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Farmers from Hacienda march to Aquino's house.

Manila

Policemen barred members of farmers groups, including those who came from Hacienda Luisita, a sugar plantation owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino in Tarlac, central Philippines, when they stormed the president's house on Times Street in a private sub-division in suburban Quezon City on Friday morning, a radio report said.

Policemen placed steel railings and mobile cars to stop farmers from holding a vigil in front of the house of Aquino.

"We are watching the president. His promise that the department of agrarian reform department will do its job in 2014, should not be broken," said one group in a statement.

The protesting groups, including the Movement of Farmers in the Philippines and Children of Sweat which have seats at the House of Representatives, called for immediate and comprehensive distribution of lands to farmers in 2014.

It was the deadline legislated by Congress in 2007, for the government to implement the country's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. CARP was passed by Congress in 1989, during the time of Aquino's mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

The agrarian reform department needs a budget of P150 billion (Dh12.5 billion) starting 2007, to buy and distribute about a million hectare of agricultural land whose private owners have finally agreed to participate in the government's land reform programme.

This year, the Supreme Court ruled with finality that the Cojuangco family must distribute 4,000 hectares of the Hacienda Luisita to 6,000 registered beneficiaries.

The Apex Court's ruling pegged a price for the land, which the Cojuangco family did not agree with.

Many sugar plantations in central Philippines have the same fate as the Hacienda Luisita. They had offered shares of stocks instead of land to sugar farmers, after this option was allowed when the country's agrarian reform program was passed by Congress.

Almost all sugar farmers have elevated their complaints to the agrarian reform department, saying they made a mistake in accepting from sugar barons in the late 1900s shares of stocks, instead of land, adding that their lives did not become better because of their wrong decision.

Last week, an alliance of farmers promised not to launch a major protest rally at the agrarian reform department, after Aquino met with leaders and promised that all farmers will get their land before the 2014 deadline.

At the time, Aquino did not appease the farmers from Hacienda Luisita. He did not say how the Cojuangco family will start implementing the ruling of the Supreme Court.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 22, 2012
Words:429
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