Striking sugar mill workers in the Philippines are preparing for an expected assault by police and military against their occupation of the Hacienda Luisita.
Workers fear another massacre will be carried out when authorities attempt to disperse striking members of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) and the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) in order for the Luisita sugar refinery to be able to resume operations. Their dispute has been ruled illegal by the government.
Strikers inside the sugar estate have been preparing for another clash with anti-riot forces by carved slingshots and gathered huge rocks at the main picket line. Workers have also been conducting “kapit-bisig (locked arms)” exercises, as they have vowed to protect their positions from water cannons and possible assault by anti-riot forces with truncheons and shields.
The workers have extended their network of solidarity within the Philippines. They have formed the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national alliance of farmworkers’ groups from various sugar plantations across the country.
On 16 November last year, seven demonstrators were killed and hundreds injured when soldiers and police opened fire on the strikers at the Hacienda Luisita sugar plantation.