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Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka

Travails and Triumphs of the Coconut Farmers

in Mainstream

Within the last two weeks of February 2019, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte vetoed two bills concerning the coco levy funds that belonged to the coconut farmers. One bill would have created a trust fund for the coconut farmers and the other, the reconstitution of the Philippine Coconut Authority—the latter’s approval was a requisite in the creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund. Now that the two bills had been vetoed, whatever semblance of action there is to save the ailing Philippine coconut industry and the coconut farmers, whether directly or indirectly, are now again put on hold.


The coco levy fund was a tax imposed on small-time coconut farmers during the Marcos dictatorship, purportedly to develop the coconut industry. However, said coconut levy fund never benefited the farmers. Instead, this was siphoned to corporations of Marcos’ cronies. Succeeding regimes used various means to continue to hold on to the Php 150 billion coco levy fund, failing to return the huge amount of money to its rightful owners.

The farmers’ demand for the return of the coco levy fund was answered by a legislative bill creating a trust fund that will be managed by a reconstituted Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). According to the bill, the Php 100 billion of the trust fund will be invested in government securities, the proceeds of which are promised (again) to be returned to the farmers. The development of the industry, which will be implemented by the PCA, has an annual budget appropriation of Php10 billion. The executive branch has no part in overseeing the implementation.

The reconstituted PCA is composed of a 15-person board, seven members of which are supposed to come from the private sector (a coconut industry stakeholder and coconut farmers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao with two representatives each.). Duterte vetoed the bill because he did not want private persons to influence the disbursement of “public funds” or he did not want to be left out from the control of the coco levy fund?

Congress will come up with a revised version of the bill. Meantime, the coconut farmers are in for another long haul. They will have to wait again for decades for the fruit of their sweat and blood.


Beyond the coco levy fund issue is a coconut industry that is on the brink of a collapse—affecting almost four million coconut farmers cultivating 26% of the agricultural land in the country.

An article recently published in Ang Bayan, (official publication of the Communist Party of the Philippines), cited several factors in the deterioration of the industry. One, natural calamities exacerbate the miseries of the coconut farmers. In 2013, the horrendous typhoon Yolanda hit the Visayas and ravaged their crops. In Leyte alone, 33 million coconut trees were destroyed. Aside from the typhoon, the coconut pest cocolisap also attacked.

But, the government did not only neglect the cause of the farmers by failing to provide subsidies and sufficient facilities to improve coconut production; it also brought man-made disasters.

It doesn’t help that the unabated land conversion and Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” projects defraud thousands of farmers of the source of their livelihood. Most land conversions are in regions planted to coconuts—Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, and Misamis Oriental. Land conversion benefits only the landlords/compradors and foreign investors who rake profits from eco-tourism, infrastructure projects, mineral exploration, palm plantation, real estate, cattle-raising, exotic fruits production etc.


According to the same article published in Ang Bayan, 60% of coconut farmers and farm workers earn below the government-mandated minimum wage.

Every day in the coconut plantation is a struggle to survive. Each day the coconut farmers face the arduous tasks of preparing the coconuts into beneficial raw materials for industry, not only locally but also globally. Each day they toil to enrich the landlords/compradors, traders and transnational corporations in the US and Europe who have monopoly control of the price of palm oil.

Some farmers have a small parcel of land to plant their crops. But most of them pay rents to the landlords for the use of the land through sharing of the proceeds from the sale of the copra. Some just sell their labor power in plantations.

The process to produce copra, the marketable raw material from the coconut is a tedious job. It starts from the plucking of the fruits from the trees, gathering and piling them up. Under the heat of the sun through the chill of the nights, the coconut farmers husk the coconuts one by one before hacking them into two. Then they pile them over improvised grills to cook. Cooking takes a long time, depending on the quantity of the harvest. When there are still some not fully cooked these are returned to the grills. Removing the meat from the shell would require another overnight job. The cooked flesh or copra are hacked further then placed in sacks ready for the traders. Others still dry them under the sun before packing in sacks to further reduce the moisture content. Normally, the cooking process takes two weeks but in vast plantations owned by landlords, it lasts for a month. All in all it takes 45 days from the time of the harvest to complete the copra processing cycle.

