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Land distribution in Philippines: result of collective action

A peasant leader expressed that the installation of 93 farmers on the 68.1-hectare piece of land in Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion town, Tarlac province is a result of the community’s collective action and “not due to anyone’s goodwill.” 

“This installation process, we owe this to ourselves because we collectively fought for it,” said Alvin Dimarucut, chairperson of Malayang Kilusang Samahang Magsasaka ng Tinang (MAKISAMA-Tinang).

It took three decades of struggle for land rights before the Tinang farmers were installed to their land by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on May 8.

The land was part of the 200-hectare land that was surrendered by the Dominican Province of the Philippines Inc. (DPPI) to the government under a voluntary offer-to-sell model of the 1988 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. 

After three decades of struggle for land rights, 93 farmers in Hacienda Tinang are installed by the Department of Agrarian Reform to their lands in Concepcion town in Tarlac province on May 8. Photo by Mark Saludes

“The farmers have been waiting for this day. Many of them are elderly now and some have died even before they could fully own the land they had poured their sweat and blood into for many years,” said Abby Bucad, MAKISAMA-Tinang spokesperson.

Since the 1960s, Tinang farmers have been denied their right to cultivate the land and instead have worked as farm laborers for a mere Php3.00 a day under near-slave labor conditions. 

In 1995, the government bestowed the Certificate of Land Ownership Award on the farmers, but it was kept from them by a political clan in Concepcion, who established a cooperative to maintain power over the 200-hectare sugarcane plantation.

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On June 9, 2022, 83 farmers, who staged collective farming to assert their rights to the land, along with agrarian reform advocates and journalists, were arrested and charged with illegal assembly and malicious mischief. The courts later dismissed these charges.

Police arrest protesting farmers in the town of Concepcion, Tarlac, on June 9, 2022. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Lawyer Jober Pahilga, executive director of Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA) and legal counsel of the peasant group, said the farmers still face challenges in completing the installation process.

He said that SENTRA lawyers will continue to provide legal support to the farmers until the process is complete. “We still have a lot of work to do.” 

Elizabeth Felix, one of the agrarian reform beneficiaries, said the farmers “agreed to continue to work in the farm collectively even now that we officially and individually own the lands.”  

“It has already proven effective. Collective action is our safeguard against any attempt to deny us our rights to the land,” she said.

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