Land to feed the foreigners is famine for Filipinos
(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
World poverty, hunger, violence, disease and great social injustice are traced to the unequal distribution of the greatest source of national survival and sustainability - land. Land produces food, water, forests, minerals, living space and manufacturing sites. It is what sustains all life and all creatures and all living things. Land is life and without it humans cannot survive and lead a life of dignity, decency and have a love of the planet.
Land, owned and controlled by the ruling elite is power over the poor who are mostly tenant farmers, crop-sharers, farmhands and all totally dependent on the landlords. The landlords can astutely exploit the insecurity, hunger and sickness of the poor through patronage and turn it into votes for the family dynasty to retain political power indefinitely.
No wonder the rich and wealthy hang on their vast estates and haciendas and resist every kind of land reform. No wonder too that giant multinationals corporations and even other sovereign nations covet land in the developing world. Their greed is becoming insatiable and they are devouring more and more land across the globe in the great international land grab of the century.
According to the UN and global analysts, at least 30 million hectares are being acquired by rich nations to grow food, not to produce and sell back to the poor of the developing nation who own the land but for their own people. They will feast securely while the poor will continue to starve. The corrupt politicians of the developing nations, many of them land owners, are giving away public lands by long term lease to foreign buyers. These are lands that ought to be distributed to the rural poor to farm and grow food and prosper.
You can be sure that some of these officials are getting handsome kickbacks under the table as pay-offs for the foreigners to make the deals go through. When they can allow foreign investors and sex tourists to exploit, traffic and buy and sell the bodies of children and women here with impunity, then leasing the sovereign lands to foreign nations that rightfully belong to the Filipino people is just a push over. They will get away with it also.
Already 20 million hectares, half the size of the arable land of all Europe has been already sold. Africa is a prime target. South Korea got 700,000 hectares in the Sudan, one of the poorest nations on the planet and is getting 94,000 ha in Mindoro, here in the Philippines for 25 years. When they got 1.3 million hectares in Madagascar on a 99 year lease, there was a quick coup and the sitting president as overthrown. The new government rescinded the deal. Politicians beware.
Any Filipino growing food on that land, public or otherwise will be forced off if they refuse to move out that could cause widespread social unrest and play into the hands of the Communists. China is trying to get 1.24 million hectare here also. Qatar is negotiating a deal with President Macapagal-Arroyo to get 100,000 ha. Saudi Arabia bought 500,000 ha in Tanzania. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is closing an 8 million hectares land sale to South African businessmen.
Land leasing to foreigners might be one dirty trick to circumvent land reform in the Philippines which has only distributed 6 million hectares during the past 15 years. There is much more to be shared out to the millions of landless poor.
Only a handful of rich families, politicians, and tycoons own or control most of the private arable land in the Philippines while the majority go landless and hungry. For example, 7 out of 10 peasants still do not own land while less than 1/3 of landowners own more than 80% of agricultural land. Not only has the land reform project (CARP) failed .Only a fraction (17%) of the 1.5 million hectares of private lands has been fairly redistributed to the tenants who worked the land. To lease out land to feed rich foreigners while Filipinos go landless and hungry is a policy of utter disaster and immoral at that. There will be a terrible price to pay.
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Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines.
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