Traders buy the copra at P18 per kilo. The price may differ from town to town but what is constant is the low price. The sale from a kilo of copra cannot even buy a kilo of rice, especially now that inflation has worsened because of TRAIN. In some cases, landlords who own oil mills, also act as traders. They buy the copra from the farmers at an even lower price—Php 17 per kilogram.

Coconut planters do not get all the proceeds from the sale of the copra. The traders deduct from the total cost of the copra produced the following: expenses for food and transportation (6%), the wages of nine farm workers who assisted in processing (18.4%), the cost of sacks, and the deduction due to lost moisture content (22%). The coconut farmers get only 17.8% from the sale while 36% goes to the landlords as rental to the land. This is a sharing of 1/3 is to 2/3 between farmer and landlord with the lion share going to the landlord. The deduction due to the loss of moisture content is unilaterally determined by the traders.

Some coconut farmers who own the land prefer to sell their produce as is to avoid the laborious process of making copra. But just the same the Php 3.00 to Php 5.00 per whole coconut could hardly meet their needs. Even the farm workers hired occasionally to help in the copra processing exist from hand-to-mouth with a measly wage of Php 4.00 to Php 7.00 a day.

In companies processing coconut oil, farm workers’ income is from Php 200.00 to Php 300.00 for every 1000 coconut harvested and processed. In the Peter Paul Philippines Company, 1,500 workers are contractual and not receiving enough salary. With the TRAIN law, the workers’ income has dropped from Php 20,000/year to Php 7,200/year.

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has remained mum, to say the least, on the unabated decline of the prices of copra and coconut. In some instances it cites the global competition as an excuse, or the oversupply of copra.

Meanwhile that the landlords/compradors, traders and transnational corporations profit and relish from the fruit of the farmers’ labor, the latter’s families at times just content themselves with a miserly meal of rice dashed with coconut milk.


As the farmers began to organize, they came to understand the roots of their deplorable plight. They became conscious of their class and the struggle they have to face. They realized that when united they are a potent force more powerful than the handful of greedy ruling class grappling for power and wealth.

Life in the coconut plantations is still penurious but no longer precarious. They have perceived a way out of bondage, out of the mercy and control of landlords/compradors, traders and imperialists corporate interests. The herculean tasks in the coconut plantation seemed lightened.

With their new-found strength, they demanded for a better share from the proceeds in the sale of their produce. From the 80-20 percentage sharing, it has become 67-33 percentage today in many areas of the country.

In the town of San Antonio in Southern Tagalog, coconut farmers succeeded, but not without fanfare, in asserting their right to plant root crops for their subsistence between rows of coconut trees. Likewise, the collective mass actions of peasants launched on October 3-4, 2017 in Brgy. Camflora, San Andres, Quezon, in connection with the campaign “Balik-Saka sa Hacienda Uy (Return to Farming in Hacienda Uy)” have won for them the right to till the 385 hectares of coconut and agricultural land of Dr. Vicente Uy for free. Last year, peasants from South Quezon, in Bondoc Peninsula launched a campaign and held mass actions demanding the government to raise the price of copra.

In guerrilla fronts, the Pambansang Katipunan ng Magbubukid, PKM (National Association of Peasants), a revolutionary mass organization of peasants affiliated with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), charts revolutionary agrarian reform programs in varying degrees—from reduction of land rental and farm inputs prices to a maximum of land ownership transfer from despotic landlords to farmers. The PKM also thwarts government’s anti-people and pro-landlords and foreign investors land conversion plans. The New People’s Army (NPA) while fighting renders support and protection to the PKM’s programs and to the organs of political power set up in the guerrilla zones. The peasantry, firmly believing that only through armed struggle can they be truly liberated from bondage, graciously offers their good sons and daughters to boost the main force of the national democratic revolution.

