Manila Farmers officially began a hunger strike in front of the department of agrarian reform in suburban Quezon City yesterday, hoping they could pressure President Benigno Aquino to implement a country-wide agrarian reform, sources said.
Jhon Rovio, 16, told the Inquirer he joined the hunger-strike in behalf of his parents who both work as farmers at the Hacienda Carmenchita in Ponteverda, Negros Occidental, central Philippines.
Marcelino Bravo, 70, a farmer at Hacienda Anita in Talisay, Negros Occidental told the Inquirer he would be part of the official hunger strike in Quezon City.
Members of the Medical Action Group (MAG) told Bravo on Wednesday he was too weak to continue his hunger strike.
Some 270 farmers from central Philippines said they were willing to be endangered as they volunteered to join a hunger strike, hoping it would make President Aquino hold a dialogue with them, and in the process, promise the implementation of land reform all over the country prior to a deadline set by law, in August 2014.
Some 24 years have passed since the start of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), said the farmers,.
Its implementation was never perfected because of laws that exempted sugar plantations, and of land-owners who managed to evade the land reform law, said the farmers.
They came earlier from a camp-site of protesters at the compound of Caritas Manila in suburban Pandacan. They reached Manila on June 10, following a protracted protest rally that began in central Philippines on June 1.
They were joined by groups of farmers from the Hacienda Luisita, a 4,000 hectare wide sugar plantation owned by the family of Aquino. His mother, former president Corazon Aquino pushed for the passage of CARP. But in 1988, she also supported the legislated exemption of sugar plantation from land division, allowing sugar plantation to offer instead stock to planters.
“Although we already won our case at the Supreme Court, there is a possibility that its implementation might not yet be implemented until 2014,” said one farmer from Hacienda Luisita.