Monthly Archives: July 2010

Aquino asked: Don’t evade land reform issues on state address

By Lollipop de los Reyes, Pepsi La Loma and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Phillippines- Fifteen Hacienda Yulo farmers in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna now on their second day of fast today urged President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III not to evade the issue of land reform in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, saying farmers from all over Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon provinces who would join the mass action in Batasan complex on Monday.

“Noynoy did not mention anything about land reform and social justice during his inauguration on June 30. This coming SONA, the President has no option but to tell his government land reform policy, call a spade a spade and get ready for intensified agrarian unrest if he fails to institute corrective measures on agrarian injustice in this country,” said the 15 hunger striking Yulo farmers identified with the Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK).

Hacienda Yulo farmer leader and hunger strike organizer Nestor Villanueva of Kasama-TK noticed that President Aquino being a big landlord himself from Central Luzon courtesy of the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita has become very accommodative to big hacienda owners like the Yulo family.

“The Yulo has become more aggressive than ever in killing the land rights of the farmers to the extent of mobilizing the Philippine Army and the special action groups of the PNP in Southern Tagalog. In the name of land monopoly and land use conversion for super profits, the Yulo sourced the help of state security forces to able to cut 1,000 coconut trees inside the Hacienda and pave way for the grandslam land use conversion,” the Yulo farmer leader said.

Villanueva added: “What we want from hear from him are three statements. The first one is a commitment to distribute the 7,100 hectare to all farmer beneficiaries. The second one is the urgent halt on all land use conversion activities in the Yulo estate and last but not the least is the immediate pull out of all Army and police forces inside the hacienda, nothing more, nothing less.”

The three demands were submitted to Malacanang by peasant groups Kasama-TK and its mother organization, the left wing peasant activist group—the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas on July 1, a day after Aquino’s inaugural address at Luneta.

But for Axel Pinpin, secretary general of Kasama-TK, President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Yulo farmers and it is the real score at the moment and the days to come.

“Until now, there is no presidential instruction from the Office of the President for DAR to act swiftly on the demands submitted to Aquino’s office early this month. How long it would take him before he makes a decisive move in favor the Yulo farmers? One year? 50 years?”, said Pinpin.

Pinpin said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 41 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“So far this is the concrete step taken by Aquino as far as the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Yulo is concerned and for the farmers the act is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” the Kasama-TK official said.

At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented on July 16 to newly installed Agrarian reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

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.

“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,” Kasama-TK 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.#

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Group pushes gov’t takeover of Maynilad, Manila Water

By Lady Michelle Adobe, Queen Shawn Dok, Warang Kyusi and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday asked President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino to declare a state takeover of two water utility companies— the Maynilad Water Services Inc. and the Manila Water asserting that the policy of privatization of water resources did not work in favor of the Filipino people.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said the government should immediately and unconditionally rescind the contracts it entered with water concessionaires’ Maynilad and Manila Water and proceed with the honest to goodness nationalization of the water utility system not only in Metro Manila and those covered by Maynilad and Manila Water franchises but all over the country.

“It pays to check the label and the label that is privatization of water services is nothing but a long-running poison and perpetual nightmare to consumers and the Filipino public,” said France.

The Pamalakaya leader dared Aquino to go against his political benefactors– the Lopez clan, the owner of Maynilad and the Ayala group of Manila Water and pursue the collective interest and national agenda of the people.

“It is public knowledge that Aquino is the political best friend of the Lopezes and the Ayalas nowadays. The 64 US dollar question mark is– Will Aquino go against those who produced money for his presidential ambition and political career?” France asked.

The Malacanang Palace yesterday assuaged fears of a worsening water shortage because of the low level of Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan, the main source of water of Metro Manila.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda assured the public that the problem was limited to areas in the west zone being serviced by Maynilad Water Services Inc.

In the House of Representatives, however, the water shortage has divided lawmakers. Some congressmen were pushing for more drastic moves such as getting the President to put the area under a state of calamity or making him the “water czar,” and others saying Maynilad has the burden of resolving the crisis.

The Lopez-owned Maynilad has implemented rotating water interruptions over the past week, while Manila Water Co., concessionaire in the east zone, is considering rationing in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, France also pressed President Aquino to direct the Laguna Lake Development Authority(LLDA) to keep the 94,000 hectare lake free from any proposal that would tap the dying lake as potential source of potable water for Metro Manila.

“Laguna Lake is dying. Mr.Aquino should stop act that would send this lake dead on arrival,” the Pamalakaya official said.

“Please don’t touch Laguna Lake. We cannot solve a major problem by creating a bigger problem with the utilization of the 94,000 hectare lake. The idea is a crazy adventure aim to realize super profits under the guise of social welfare but in reality is all about monopoly windfall at the expense of people’s livelihood, welfare and the environment,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya believed business people and groups with vested interests on water utility and its promising profitability in times of crisis could be conspiring to create a condition of water crisis to justify the corporate takeover of Laguna Lake for commercial, industrial and other profit-driven ventures.

“Let me state the fact. The water problem manifested by water rationing in Metro Manila has been there since time immemorial and was further aggravated when water concessionaires took over the operations of the water utility which means poor service and high cost of water. Now they are talking again of water crisis. For what? For more takeover and profits?” said Pamalakaya.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson yesterday said the government is considering Laguna Lake as an alternative source of water, along with Marikina and Pampanga Rivers to address the water crisis and mitigate the impacts of the drought.

Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) general manager Edgar Manda said the authority was open to have Laguna Lake as alternative source of water for Metro Manila residents. He said the Lopez ownedMaynilad Water Services Incorporated could utilize its water treatment facilities to be able to get at least 50,000 million liters per day.