An Empowered Peasantry

in Mainstream
by Priscilla de Guzman

“Kung malayo pa ang pupuntahan natin, mas malayo na rin naman ang pinanggalingan. Ituloy-tuloy na natin.”

—Ka Pidyong

“If the end of our struggle is still far away, where we started from is now much farther away. Let’s continue fighting.” —Ka Pidyong

Now 75 years old, Ka Pidyong couldn’t contain his laughter as he recalled the first time he met members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in their community, an upland barrio in Northern Luzon.

“There were seven of them,” he said in Filipino, grinning. “Only one had an armalite rifle, while the others had carbines, a shotgun, and a caliber .38 handgun— all teka-teka guns (teka literally means “wait” and refers to low-caliber guns). Of the last member of the team, he remembered vividly, “He had no gun, but carried a kaldero (a metal pot used to cook rice).”

“Three years later, they were already 16 and fully armed,” Ka Pidyong mused. “We were so happy. Our morale was high because 12 of them were recruited from our village.” Some of the original members had been redeployed elsewhere, he added, remarking enthusiastically, “They continued to grow, so did we.”

Decades after that first contact with the people’s army, the villagers have now established, painstakingly, their own organs of political power: the revolutionary mass organizations of peasants, women, and youth. A revolutionary council has also been elected and now governs their communities. In 2017, members of the mass organizations—representing the unity forged by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the NPA, and their allies—held their second elections in less than five years.

All these years, despite the continued military onslaughts and even during the Party’s brief period of disorientation, the organized masses did not waiver. Not even for a moment did they lose the faith that the revolution is their only hope, the future of their children, and of their children’s children.

Setting the revolutionary fire

Indeed, it has been a long, arduous, but victorious journey for those who blazed the revolutionary trail in this guerrilla zone—the first batch of peasant men and women who welcomed comrades from the CPP and NPA in 1971, when the twin revolutionary organizations were in the formative stage.

Peasant leader Ka Tonyo, 65, first met the NPA in 1971. “Na-recruit ako nung 1972, pagbalik nila sa sitio (But I was recruited only in 1972 when they returned to the village),” he told Liberation. As one of the leaders in the barrio, Ka Tonyo went with the NPA to the different mountain villages and those near the town center. They held meetings and talked to the masses. “We held education sessions and explained to them the ills of our society and the proposed long-term solution to our situation.” He said the people, aware of their own condition, readily agreed on the need to change the prevailing system and install their own government.

The peasants in this guerrilla zone are mostly landless, some tilling a hectare or two. The communities are nestled in a public land, where any moneyed individual can claim ownership over parts or all of it in blatant disregard of existing laws. All too often, the peasants had been victims of traders who preyed on them by selling farm inputs and implements that were overpriced and buying their farm produce at dirt-cheap prices. The government, too, attempted several times to evict the peasants and give way to so-called development projects, but did not succeed.

Ka Tonyo, along with woman leader Ka Gloria, and several others organized the peasants who would later comprise a chapter of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka (PKM, National Association of Peasants), one of the founding affiliate organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Although there were already a number of organized women, Makibaka (Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan) would be established in their community much later, Ka Gloria explained.

It was after a decade of organizing work initiated by the NPA and Ka Tonyo’s group that Ka Pidyong, a former barangay council member, was recruited in 1981. Ka Pidyong first learned of the NPA’s off and on presence in villages in the forest area surrounding their barrio in 1971. However, only in 1981 did he come into personal contact with them at the barrio center.

“What truly got me to realize was the fact that the Philippines is a rich country, yet only the foreigners and the local ruling elite benefit from these riches,” he said. The education session was followed by many more until, “ang dami ko nang alam (I learned so much)” Ka Pidyong said, beaming.

In between education sessions, Ka Tonyo, Ka Pidyong, Ka Gloria, and other PKM members continued house-to-house calls to explain to the masses what they had learned. They recruited members for the revolutionary mass organizations and the NPA. “Madami akong na-recruit, andito pa yung iba (I had a number of recruits. Some of them are actually still here),” Ka Tonyo proudly stated. Attending the anniversary celebrations of the CPP and the NPA was the most awaited activity by the masses—an occasion likened to a feast.

