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Who Shall Benefit? Conflicts among the Landless Poor in a Philippine Agrarian Reform Programme

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Across plantation communities in the Philippines, farm workers are locked in struggles about their entitlement to land. Who may qualify as ‘rightful beneficiaries’ in the current government programme of land redistribution has become a deeply contentious issue. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 has produced — besides landowner resistance — an extensive renegotiation of land rights at the community level that may set landless workers against one another. This paper explores, for the sugarcane plantation region of Negros Occidental, why these intra-poor conflicts take place and how the boundaries between competing groups are drawn. Central to the analysis are: (1) a multi-actor perspective that considers the interactions of farm workers with state agencies, landowners, farm worker movements, NGOs, and different categories of the landless poor; and (2) a focus on the multiple social fields in which farm workers are involved (the fields of the state, market, social movements, landowner patronage, and the plantation community, among others), each with a defining social tie and legitimising discourse, each prompting a specific type of claim and justifying argument.

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam


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