Bishop deplores killing of Negros sugar workers

Bishop deplores killing of Negros sugar workers

Farmers protest the killing of nine sugar workers outside the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Bacolod City, October 22, 2018. PHOTO FROM NFSW FACEBOOK PAGE

By CBCP News

October 22, 2018

Manila, Philippines

A Catholic bishop has condemned the murder of nine sugar farmers in Negros Occidental province and joined in the call for justice for the victims.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said the killings only unmask the long standing violence that farmers under hacienda system have been subjecfed to.

“The tragic incident reveals the ugly face of the prevailing agrarian problem in Negros that remains unresolved,” he said.

The victims were reportedly eating dinner inside the tents when they were shot by still unidentified gunmen at a hacienda in Sagay City’s Bulanon village on Saturday.

The attack claimed nine lives, including four women and two minors.

The National Federation of Sugar Workers, where the victims belong, said the attack occurred on the first night of the land cultivation area or “bungkalan” in the hacienda.

Under bungkalan, farm workers would occupy and collectively cultivate lands covered by the government’s agrarian reform program to help farmers survive the “dead season” in the sugar industry.

The group said that of the 424,130 hectares of sugar lands in Negros Island, 33.99% with 50 hectares or more are owned by only 1,860 big landlords, 30% with 10 to 50 hectares are owned by just 6,820 big and small landlords.

While the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was only at 40%, the NFSW estimates that majority of 53,320 farmers and agricultural workers only own 36% of the sugar lands.

And due to lack of support services, the progressive group estimates that 70% of sugar lands that have been distributed by the government had been leased.

The NFSW also noted how sugar workers in haciendas, on the average, get P80-P120 daily despite the minimum wage pegged at P245 per day.

“It is morally right and just for the sugar workers and peasants in Negros Occidental to undertake their Land Cultivation Areas,” said Alminaza.