Farmers cry for free land distribution

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News - Examiner) ( Mindanao

DAVAO CITY – Farmers’ groups backed by Anakpawis party- list dared presidential frontrunner Grace Poe to commit “free land distribution” should she wins in the May polls.

This comes after the Nationalist People’s Coalition of former Marcos crony, Eduardo Cojuangco, threw its support behind the senator.

“We dare Senator Poe, as early as possible to categorically commit to free land distribution, as it is apparent that Danding Cojuangco is behind her campaign and we do not want the Filipino farmers to be left out during her probable presidency,” Anakpawis Representative Fernando Hicap said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He alleged that Cojuangco was a member of the so- called “Rolex 12,” a group of cronies of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos during martial law and a beneficiary of the multi- billion coconut levy fund that gave him control over San Miguel Corporation and United Coconut Planters Bank.

Hicap claimed that a total of P9.625 billion fund was allegedly collected from poor farmers from 1973 to 1982 that was used to establish the United Coconut Planters’ Bank, acquire the Coconut Industry Investment Fund oil mills, consequently shares of SMC. At present, the coconut levy fund is estimated at least P70 billion.

The national farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros claimed that Cojuangco allegedly controls 11 haciendas in the province totalling about 20,000 hectares or about 2/ 3 of the islands agricultural lands, according to Hicap.

He also alleged that during the Arroyo administration, Cojuangco attempted to control more than 100,000 hectares of land in Isabela as cassava plantation, supposed to supply raw materials for SMC products.

Hicap said Anakpawis has been challenging presidential aspirants to vow to free land distribution to farmers that remains to be disregarded.

Poe has promised - during a recent presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro City – that agricultural development such as free irrigation services and the utilization of the multi- billion coconut levy fund.

“With the entry of Danding Cojuangco among her presidential patrons, we are dutybound to query the details of Poe’s declaration on how the farmers would benefit the coconut levy fund and guarantee against it falling again to Cojuangco’s hands,” Hicap said.

He said there is no presidential candidate yet to promise free distribution of lands to poor Filipino farmers. He added that almost all presidential candidates are pledging the same old formula on agricultural development.

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