“There was always something new to do and to improve on,” said Ka Pidyong.

As the organizations expanded, they also thought of ways to tackle their revolutionary tasks more effectively, such as: how to give education to those who are not literate; how to maintain communal farms, form a militia unit in the barrios for their security, and how to efficiently support the various needs of the NPA— the latter task they took to heart most fervently. The welfare of the NPA fighters has always been at the forefront of the masses’ concerns. Even in times of calamities, when there was hardly anything to eat, the masses saw to it that there was food for the Red fighters.

On her part, Ka Gloria related, women were organized under the Makibaka, which took on other tasks for the revolutionary movement.

Makibaka members took the lead in taking care of the children of fulltime cadres and Red fighters. They looked after their schooling and overall welfare. The women, said Ka Gloria, likewise started the health and sanitation programs, which include production of herbal medicine.

The youth, she added, were organized under the Huwarang Bata (Model Youth), which initiated sports programs, among others. Ka Teody, one of the youngest leaders of the PKM, recalled that in those years, when members of the NPA came back from tactical offensives, the youth would welcome them with revolutionary songs.

Red power

Verily, today’s gains are a product of the revolutionary masses’ perseverance under the guidance of the Party and the NPA. “We have seen, however little, the difference between living under this rotten system and under the revolutionary government we are setting up.”

The revolutionary council has formalized the system of governance that was slowly established since the movement started and the masses had been organized, Ka Teody told Liberation.

Electing the new members of the revolutionary council last year was another level of consolidation achieved. “There were almost a hundred of us who attended the election, representing the various revolutionary mass organizations and party units in this guerrilla zone,” Ka Teody said. “It took us the whole day, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.,” he explained, because “we had to go back to the orientation and tasks of the revolutionary council and the tasks and responsibilities of the officers.”

Also, they voted three times to ensure proportional representation in the council. “On the first round, we voted for eight representatives from the various mass organizations; on the second round, we elected seven representatives from the Party units, and on the last round, four representatives from the middle class in the barrio,” Ka Gloria elaborated in Ilokano. Each of the candidates, too, had to cite their individual strengths and weaknesses, thus enabling the electorate to weigh in how they could work collectively.

Through the decades, what has become undeniably visible is the people’s unity. “Where before we led our own lives without concern for each other’s welfare,” remarked Ka Gloria as she enumerated the benefits of such unity: “disputes among us are easily settled, including land disputes; the people are disciplined; the community is peaceful, there are no petty crimes.”
“The communities are drug free,” boasted Ka Tonyo.

More importantly, “we are able to thwart anti-people projects the government plans to establish here,” Ka Teody emphasized. “We now have a voice, we are no longer scared. With the NPA defending us, we can fight the oppressors,” he said.

Even the local government officials defer to the revolutionary mass organizations, he expounded. They refer cases they cannot settle to the latter organizations because the revolutionary justice system is “swift, fair, and free of charge.” Oftentimes, some local government officials would tell us, “mas kaya ninyo ‘yan (you can do it better).” (See also—story on justice system).

“There’s joy in our hearts because we are able to contribute to the resolution of the problems of the majority of the poor in our country.”

—Ka Gloria

Tempered by struggle

Leaders of the PKM identified two most trying moments they had experienced in their almost 50 years in struggle: the Party’s disorientation in the late1980’s until the early 1990’s and the intense militarization during the same period. But they held the fort, they said, never losing track of the revolution’s onward march, much more the will to push it to victory.

With pride, they recalled how they overcame the military presence and operations in their communities—aerial bombings, harassments, arrests, killings and other human rights violations. “Many were killed in the different villages,” Ka Tonyo pointed out. “But even in those difficult times, when we were almost surrounded by the enemy, we put in our hearts and in our minds where we stand—to serve the the Party and the masses.”

