Secretary Atienza busy with Pacman, but less accommodating to complaining fishers, says Pamalakaya
“This country is extremely unfortunate. It has an environment chief who is keeping himself busy as homeland spokesperson for Manny Pacquiao, rather than address the fisherfolk problems lodged before his office.”
Leaders of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), its regional and provincial affiliates Pamalakaya-Timog Katagalugan and the Haligi ng Batangueñong AnakDagat (Habagat) accused Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Joselito Atienza of taking for granted the scheduled meeting with them because the top environment official is preoccupied in preparing the grand welcome for the celebrated boxing champion.
Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said Atienza was supposed to meet them last May 5 to discuss several issues concerning the problems of farmers and fisherfolk in Calatagan, Batangas and the controversial R-1 Expressway Extension Project in Bacoor, Cavite.
“For the second, third and fourth time around, Secretary Atienza snub an interface with us, and ordered DENR undersecretary Manuel Gerochi to represent the environment secretary in his behalf. We made our position before that we will not engage in any dialogue with environment department without Secretary Atienza, and that is non-negotiable. It is Atienza or nothing,” added Hicap.
“We are not undermining the capacity and authority of undersecretary Gerochi, the issues we raised deserve an audience with and the attention of Mr. Atienza at the discussion table. It would be like talking to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table without the King,” the Pamalakaya leader added.
The militant group said while fisherfolk demanding explanations from DENR secretary about the present status of their cases and complaints, Atienza kept himself busy gracing the media telling the Department of Health (DoH) that it cannot prevent Pacquiao from coming home.
Secretary Atienza had dismissed fears that Pacquiao and his entourage might carry the swine flue virus as “unjustified anxiety.” The DENR secretary also said there is no reason why the DoH should give that kind of treatment to the boxing champ when planeloads of Filipinos pass through and were not subjected to the same treatment.
Atienza asserted the scheduled motorcade for Pacquiao would push through on Friday, afternoon rain of shine, adding that the DoH cannot deprive the people the satisfaction of greeting the boxing champ.
Earlier, Pamalakaya, Habagat and Claimants 2000 demanded Secretary Atienza and explanation as why his department failed to distribute 2,000 hectares of foreshore lands in Calatagan, Batangas to fishermen and farmers
“If my memory serves me right, Secretary Atienza last May 22, 2008 made a highly publicized promise that the DENR will start distributing 2,000 hectares of foreshore lands to fisherfolk and farmer residents in 19 out of the 24 barangays in Calatagan. Today is May 7, 2009. How long it will take him from accomplishing a very easy assignment?” they said.
The 2,000 hectare plot is part of the 12,000 hectares of land owned by Ayala companies had previously been exempted from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) but the Supreme Court in July 1999, decided with finality that the hotly disputed lands should be distributed to farmers and fishermen in 19 barangays of Calatagan.
Prior to the enactment of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) and the subsequent approval of CARP in 1988, the Supreme Court had already issued a writ of execution in June 1988 enforcing the 1965 SC ruling recognizing the land rights’ claim of the farmers and fisherfolk in Calatagan.
“The 2,000 hectares of lot in Calatagan is not under CARP, but Atienza and the Office of President keep on insisting that the distribution of these lands should be within the framework of the bogus land reform program,” added Hicap.
Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog chairperson and Habagat President Isabelo Alicaya said what the DENR had accomplished so far was the survey of 1,769 hectares out of the 2,000 hectares identified for distribution to fishermen and farmers in Calatagan. He said the remaining 231 hectares are still to be surveyed.
However, Alicaya said, the survey is not an assurance that the DENR will push through with the distribution of lands to farmer and fisherfolk in 19 barangays. The Pamalakaya leader said in Barangay Silang, the DENR surveyor did not recognize 500 families as residents and potential beneficiaries of the Supreme Court ruling on Calatagan lands.
“Worse, the leaders of Habagat and Claimants 2000 are being deluged with various criminal and civil cases by several land developers and big landlords for insisting their rights over these lands based on the decision of the high tribunal,” Alicaya added.
Pamalakaya-ST said 6 leaders of Habagat and Claimants 2000 were charged with cases like unlawful retainer, malicious mischief and forcible entry to stop them from pursuing the fisherfolk claims over the 2,000 hectares of land owned by Ayala companies. Among those charged were Daisy Ayo and Rossana Mole, leaders of Claimants 2000 identified with Habagat and Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog. #