ILOILO CITY — Lakbay ng Taumbayan marchers representing farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, labor, urban poor, women, youth, LGBTQ, and PWD gathered at Iloilo City on April 30, 2019, to highlight the issues on land conversion, food security and climate change in the region.
Aggressive Development and Land Conversion a Threat to Agrarian Reform, Food Security
The marchers representing the basic sectors discussed the current trend of rapid urbanization and development shaping Iloilo and its implications for the rights and wellbeing of the region’s workers and farmers. They note the considerable expansion of the BPO industry in the area, especially in Iloilo city which houses a steadily expanding urban workforce. They argue that the problems produced by urbanization and development, not Cha-Cha, should be the main focus of local government action and spending.
With the increasing degree of urbanization and subsequent population growth, the private-led development of the province has also led to the intensification of conflict over agrarian reform. One of the biggest cases in the region is the current dispute between the residents and communities of Sicogon island organized under the Federation of Sicogon Farmers and Fisherfolk Associations (FESIFFA), representing about 700 agrarian reform beneficiaries and residents and private sector developer Sicogon Development Corporation (SIDECO), which is engaged in a business partnership with Ayala Land Inc. for the commercialization of lands identified by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for redistribution.
For Ireneo “Ka Rene” Cerilla, lakbay marcher representing the country’s farmers, the forced land grabbing and conversion of agrarian lands is a huge injustice. He says that “the experience of FESIFFA reflects the centuries-old reality of opression, marginalization, neglect, and resistance that defines the lives of Filipino farmers”.
Aside from cases of blatant land grabbing by corporate interests, the people of Iloilo are also confronted by the problem of food security. The increasing conversion of agricultural land into commercial areas and subdivisions is drastically reducing the land and resources available for sustaining the needs of the population. Indeed, instances like the conversion of first-class irrigated rice lands by corporations such as the Villar-owned Camella Homes are hugely responsible for the current concerns on food security in the region.
Address Climate Change not Chacha
Compounding the issues raised above are the effects of climate change. Specifically, Iloilo is currently struggling from the effects of drought brought about by an intensified El Nino which has lead to widespread destruction to fishponds, crops, poultry, livestock, and other agricultural products, as well as threatening the local supply of potable water. Climate change thus presents a fundamental challenge to the sustainable future of the farmers, workers, and residents of Iloilo
For the Lakbay marchers, Iloilo’s experience of development and the danger of climate change is a clear indicator of the need to articulate an alternative understanding and practice of development, one that puts the needs and concerns of Iloilo’s basic sectors and communities at its heart, to prevent further damage and risks brought about by private and profit-led commercialization. For them, the campaign for federalism and Cha-Cha does nothing to address these concrete needs and problems of the region.
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Lakbay ng Taumbayan is an 18-Day March-Caravan Campaign from Marawi to Manila (April 23-May 10) and Baguio to Manila (May 6-May 10) promoting the agenda of marginalized sectors–workers, farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, urban poor, youth, PWDs and LGBT–as an alternative to the administration’s agenda of federalism.
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