Ka Gloria related how, to some extent, they were able to overcome and to survive the military presence in the barrio center. “The AFP encamped at the barrio. They stayed for 14 years and in those 14 years, several organizing groups and revolutionary mass organizations were established in the communities surrounding the barrio.”

“There was fear but we were not intimidated.”

—Ka Tonyo

“No one was ever recruited into the AFP’s paramilitary unit. There were a few who almost agreed to be recruited but we persuaded them to back out,” said Ka Pidyong with a chuckle. Ka Pidyong was arrested by the military but, after his release, went into hiding several times after because of the continuing threats of re-arrest.

At the time, the NPA stayed away from the barrio center since their presence would cause unnecessary confrontation with the government forces that would affect the unarmed civilians.
But such restraint was no longer exercised during the Party’s disorientation, recalled Ka Tonyo.

“Matindi ‘yun, kawawa ang masa. Kung saang bundok kami naghahatid ng supplies, pagkain (The situation then turned intense, pitiful for the masses. We had to bring supplies, food into the remote mountainous areas where the NPA retreated after launching tactical offensives).” He was referring to the period when military adventurism seeped into the NPA ranks and mass work and agrarian reform tasks took a back seat to tactical offensives that were launched one after another.

Ka Pidyong was among those in the barrio who disapproved the swing to military adventurism, saying it was not time to show off the NPA’s military strength in their guerrilla zone. His memory of how the NPA had shifted its focus and the change in its attitude towards the masses was still fresh. “Yung mga kasama noon wala na, kapag pinupuna ayaw na (At that time the comrades didn’t want to accept criticisms).”

Sadly, Ka Pidyong was among those who were suspected as military agents within the movement during the anti-infiltration campaign. Although he had ill feelings then, now he shrugs off the whole experience. During the rectification period, the Party and NPA cadres and Red fighters humbly criticized themselves before the masses and members of the revolutionary organizations as they explained to them the rectification process.

“The elders in the community did not mince words in criticizing the Party and NPA members, which the latter wholeheartedly accepted,” added Ka Gloria.

“What is important is we have rectified the errors and we have now grown stronger.”

—Ka Teody

With the revolutionary government now in place, “we can chart our course and defend our gains,” he added.

One with the Party and the people’s army

A good number of the revolution’s trailblazers are now in their 70s, their faces lined with wrinkles and the hair on their heads turning grey or white and thinning. Still they stay in high revolutionary spirit. They have been in the movement for at least 47 years. Some of them were just about 12 years old when introduced to the movement.

“I am happy now. Despite my age and ailment, I am still able to help in whatever way I can,” Ka Pidyong remarked. He quickly added, “And, I’m energized to see young people, from our place, from other places, from the cities who come here and stay with us.”

It took several probing questions from Liberation on how these trailblazers felt about being the bearers of revolutionary power in their communities before they could answer. There was initial silence, a long silence. Tears welled in the eyes of some of them.

Clearing his throat, Ka Pidyong spoke up first. He firmly declared, “Without the Party and the NPA, we have nothing.”

Breaking Away from the Usurious Farm Traders

in Mainstream
by Priscilla de Guzman

The road leading to the village was mostly rough and muddy, with a few meters of cemented portion after every few kilometers. Where there was a cemented road, harvested corn crops were spread over it on plastic sheets to dry under the sun.

“You were lucky, kadua (comrade in the Ilokano language),” Ka Efren told me as he expertly maneuvered his motorcycle through the muddy parts of the road. “It has been raining for weeks. The rain stopped only two days ago, he said.

Ka Efren’s community occupies a public land, a forested area, where titling is not allowed by the government. However, some enterprising local government officials and trader-usurers have been able to acquire land titles through sheer bribery. The public lands have been home to most of the farmers, such as Ka Efren, since birth.

As we passed through another batch of harvested corn being dried, Ka Efren muttered how low the prices that the traders pay for their produce. “I don’t know how much I’ll earn this harvest season, our corn harvest was not properly dried because of the rains,” he lamented.

