Family to Give Plantation to Peasants, Aquino Says
President Corazon Aquino, heading off potential trouble from protesters outside her palace, said today that her wealthy family will yield its massive sugar plantation for distribution to 7,000 peasants under the country’s land reform program.
Aquino made the announcement as an estimated 10,000 people marched on the Malacanang Palace to mark the deaths of 12 peasants shot by troops during an unruly land reform protest at the same spot one year ago.
Rally organizers dismissed Aquino’s promise to break up the 14,650-acre Hacienda Luisita, 70 miles north of Manila, saying the peasants would receive only shares in a corporation controlled by her family.
“There is no land transfer, there is no real land ownership,” radical farmers’ spokesman Jaime Tadeo told a crowd, the size of which was estimated by police at 10,000 people.
“We will go back to the countryside where we are strong,” Tadeo warned in front of giant effigies of Aquino, Uncle Sam and military officials. “We will implement land ownership on our own initiative.”
Aquino, in an earlier nationwide television appearance, said she was the “first to admit” that her promises of comprehensive land reform “would sound hollow” if it did not include the lands and the 7,000 workers her family employs.
“Hacienda Luisita will, I repeat, comply,” she said.
Aquino has said before that her family will respect any laws governing land distribution and reform in the country. But her announcement marked the first time she said the plantation will be registered for distribution under the government’s Comprehensive Agricultural Land Reform Program.
All Philippine landowners are required to register their properties by Feb. 8 under an executive order passed last year. The details of the land reform program--including the controversial provision of how much land each owner can retain--are currently being debated in both houses of the Philippine Congress.