Farmer-members of Anakpawis in Bicol, launch “Lakbay Paraoma”

Lakbay Paraoma in Bicol. Photo by Baretang Bikolnon.Lakbay Paraoma in Bicol. Photo by Baretang Bikolnon.

Naga City, Camarines Sur – Thousands of Bicolano farmers under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bikol (KMB), the regional chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and activists from organizations under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Bikol (Bayan Bicol) has initiated their protest caravan-march dubbed as “Lakbay Paraoma,” the regional version of the nationwide caravan “Lakbay Magsasaka” led by KMP.

The farmers are members of Anakpawis Party-list who staunchedly demanded the immediate direct distribution of the multi-billion peso coconut levy fund to small farmers, as proposed by House Bill No. 557, authored by Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao who is joining the activity. He will be with the caravan until it reaches Manila on October 23.

The regional protest action was built up with the provincial activities, as part of Lakbay Paraoma in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes provinces.

“While the region is rich in natural resources, fertile vast tracks of farmlands, fishing areas, as well as coconut-based production, sugarcane, natural gas and other resources, the region was still ranked as the fourth poorest in the country, and majority among the poor are farmers who composed 75% of the population,” Casilao said during the protest caravan.

The lawmaker and leaders of KMB blamed this miserable state to the government policies, primarily the absence of a genuine agrarian reform program, destructive economic projects and undemocratic measures against legitimate protests.

Norberto Autor, Chairperson of KMP also denounced the callous government projects that leads to displacement of farmers and fisherfolks, such as the eco-tourism project in Aroroy town, Masbate. The local government is using police and military forces to repress the people’s opposition, led by Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Mapanirang Pagmimina at Kumbersyong Agraryo (Umalpas Ka). They are opposing a tourism project of the partnership Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

The peasant leader also condmened the continuing human rights abuses against farmers who are opposing the operations of the Filminera Mining Co. at the said town. A farmer from Brgy. Capsay, Alfredo Cabatingan, was illegally detained for 21 days without appropriate charges for opposing the levelling via bulldozer of his farmland, and the mining firm’s armed security forces reported harassed a community of small-scale miners.

As assertion, KMB leads the “bungkalan” (cultivation) campaign in the region, particularly in Brgy. Concepcion Grande in Naga City, Hacienda Manubay, Delvo Estate, Hacienda Almeda, Hacienda Abella, Hacienda Jimenez, Hacienda Federis, Hacienda Tyhangco and Guballa Land Property.

KMB declared that the Duterte government failed the Bicolano farmers and his economic programs and policies are recycled or rehashed from hsi predecessors, leading to massive displacement of farmers from their land and livelihood.

“Duterte is selling out lands in the region to favor haciendero and oligarchs, opened up the mountain ranges for plunderous mining operations, converted lands and delimited fishing grounds, he is actually killing us via his neoliberal policies which are plagiarized from the ‘dilawan’ and Gloria Arroyo regimes,” KMB said.

The Lakbay Paraoma farmers are also condemning Duterte’s tyrannical measures, especially the all-out war policies in the countryside. They are holding President Rodrigo Duterte, primarily responsible for the cases of extra-judicial killings that victimized 24 farmers in the region, and for the trumped up charges against 34 political prisoners, as of last September according to Karapatan-Bikol.

“This is our contribution to the nationwide action against his tyranny, we will show Duterte, that thousands of Bicolano farmers are already fed up of his anti-people and anti-poor measures, we demand land, we demand freedom, we condemn tyranny,” Autor exclaimed. ###