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October 15, 2005

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October is Peasant Month

It is a time for highlighting the concerns of the Filipino peasantry and celebrating the gains that the Philippine peasant movement has achieved in its struggle, primarily for land.

Originally, only Peasant Day was celebrated, on October 21. On this day, exactly one month after he declared Martial Law, Ferdinand Marcos promulgated Presidential Decree (PD) 27, decreeing the Emancipation of Tenant Farmers of Rice and Corn Lands. PD 27 was the first agrarian reform law in the country to require not only the lowering of land rent but the redistribution of land to its tillers. Marcos designed it as both a palliative act and a basis for justifying the fascist measures he was about to take against the growing peasant movement in the Philippine countryside.

Thirty-three years since, and despite the passage of a more comprehensive agrarian reform law (CARL), Republic Act (RA) 6657, seven out of ten peasants in the Philippines still do not own the land they till. In fact, the condition of the Philippine peasantry has been worsening with the adoption of numerous anti-peasant policies, such as RA7178, a law passed in 1995 to fulfill state commitments to the World Trade Organization by repealing the protectionist Magna Carta of Small Farmers and programming the step-by-step liberalization of the Philippine market for agricultural products.

In light of this worsening condition, peasants affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) have been commemorating October 21 as a national day of protest, and October as a month of activities geared at both broadening public awareness of peasant issues and solidifying peasant ranks.

Since its birth in 2001, KMP’s Cordillera chapter, the Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Apit Tako), has been commemorating Peasant Month with regional activities held in and around the city of Baguio. This year, however, it is devoting Peasant Month to provincial activities: in Tabuk, a forum on the impact of mining hosted by the Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga; in Lagawe, a forum on the state of Ifugao agriculture co-hosted by the local Peasant Leaders’ Forum and the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement; in Bangued, the launching of Apit-Abra.

The last represents a leap forward in the Cordillera peasant movement. In the past, peasant political activity in Abra was limited to the province’s lowlands, which were serviced by KMP’s chapter in the Ilocos region. With the birth of Apit- Abra, the province’s upland peasantry will now have a vehicle for articulating and organizing collective action on their concerns.*** Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT-TAKO) or Peasant Alliance in the Cordillera Homeland

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