Like you, I hate the daily commute. Pre-pandemic, I had to squeeze in an overcrowded UV Express for two hours. I kept wishing I could fly, Apparate maybe, or at least have better transportation options.
With several new infrastructures underway that the government has pushed as efficient solutions to traffic congestion and public transport woes, the last thing we needed to hear was the steep price that others had to pay for them. For farmers in Bulacan, having a fancy train system meant losing their livelihood.
The Department of Tourism’s Facebook page has posted a video of the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7), which, it said, has “reached [a] 59.72% completion rate.”
For two and a half minutes, the video showcases the 22-kilometer stretch, where 14 stations from North Avenue, Quezon City to San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan will supposedly cut down commute time from a few hours to 35 minutes.
That’s a great transport option for Filipinos who have to commute daily. But let’s not forget another sector affected by big infrastructure projects like this. Where there’s land, there are farmers who depend on them to feed their family and the nation.
On Jan. 17, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) or the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, an organization advocating agrarian reform, called attention to this urgent matter with an incident in Bulacan.
According to KMP’s post, more than two hectares of land in Sitio Dalandanan, Brgy. Tungkong Mangga, along with various crops, were destroyed by a backhoe wielded by members of the Peace and Order Safety Office of San Jose Del Monte City and city hall officials on Jan. 8.
The post detailed how a family of farmers could only watch as the backhoe dug up and destroyed their pineapple and eggplant crops as well as banana trees.
KMP claimed that the land was bought by Obet Robes, allegedly a cousin of San Jose Del Monte City Mayor Arthur Robes.
Employees of San Jose Del Monte City Public Order and Safety initiates bulldozing of farmers’ crops in Sitio Dalandanan, Tungkong Mangga village. The backhoe used is operated by Sky Green Imports, owned by Obet Robes, cousin of SJDM City Mayor Arthur Robes. pic.twitter.com/dYVkLRafrT
— #LandFoodJustice (@kmp_phl) January 17, 2021
KMP denounced the “land grabbing” incident, and called on local government units to provide financial assistance to the farmers instead of “harassing them” in favor of real estate projects in the city.
“Hindi na nga [nakatanggap] ng ayuda mula sa LGU ng SJDM ang mga magsasakang binagyo, sinira pa ang kanilang sakahan,” the group said.
(Not only had the farmers not received financial assistance from the San Jose Del Monte local government after the recent typhoon, their lands and crops were also destroyed.)
The incident has been denounced by other groups. It should in fact be highlighted because in case anyone has forgotten, our farmers are getting a raw deal in a country that’s supposedly agricultural.
Farmers are just as valuable as our healthcare frontliners. They literally provide us the food we eat and keep the economy going. Hardly earning enough for their labor, they are even harassed by military officials who keep red-tagging them and sometimes even worse, and by real estate developers who buy the land they till without proper compensation. They deserve better, from proper funding for agricultural innovations inputs, to recognition for all their hard work, pandemic or not.
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Art by Jan Cardasto