Calabarzon industrial workers and farmers merge ranks to demand return of coco levy funds

LAGUNA. As the “Martsa ng Magsasaka” enters its fourth day, they were welcomed by labor unions from the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino – Southern Tagalog chapter (BMP-ST), who hosted a program at Calamba to express their solidarity with the coco farmers.

The Sariaya-Manila march started on April 12 and covers a stretch of 135 kilometers with the demand to return of the P70 billion levy collected by Marcos dictatorship from coco farmers during the 1970s to the 1980s.

Domeng Mole, BMP-ST chairman said, “The workers of Calabarzon industrial parks joins our coco farmers in their demand for social justice”.

He clarified, “Despite the seeming difference between agricultural and industrial work, we share a common experience as toilers. We know that our collective labor does not only provide food on our tables. It also creates a value that is legally but unjustly appropriated to the privileged elite – profit for capitalists, interest for bankers, rent for landlords – by virtue of their property rights – and in the form of taxes for the government bureaucracy”.

Mole, a veteran practitioner of laws on labor relations, added, “However in the case of the coco farmers, the levy was extracted by Danding Cojuangco illegally and forcibly in order to control San Miguel Corporation (SMC). Though the fund was created not by him but by the hardwork and sacrifice of the coco farmers themselves. Hence, they have the right to claim every centavo of the P70 billion coco levy fund”.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that 20 percent of the coco levy shares in SMC was owned by Marcos crony Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr. It also decided that 31 percent was owned by the Republic of the Philippines in trust for all coconut farmers, which was reduced to 24 percent, or more than P70 billion and remitted to the national treasury in October 2012.

At the program in Calamba, where the participants in the “Martsa ng Magsasaka” took a rest before proceeding to Cabuyao, they were joined in by various cause-oriented groups such as the multi-sectoral coalition Sanlakas.

BMP president and Sanlakas nominee Leody de Guzman said, “The bloody dispersal of desperate farmers in Kidapawan reveals the utter disregard of the Noynoy regime to the plight of the agricultural sector. The incident is but a fresh statistic to an already long list of state brutality to protesting farmers, which includes the Mendiola, Lupao, and Luisita massacres”.

He concluded, “Post-EDSA 1986 elitist administrations have long abandoned the modernization of agriculture as a key component to national development, due to its policies of import liberalization towards an export-oriented import-dependent service economy. The same paradigm shift has resulted into the collapse of our local industry. The new thrust to open agriculture to agri-big business will spell more displacements among the workers and farmers. Therefore, in the face of a common adversary, organized labor unites with the agricultural sector in its demand for land reform and social services”.