Embracing victory

Ka Jong, the other motorcycle driver, quickly reminded Ka Efren that, just two days ago after the rains had stopped, a farmers’ organization in a Cagayan Valley municipality won its battle against the usurious traders. The good news, he said, had spread like fire in the neighboring communities, towns, and even in other provinces in the region. Ka Efren’s face immediately lit up. Yes, he suddenly remembered.

Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid

We arrived at the community where the farmers had gathered as members of a local chapter of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka or PKM (National Peasants Association), one of the founding member-organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines [NDFP]). They were exultant over the victory of the mass action-cum-dialogue with the traders—a victory won through a militant show of unity in demanding that the traders pay justly for the farmers’ produce and do away with their usurious practices.

The peasant leaders who joined them can understandably claim much of the credit for the triumph. They were fired up in narrating their collective action, what they had gone through before they achieved victory. They took turns in pointing out how they had been exploited by the trader-usurers. The latter had monopoly and control of everything the farmers needed from planting to harvesting. They also dictated the prices of their corn and cassava produce. It had been a full cycle of exploitation.

The peasant organization’s victory of getting a fair shake from the traders meant the following: reduced interest rates on their loans, higher selling prices for corn and cassava crops, reduced prices of the sacks used in packing their produce, and a reprieve from interest payments they had incurred during the super typhoon Lawin that hit the region in 2016.

Monopoly of the traders

For a long time, loans and interest payments had chained the farmers to the trader-usurers. Without capital to buy seedlings of their choice, the farmers were compelled to plant BT-corn and cassava for cash crops used as animal feeds.

The seedlings were sourced as loans from the traders, who also provided them with fertilizers and herbicides as loans. During harvest, these same traders bought the farmers’ produce at a price they practically dictated, based on their own grading and weighing systems—wherein trickery was usually employed. After the harvest, the farmers ended up practically with nothing in their pockets, or worse, with another sheet of paper where their additional loans and interest payments were listed down.

Most atrocious was the trading of sacks used to pack the harvests. The farmers buy the sacks at Php10.00 each from the local traders who bought these for Php5.00. Per harvest, they have to buy 300 sacks costing Php3,000. The farmers use the sacks to bring their produce to the local traders who, in turn, use these when they sell to the buying stations. These sacks were never returned to the farmers. Thus, when another planting-harvest season starts, the farmers would again spend for the sacks.

Cagayan Valley is the country’s top producer of BT-corn, with genetically modified organisms (GMO), and farmers like Ka Ludy and many others in his community had contributed much to its propagation, at their expense.

The Department of Agriculture introduced the BT-corn in the early 2000 but the people widely rejected it. Not long after the trader-usurers were acting as aggressive conduits for its propagation, leaving no choice for the penniless peasants but to accept, as BT-corn was the only available seedling the traders would loan to them.

“It’s as if the traders got to hire planters and laborers without salaries,” said Ka Ludy. There was a time, when there was no available food for them, some farmers tried to eat BT-corn to find out if it was fit for human consumption. Result: they developed allergies.

Breaking away from the traders

Energized by the recent victory of the farmers, the PKM members are more determined to go on with the plans they had laid out during the AgRev (Agrarian Revolution) conference held in the last quarter of 2017. The conference was a joint project by local members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the various revolutionary mass organizations in the guerrilla front.

During the conference, the peasants resolved to vigorously push for the palit tanim (literally, changing plants) campaign. As an initial step, the PKM collectives in the different villages would start planting food crops to ensure food on their tables as they moved to break away from the trader-usurers’ dictates.

“The seedlings were donated to us by friends and we will divide these among the collectives in the different villages,” Ka Ludy explained. With a steady supply of food on their tables, the farmers can then start planting cash crops of their choice, sell directly in the market individually or collectively, and earn what they have worked for.

“In the long run, this will allow us to do away with the seedlings supplied by the traders and gain freedom from their monopoly and exploitation,” he said.

Land distribution and communal farms

The 2017 AgRev conference was the first held in this guerrilla front after more than a decade. In the conference, the revolutionary organizations also lined up plans on maximizing the utilization of idle lands in their communities and those nearby. The local Party and NPA units and the PKM plan to distribute some 50 hectares of land among the 30 poorest peasant families.

