June 13, 2018 | Press statement
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (NDFP RWC-SER) said the Government of the Philippines (GRP) promise to carry out agrarian reform program in Boracay must start with free land distribution to farmers and indigenous people in the island. The free land distribution component of a new agrarian reform program was agreed by both the NDFP and GRP at the RWCs-SER in the previous rounds of the peace talks.
After free land distribution, Boracay farmers should be given sufficient support services ranging from short to long-term assistance to aid them in developing and making the land productive for the local and national economy, the NDFP RWC-SER said, in response to President Duterte’s remark that Boracay natives should sell their lands to big businesses.
Agrarian reform imbued with the spirit of social justice, indigenous peoples’ rights, and working people’s rights is the Filipino people’s demand. We challenge the GRP to fast track the negotiations on CASER as when we resume formal talks this month, said Julie de Lima, chairperson of the NDFP RWC-SER.
Both parties must iron out the few remaining contentious issues and come out with a common draft for the Agrarian reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER),” De Lima said.
She added that the Boracay case falls squarely within the ambit of agrarian reform and rural development because the GRP itself has classified a big bulk of lands at issue either as agricultural or suitable for agriculture.
A new and truly redistributive land reform program is necessary, as it would pave the way for a truly just and equitable agrarian reform to benefit the most qualified beneficiaries in Boracay ”those who are actually tilling the land, or ready to till it, or to work the land in other productive ways such as agro-forestry, fishery, small-scale food processing, and the like. The Ati community, including those that have been displaced but willing to return, should be given priority. De Lima also stated that the issue of environmental justice must be served in implementing an agrarian reform program in Boracay.
In the last four decades, the environmental situation of Boracay has immensely deteriorated. The GRP agencies’ aggressive and obsessive drive for tourist revenues has resulted in grievous human rights violations such as the displacement of its original occupants, the Ati community, including the killing of tribal leader Dexter Condez.
De Lima noted that there are various applicable provisions in the NDFP’s CASER draft that the GRP may find enlightening. The rehabilitation of Boracay can, in fact, serve as a testing ground for the provisions of a signed agreement on agrarian reform and rural development.
Julie de Lima
NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms