Land disputes hound Manila’s new agrarian chief

By Roy Morilla and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines- At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented today to newly installed Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes. In a dialogue with Secretary delos Reyes, the Southern Luzon based peasant group Kalipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and its mother federation- the activist Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the farmer groups asked the new DAR chief to act swiftly on cases pertaining to land use conversions and cancellations of agrarian reform titles in the region.

Among the land dispute cases involving land use conversions, cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and eviction of farmer beneficiaries include the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas which has been primed for eco-tourism projects and the 7,100 hectare prime agricultural land in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna province.

The other cases of agrarian disputes presented during the dialogue with DAR secretary include land reform reversals and land use conversions in Dasmarinas and Silang in Cavite province, the seedling projects in Montalban, Rizal and the conversion of Araneta owned lands in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin asked the new agrarian reform secretary to immediately issue cease and desist orders to big landlords and real estate developers to effectively halt all land use conversions and indefinitely suspend all these activities to prepare the stage for a comprehensive review of these lands currently embroiled in legal, political and moral disputes between the farmers and the big landlords in Southern Tagalog region.

“The Southern Tagalog region has become the laboratory for land reform reversals, land reform denials and land use conversions since the Calabarzon days of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Hundreds of thousands of prime agricultural lands have been subjected to automatic control of big landlords and were primed for land use conversions at the expense of land reform beneficiaries and other land tillers across the region,” Pinpin noted.

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said as of December 2006, DAR has cancelled at least 108,141 CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EPs) involving 204,579 hectares. CLOA and EP cancellations are increased by 3,790% from 1995 data of 2,780, while land area increased by 1,162% from 16, 213 hectares. Of the cancellations, majority or 87% were due to subdivision of mother-CLOAs into individual CLOAs. It involved about 82% of the lands to 167,486 hectares.

The KMP leader also cited a report filed by Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo Foundation (SENTRA), the lawyers group that handles agrarian cases including Hacienda Luisita. Flores said that of the 205 agrarian cases from Central Luzon,Southern Tagalog, Northern Luzon, Bicol and Panay regions, about half came from Southern Tagalog, mostly from Batangas reaching to 54 cases.

Flores lamented that farmers tend to lose the case at DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB), Regional Trial Court (RTC) and the Supreme Court (SC) even material evidences are sufficient but opposed to big landlords such as Zobel-Ayalas, Roxas, Yulos, Aranetas, Cojuangcos, Puyat family, big-time real-estate developers as Henry Sy, Sobrepenas, and traditional politicians as the Revillas, Remullas, Enriles, Mitras, Villafuerte. The farmers are also against foreign corporations such as Kuok Properties; including traditional and despotic landlords in the remote rural areas in the country such as the Dolors and Lopezes of Batangas, Don Domingo Reyes of Quezon, among many others.

“The DAR secretary should be daring enough to oppose big and influential landlords as the provisions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with `Reforms’ (CARPer) are on their side. If he continues to serve their side, his stay at the department would be restless and he should expect more and more protests in front of his office,” Flores said. #

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Filed under agrarian reform, human rights, politics

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