MANILA, Philippines – To counter the influence of communists in Masbate, President Rodrigo Duterte wants the government to fast-track distribution of land to farmer-beneficiaries.
During a speech in front of barangay officials on Wednesday, January 9, in Dimasalang, Masbate, he gave local land reform officials one week to finish the conversion of certain plots of land into agricultural land for distribution.
"Bakit matagal ang conversion? Kung may development ka diyan ang reklamo ng iba dito, matagal. Kung nandito 'yung gobyerno, sumagot ka kasi sipain kita ngayon. Bakit nga matagal? I'm giving anybody who's listening – pakisabi na lang, I am giving him exacty one week to complete everything, pati approval na," said Duterte.
(Why is conversion taking so long? If you have a development there, the complaint here is, it's taking long. If someone from government is here, you answer or else I'll kick you now. Why is it taking so long? I've giving anybody who's listening – please tell them, I am giving him exactly one week to complete everything, including approval.)
He also instructed Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones to put the province under land reform.
"Sabihin mo sa kanya (Castriciones), next week magpunta siya rito. Tingnan niya ang Masbate, i-land reform niya lahat. I-land reform ko ang Masbate maniwala kayo.... With or without the communists we can, mayroon pa akong 3 years, uubusin ko itong Pilipinas," said the President.
(Tell him, next week, he should go here. He should look at Masbate and put it all under land reform. I will place Masbate under land reform, believe me.... With or without the communists, we can – I still have 3 years, I'll finish off the Philippines.)
The government, he said, should look for land that is not being used and place it under the agrarian reform program – a decades-old program where plots of land are distributed to farmers for them to cultivate.
American drones targeting communists
As a further jab directed against communists, Duterte claimed American and Israel drones are helping the Philippine military target New People's Army (NPA) rebels. The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
"Many are helping us, Israel and America. Do you see those drones? They would target you if not for me," he said in Filipino.
"Sometimes, there are drones of Americans up there saying, 'Do you have troops there? Okay, pelt them with bombs'.... I am the one who stops them that's why there are no bombs," continued Duterte.
He spent a bulk of his speech railing against CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, NPA attacks on soldiers and police, and the "futility" of the communist rebellion against the government.
Before he ended his speech, he addressed another common grievance among the people of Masbate – the lack of electricity in many areas.
Duterte warned the local electric cooperatives that unless they bring electricity to all households in Masbate, he would order the expropriation of the cooperative's franchise and order public bidding to get more competent entities.
"I'll give you 'til about March or April. If not, I'll expropriate your franchise and give it to the rich.... There will be bidding and bidding done right," he said in Filipino.
Duterte suggested the cooperatives take out a loan so they would have resources to improve their services.
Foreign entities, like those from Japan, are more than interested to get a franchise, said Duterte.
His announcement was greeted with applause from his audience. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.