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Of Upland Abuse, Agrarian Woes and Solo Flight

The upland development, agrarian reform and solo parenthoods may be disparate social issues, but they are all tied up in one way or another to the issue of lingering poverty. So much like politicians perpetually failing to deliver, upland development in the form of forest clearing and mineral quarrying has not fulfilled its promised progress. In the wake of logging, mining and the kaingin system, mountain denudation has generated the rise in the number of endangered species, the depletion in our water reserve, the negative effects in upland migration and its related livelihood opportunities, and the high occurrence of flashfloods and mudslides. The privatization of some highland areas paved for golf courses, subdivisions and rest houses has exacerbated what touristic progress is supposed to alleviate the affected citizens from poverty. With lack of livelihood in their immediate environment, these people languish in economic misery as influential people exploit them and the uplands for these already rich people?s own gains.

In the same vain, it is lamentable that there is no real agrarian reform program in the Philippines, one of only two countries in the world to continue to ignore the privilege of tenants to own the lands they have tilled for quite a long time already. Feudalism is long dead in many countries that have since industrialized for an anticipated economic elevation, but hereabouts, the landed lords, even as they do not leave the comfort of their manors, continue to earn their keep from the rent collected from the kasama (proletariats). The Negros sugarfield experience and Hacienda Luisita controversy are but two of the sensational examples of the Philippine agrarian reform that fails in execution. The latter even involved a massacre of labor leaders who fight for the cause of land ownership in recent memory. This being the case, the tenants who are the very tillers of the land they use for occupation remain in abject poverty because the products of their daily toils are enjoyed not by them but by the landlords to whom they ?owe? the produce by virtue of the piece of earth being leased to the former.

Finally, the changing landscape of Philippine demographics has caused the high incidence of solo parenthood among our people, especially our women who get abandoned by their male partners for various reasons. For one, single parenthood comprises one of the new faces of Filipino family owing to the Diaspora driving our citizens to seek greener pastures abroad. Fathers get to work as, say, construction workers, engineers, or seafarers and mothers, as domestic helpers, caregivers or teachers overseas, leaving their respective partners (or extended family members, in case of both parents? absence) home to look over the family affairs. Second, women whose husband (or boyfriend) separates from, neglects or dies on them after siring them with kids are forced to pursue single motherhood but suffer incapacities in making both ends meet in the process. Not all these women carry the feminist brand of liberalism common to the upper-middle class; as a result, they undergo financial among other difficulties as they go alone in raising the fatherless kids in tow. This plight of solo parents, needless to say, engenders poverty as do the plights of political diversion, misnomer upland development and unconsummated agrarian reform.

As for upland development, everyone is not exempted in being assigned responsibility with the environment, because lowlanders and highlanders alike benefit from the environment. Change management involving the protection of the forests and, in our geographical context, its natural sibling the seas, should be pursued at all cost. Not even officials should be granted the permission to exploit resources coming from them in the dubious name of development. Logging and quarrying should be banned if both destroy the sustainability of the harnessed resources. Our democracy allows for the strong decision-making not to abuse the environment supplementing us with our direst needs, and for the accountability over these domains which the government regulates our access from. The decentralization of ecological responsibility from being government-centered to participatory-purposed creates an atmosphere wherein sustainable development of the uplands (or other sanctuaries, for that matter) will flourish. Participating communities, then, will not have a difficult time combating poverty with said development existing and with care for the environment continuing.

Meanwhile, change management in the current means by which Philippine agrarian reform is executed can indeed work for the poor folk's sake. For one, the building of the farmers' capability and dignity through our education of them will shatter the culture of poverty which deludes them into thinking that the world is custom-built for them to submit to the landlords' mercy. A reform on the rural area tenants vegetate with agricultural products is legal, so they possess the right over it, hence fight for it. The government, in turn, should refocus its statistical motive on agrarian reform, and fortify its executive capacity to distribute the necessarily fertile lands to the farmers, help them manage, optimize their due, and grow their own produce, and end the lopsided class structure by dissolving the poverty of now landed farmers.

The single parenthood attached to the issue of poverty should be treated with change management dealing with continuous organizing. Female-headed families are ideologically the poorest because of the absence of a paternal provider. However, this can be addressed by coercing the government to create jobs in which women will not be discriminated by virtue of their gender and will earn enough to feed and support their respective families. Individual, sporadic voices will not suffice summoning the government to dispose one of its duties but community organizing likely will, since it is a solid composite of the community that is capable of modifying social institutions and hold them responsible for their components. Besides, community organizing becomes a foundation that not only seeks ways to produce career opportunities, but also promotes the personal welfare of its members. Constant community organizing can become an avenue for education, spiritual and socio-civic formation. A better way of life is viewed through the fulfilment of those wanting or lacking, through the conviction that with solo parents' capability to dream and superceding their very limitations, they will enable themselves to tear down poverty, thanks to community organizing.

Change management involved in the upland development, agrarian reform and solo parenting shows that not only the institution of government should be seen working but also, we the people are accountable as well. In the first place, without our vigilance, we cannot expect the government to carry out its obligations. In order to annihilate poverty and more, social institutions should collaborate, all in the ultimate pursuit of the common good.

Posted by: Joyce Camille Platon
Date posted: Jun 26,2007
Replied by: Noel | Date replied: Sep 03,2009

This article is a big help for my debate in my Economics subject..


Replied by: Otoy | Date replied: Jul 14,2007

Succinctly good!

Having mentioned Negros, allow me to further add to your woes!

It seems nowadays that lordship of the hacienderos have not only been preserved but further strengthened, thanks to the local government code.

The alarming number of absentee mayors (those who ran for office and, sadly, eventually win, but are residing either in Bacolod or Manila or even abroad) and other local government officials shows that they are not only absentee landlords, but have managed to extend their feudal rule to the local government. Elections in Negros have also been a mockery, since the elite manage to distribute among themselves the various seats available, as expressed in the number of uncontested candidates in the last three elections.

The continuous concentration of vast tracts of fertile flat lands in the hands of the few, drives the many into the mountains, threatening our meager remaining forest cover. In the uplands, where soil is less fertile, communities need to augment their income by utilizing forest resources and wildlife.

Whatever happened to the revolutionaries (both of the heart and of the armed types), we know no more!

Perhaps, it is time for another one! This time by the younger generation who has seen both sides of the coin: the pain of revolution and the misery of oppression!

Replied by: Vetxin | Date replied: Jun 26,2007

i like this article. it is very interesting. so educational. wonderful writing.

Replied by: Pocholo A. | Date replied: Jun 26,2007

Land Reform is a failure. Hacienderos are willing to give up their land for a good price that the government offers. It's not that hacienderos slave their workers to toil their land and enjoy the money to themselves, it is somewhat a reciprocating system. The workers live in the hacienda for free, their sss contributions are paid, philhealth and whatever contributions they make, etc. At the end of every year, they get a 13th month bonus and social ammelioration. From an haciendero's point of view, land benificiaries exploit their land. Most beneficiares lease it back to their amos for the money and still prefer to work in the field. With haciendas, you have labor groups pestering you and would feed workers with misinformation. There is a lack of public awareness with regards to land reform or CARP. What we always see in the media is the violence that comes with it. We should dig deeper with regards to this issue and think if it's really effective.

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