“The comrades in the NPA are helping us come up with policies and guidelines in the land distribution, especially on who should be prioritized—those landless and those who lack lands to till,” said Ka Iling, a participant in the AgRev conference.

Aside from the individual effort to plant food crops in their palit tanim campaign, a substantial portion of the land for distribution will be allotted for communal farming and food production for the needs of the revolutionary mass organizations and the NPA units.

“There have been already existing communal lands in different villages, probably for more than 10 years now. But the lands are too small for our needs,” Ka Iling pointed out. “So, aside from these existing communal farms, we could work on a bigger piece of land to augment our needs,” he continued. The members of the Party branches and revolutionary mass organizations, he said, could work together and produce more crops.

Minimum and maximum program of agrarian revolution

The efforts of Ka Ludy, Ka Iling, Ka Efren, Ka Jong and other members of the PKM in this community exemplify the unity of the peasants nationwide to carry out the agrarian revolution led by the Party, the people’s army, and the NDFP.

Already, almost a million PKM members have benefited from the Party and the NPA’s maximum agrarian reform program where more than 44,000 hectares of land were confiscated and redistributed all over the country. Millions of others have benefited from the campaigns for lower land rent, end to usury, just harvest proceeds, increased farm gate prices, and elimination of trickery when produce are weighed and priced.

Only the revolutionary movement led by the CPP-NPA-NDFP can proudly lay claim that, in its almost 50 years of existence, it has slowly but steadily freed the peasants from the hundreds of years of feudal bondage.

PKM: Wellspring of the NPA

in Mainstream
by Leon Castro

The new Rodrigo Duterte government has declared it will uplift the lives of peasants with policies and programs aimed at eliminating injustices that have bedeviled the biggest sector of the country.  It has promised to provide free irrigation, return the stolen coconut levy funds to the millions of farmer-victims, and offer support services to farmers to improve their harvests.

To demonstrate and give substance to this commitment, President Duterte appointed veteran progressive peasant leader Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano, former chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, as Department of Agrarian Reform secretary.  In turn, Mariano pledged to work for the free distribution of tillable lands to the farmers, stop the widespread ejection of poor farmers who cannot afford to pay land amortization, and push for the legislation of a genuine agrarian reform law.

But, despotic landlords are expected to resist and sabotage these promised reforms. Mariano is their avowed enemy after all.  Ergo, meaningful reforms—such as land redistribution, wage increases for farm workers, and utilization of agricultural lands for sustainable food production—will still largely depend on the revolutionary struggle of the peasants to effect genuine changes.


How the PKM developed

The Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka (PKM or the National Assembly of Farmers) is the revolutionary organization of peasants and a founding allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.  It has been fighting for much more than what is now being promised by the Duterte government.  PKM is the main organization, and along with the New People’s Army (NPA), forms the revolutionary mass bases in the countryside for the 48-year old national democratic revolution.  It unites peasants, mostly poor and middle class farmers and farm workers, and guides them in their fight for agrarian revolution and related reforms.  From its ranks have come the most number of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA members.

The PKM started out in Central Luzon and Isabela by helping peasants combat bandits and cattle rustlers, said its spokesperson Andres Agtalon.  The peasants early on realized that only by uniting could they fight perennial problems such as unjust division of harvest proceeds, farm wages, land grabbing, usury, and other injustices.  They attended assemblies where they listened to discussions of the national situation and the specific situation of the peasantry in which they shared information and experiences. Then they were inspired to form peasant associations. From among the politically advanced members sprung the initial formations that constituted the PKM.

“The NPA pioneered this effort among the peasants and, to this day, it still conducts this vital work in areas where the national democratic revolution is expanding its work,” Agtalon pointed out.   In the past five decades, PKM formations have advanced from barangay-level to municipal-level structures.   “We now have inter-municipality dialogues among bigger PKM formations in select regions of the country,” he said.


