Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/12/05MANILA5988.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA5988
2005-12-28 09:58
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 005988

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/MTS, DRL/IL, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP
LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON ELAB PHUM SOCI PINS RP
SUBJECT: GRP ORDERS LARGE SUGAR PLANTATION TO DISTRIBUTE LAND TO WORKERS

REF: A. MANILA 5346
¶B. MANILA 5096
¶C. MANILA 4929
¶D. MANILA 1401
¶E. 04 MANILA 5552

¶1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified.
Please handle accordingly.

¶2. (SBU) Summary: The GRP has upheld a recommendation by
the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to expropriate the
“Hacienda Luisita” sugar plantation located in Tarlac, north
of Manila, and distribute it to farmers working the land.
The estate’s management plans to appeal the decision. The
ruling clouds the future of a December 8 agreement between
management and unions to end a sometimes violent
13-month-long strike. Some observers believe that the GRP’s
decision had more to do with enmity toward former president
Corazon Aquino, a part owner of the estate who turned against
President Arroyo earlier this year, than any genuine support
for land reform. End Summary.

—————————————
GRP Orders Hacienda to Distribute Lands
—————————————

¶3. (U) On December 20, 2005, the GRP’s Presidential Agrarian
Reform Council (PARC) voted 10-1 to uphold a recommendation
by DAR to revoke the stock distribution option at the
Hacienda Luisita plantation located in Tarlac Province about
90 kilometers north of Manila. PARC proceeded to approve the
eventual re-distribution of the approximately 5,000-hectare
property to the 6,000 – 8,000 farmers who work on the
plantation. In taking its decision, PARC backed DAR’s view
that the farmers had actionable grievances against Hacienda
Luisita over non-payment of annual dividends from their
shares in the proceeds of the 500-hectare portion of the farm
that was converted into a commercial area. (Note: PARC is
co-chaired by the President and the Secretary of Agrarian
Reform, and is made up of a landowners’ representative, a
farmers’ representative, and various Cabinet secretaries.
President Arroyo recused herself from the deliberations over
Hacienda Luisita. The law allows for the President to review
and possibly overturn the PARC’s decision, but Malacanang
announced on December 23 that President Arroyo had no plans
to do so. End Note.)

¶4. (U) Shortly after the PARC’s decision, Agrarian Reform
Secretary Nasser Pangandaman announced that the land in

SIPDIS
question will be expropriated by the GRP in January 2006
(with eventual compensation going to the owners) and
subsequently divided in lots among its farmers. Prior to the
actual distribution of land to the farmers, the
quasi-governmental Land Bank of the Philippines will assess
the value of the property and the exact terms of the
compensation to be paid to Hacienda Luisita by the
government. In a December 27 interview, DAR Undersecretary
for Operations Narciso Nieto estimated the value of the
property to be approximately 870 million pesos (USD 16.4
million), well short of the 4 billion pesos (USD 75.5
million) hacienda owners reportedly want it to be assessed
at. Once the property is turned over to GRP control, the
Provincial Office of DAR must then identify all qualified
farmer-beneficiaries. This process may take over a year,
according to DAR, because of the large number of potential
beneficiaries.

——————————-
Plantation Management to Appeal
——————————-

¶5. (U) A Hacienda Luisita spokesman indicated in a December
23 press release that management plans to file a motion
asking DAR to reverse its notice of the intended
expropriation and division of the property. If DAR rejects
Hacienda Luisita’s motion (as is expected), the management
may request a review by the Court of Appeals. If the Court
of Appeals upholds DAR’s decision, the only option left would
be an appeal to the Supreme Court. Neither former president
Corazon Aquino nor Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., a major
stockholder in San Miquel Corporation and one of the
country’s richest men, had any public comments on the PARC’s
action. (Note: Hacienda Luisita management is controlled by
the Cojuangco clan of which Aquino is a member. End Note.)

———————————–
Recent Labor Agreement Now in Doubt
———————————–

¶6. (U) PARC’s order to redistribute the land clouds the
future of an agreement recently reached by management and
unions representing sugar mill workers and farmers. On
December 8, Hacienda Luisita management signed separate
Memorandums of Agreement with the United Luisita Workers
Union (ULWU) and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union
(CATLU) ending a 13-month-long labor dispute. Hacienda
Luisita and the unions had been in negotiations since
February 2005 to settle the dispute which began when mill
workers and farmers went on strike in late 2004, complaining
of firings and pay cuts at the mill. (Note: Security forces
clashed with workers and leftist demonstrators in November
2004 resulting in the deaths of seven strikers and supporters
– ref E. Five additional activists and supporters of the
striking unions have been killed in Tarlac in 2005 – ref A.
End Note.) Key terms of the recent agreement include payment
of back wages and benefits to farmers and mill workers;
rehiring of employees terminated during the strike; and a
wage increase for sugar mill workers.

¶7. (U) Upon reaching the agreement, plantation management
and union members had initially hoped to resume milling
operations in 2006. However, the planned distribution of the
plantation’s land to individual farmers makes the future of
the agreement uncertain, and calls into serious question
whether the plantation and mill will be ready for operations
any time soon, given that ownership of the property will be
in flux.

——-
Comment
——-

¶8. (SBU) Landowners will be watching closely as the
influential Cojuangcos battle in the courts to keep their
property intact. Landowners indeed have some reason to be
concerned with the potential fallout of PARC’s ruling.
Farmers in other localities are already passing around
resolutions at their plantations calling for redistribution
of land. Among many observers, however, there is the strong
suspicion that the PARC’s move had more to do with enmity
toward former president Aquino, who turned against President
Arroyo during political turbulence earlier this year, than
any genuine support for general land reform.

Jones

   

 

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