Arguelles
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