The meetup with presidentiable Noynoy Aquino was one of most anticipated among Blogwatch writers. After a long wait, we finally had our chance to meet with the presidential frontrunner. Like previous Blogwatch events, we were allowed to ask only one question. My question was focused on what many think is one of the more controversial issues surrounding Noynoy and his family the Cojuancos â€“ The issue of Hacienda Luisita and land distribution to farmers.
The following was my question:
“Regarding Hacienda Luisita, a lot of people think that one reason CARP failed is because of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO). Also, it is seen that the SDO has been able to keep farmers out of their land. The main beneficiary, seem to be your very own family. And in the end, farmers still receive barely anything from what they have put into Hacienda Luisita. Do you think this is right & what will you do different as president that will give the balance of power & justice towards the farmers?”
Senator Aquino answered me in tagalog. He made it clear though that he only owns less than 1% of Hacienda Luisita. Noynoy’s answer was simple. The farmers have been with the Aquino family for decades. They wouldn’t want to burden the farmers by selling the land to them. The farmers are good at tilling the land but they are not businessmen. Hacienda Luisita land is also still in debt, how would the farmers be able to pay it without much experience in managing the land? Noynoy also said that there are currently 10,000 farmers. If they distribute the land as is, 1 farmer can only own less than 1 hectare, and also not all of the land will be equal in terms of fertility. There’s nothing a farmer can do if a non-fertile land was given to them.
Noynoy stressed that if they wanted to be selfish, they could just easily sell the land, possibly getting Php 4.5B without worrying about debt or his image in the 2010 elections.
Php 4.5B = Php100 per square meter x 10,000 square meter per hectare x 4,500 hectares
But according to Noynoy, the Aquino family treats the farmers like their own family (they were workers since 1958). With that, they would want to transfer the land to them debt-free. Noynoy Aquino even gave me a timeline that by the year 2014, the land will be fully transferred to the farmers. Noynoy already asked his extended family to find means to transfer the assets free of debt. While this is being worked on, they will follow what current agrarian reform program has. He said that 70% of Hacienda Luisita is still owned by the Aquinos/Cojuancos while 30% will be paid as stock dividends to the farmers.
Read the rest of the article at Blogwatch.PH.
- Videos – http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=9E8CC2B12565354E
- Pictures – http://www.flickr.com/photos/rochellesychua/sets/72157623240220507/