Maximum gains in agrarian revolution

The PKM has benefited from the NPA’s maximum agrarian reform programs, which in turn, have resulted in PKM’s ever-deepening strength and widening reach. About 44,146 hectares of both productive and abandoned farm and pasture lands nationwide have been confiscated by the NPA. These were redistributed to members of the PKM. In Masbate alone, 16,605 hectares of mostly pasture land in 73 barangays were distributed to 5,000 poor peasant families; 12,000 hectares in the Eastern Visayas region; 2,000 hectares in Central Visayas and Negros that are now tilled by 1,000 families.  In Mindoro, 7,000 families have acquired 2,541 hectares mostly through land occupation.

“These are just partial reports that the PKM leadership has received from the ground.  As the national democratic revolution advances, the PKM shall be able to give more lands to poor peasants nationwide,” Agtalon explained.

“Lands confiscated from landlords and local and foreign agri-businesses are given to beneficiaries free of amortization,” Agtalon added.  But the reactionary government, particularly the past administrations, imposed amortization schemes to enable landlords to collect so-called compensation under the failed agrarian reform laws.  The PKM campaigns among its members to resist this scheme.

“The most despotic of landlords who employ violence against the farmers’ just demands and actions are punished by the CPP-NPA through their judicial processes,” he said.


Minimum demands program

With the assistance of the NPA, the PKM also implements what it calls “minimum demand” programs.  These include wage-increase campaigns for farm workers, reduction or elimination of land rent, just division of harvest proceeds between tenants and landlords, eradication of fraud when their produce are being weighed and priced, increase of farm gate prices, and many others.

The PKM encourages members and beneficiaries to practice cooperative and collective farming to reduce capitalization requirements and maximize yield.  When favorable, it forms associations among monocrop farmers, such as banana and pineapple farmers.  These efforts increase the farmers’ incomes by eliminating heavy individual borrowing from usurious compradors and farm traders who insist on buying cheap the farmers’ harvests.  In many instances, PKM formations are themselves the cooperatives that implement these programs.

Farmers’ support services such as training and workshops on organic farming, construction of mini dams for free irrigation, installation of hydro-electric- solar-wind power turbines for post-harvest drying or processing, and basic farm machineries are also offered by PKM to poor peasants nationwide.

Among farm workers, the PKM forms unions that not only struggle for wage increases but defend their job security as well.  Many Nueva Ecija farm workers, for example, recently waged a successful campaign against harvester-combines they call halimaw (monster) that threatened to make their employment redundant.

“Based on collated reports, no less than a million peasant families have benefited from all these campaigns and programs,” Agtalon said.


Courage in face of adversity

Agtalon acknowledged that PKM formations have temporarily suffered setbacks due to vicious state counterinsurgency operations.  PKM leaders and members have been assassinated or abducted, tortured and detained while communities underwent forced evacuations or harassments.  He cited retired Major General Jovito Palparan’s bloody campaigns in Mindoro, Nueva Ecija and Eastern Visayas as examples.  It was during these times that the landlords and compradors tried to reclaim what the farmers had already won, he said.

“But once the farmers have been organized and have experienced the benefits of collective action under the PKM, their revolutionary fervor cannot be extinguished,” Agtalon noted.  Once they have weathered the periodic attacks, the farmers rebuild and strive to become even stronger.

PKM’s endurance mirrors the NPA’s ever deepening and widening strength nationwide, as the two are strongly intertwined, Agtalon emphasized.  Where there are NPA outfits, there will surely be PKM formations.  Where the NPA is strong, the PKM gains strength as well.  And vice-versa.  Whenever and wherever the NPA declares that it is at its strongest, the same can be said of the PKM, Agtalon added.

“Aside from being the main wellspring of members for the NPA, the PKM also functions as the people’s militia,” Agtalon  proudly declared, elaborating: “It assists the NPA in intelligence gathering. It also helps in the educational, cultural and organizational work of the national democratic revolution in a comprehensive manner.”  Thus, he concluded: “The PKM is a significant part of the people’s war.”

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