Pamalakaya said although the LLDA is authorized under Republic Act 4850 to issue permits for the use and abstraction of lake water, it is not authorized to perform acts that are deemed to destroy the ecological balance and very nature of Laguna Lake.

“The Noynoy Aquino led Manila government and the LLDA are not authorize to sell Laguna Lake and change its orientation and social purpose in the name of corporate interests, accumulation of capital and vested interests of people in and out of Malacañang,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya revealed the standing proposal of Maynilad which is to abstract 300 million liters per day (MLD) from Laguna Lake, that according to the group was extremely dangerous to the lake environment.

The militant group said the proposal will entail the permanent closure of Napindan Hydraulic control system, preventing the entry of salt water of Manila Bay. He said fish species in Laguna Lake requires the mixing of salt and fresh water to spawn and survive.“

“We strongly urge President Aquino, Manda, the DPWH and the LLDA authorities to refrain from further privatizing and converting the lake for the purpose of Jurassic model of development, super profiteering and fat returns of commissions and kickbacks. They are hereby prevented by national interest from entering into a contract that constitutes sell-out and all-out destruction of people’s livelihood and environment,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya said the Maynilad plan is like a death certificate to Laguna Lake killing not only the livelihood of more than 500,000 people engage in fish capture and fish culture activities. It said it will also endanger the fish supply and the fish need of millions of people in the National Capital Region, Laguna and Rizal provinces.

Pamalakaya and SLLM said despite of the present sorry state of Laguna Lake as Southeast Asia’s second largest lake, it is capable of producing at least 50,000 metric tons of fish per year, enough to address the fish requirement of not less than 10 million people.Citing the study conducted by the Netherlands government for the LLDA, it said Laguna De Bay, being the largest lake in the Philippines and strategically located in the heart of Calabarzon region, is the most viable source of water for Metro Manila’s west zone.

Maynilad, which is authorized water concessionaire of the Manila Water Sewerage System (MWSS) for the western part of Metro Manila, said the proposed plan if approved will enable the Lopez water utility firm to supply water to the remaining 29 percent covered by its agreement with MWSS in the West Zone area.

At present, Maynilad renders water supply to about 703,519 customers, or only 71 percent of its total concession area. The rest of the west zone does not have enough water supply — mainly comprising the areas of Muntinlupa, Parañaque, and Las Piñas.

The LLDA said if it gives the go signal Maynilad will take over operations of the existing water treatment plant in Putatan, Muntinlupa, which currently extracts 180,000 cubic meters per month of lake water and then supplies it to the Ayala Alabang subdivision for the residents’ domestic use.Maynilad will gradually implement the 300-million-liters-per-day extraction of water from the Lake. The first 100 million liters per day will be made available to the west zone of Metro Manila in 2010 and then water extraction will be increased to 200 million liters in 2011, and then 300 million liters per day by 2014

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Manila lawmakers tasked to review water crisis

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Bb. Joyce Cabral

MANILA, Philippines- The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) put to task lawmakers from both Houses of Congress to conduct a joint or separate congressional inquiry on current water crisis affecting 12 million residents in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and vice chairperson Salvador France the full-blown investigation of the water problem that immediately affected 1.2 million residents in 177 barangays in Metro Manila should be in the first order of business of the 15th Congress under the Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III administration.

“If President Aquino is afraid to grill the Lopezes of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and the Ayalas of Manila Water Co. on respective culpabilities to the consuming public because they are Aquino’s political benefactors, Congress as separate and co-equal branch of the government should pursue the real score in aid of legislation,” Hicap and France said in their joint statement.

Cross party lines

The Pamalakaya leaders added: “Senators and congressmen should cross party lines and rise above the occasion and pursue this warranted investigation on the roots of water crisis and the evils of privatization of water service”.

Pamalakaya suggested to lawmakers to invite owners, officials and operators of the state owned Manila Water Sewerage System (MWSS) and the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) and water concessionaires Maynila and Manila Water. “Congress is lawfully, politically and morally obliged to send the policy of privatization and contracts to these water concessionaires in the hot seat of public investigation and public opinion. Let us all call a spade a spade,” the fisherfolk group said.

Pamalakaya said Congress should also expand its full-blown investigation by reviewing proposals such as the Laiban Dam project and the suggestion opening the water reserves of the 94,000 Laguna Lake to Maynilad and Manila Water despite the two companies’ dismal performance in providing the water needs of the people under a privatized water utility and service system. Dismissing the LLDA suggestion as mindboggling, incorrigible and all-out environmental plunder and destruction.

Pamalakaya said Congress should also go deeper on the plan to allow Maynilad and Manila Water to source additional water from the lake. LLDA’s Manda suggested to source water from Laguna Lake to mitigate the impact of water crisis in Metro Manila should the water level at the Angat dam remain at low level.

Obsession

The LLDA official said the Lopez owned Maynilad Water Services Incorporated has water treatment facilities which could be used to convert freshwater into potable water for Metro Manila consumption. Manda said they have conducted water sampling to determine the lake’s potential as a water source.

“Maynilad’s mouth watering attitude towards Laguna Lake has been there for more than a decades or even decades. This obsession in the name of monopoly profits has been in Maynilad’s corporate mindset since the all out deregulation, privatization and liberalization policy was implemented in the time former President Fidel v. Ramos,” asserted Hicap.

“The LLDA general manager has no option but to back off from the LLDA-Maynilad deal and rescind whatever written or verbal agreement the lake authority had entered into with the Lopez owned water utility,” added Hicap. Pamalakaya said the proposal of Maynilad is to abstract 300 million liters per day (MLD) from Laguna Lake is extremely dangerous to the lake environment. Hicap said the proposal will entail the closure of Napindan Hydraulic control system, preventing the entry of salt water of Manila Bay. He said fish species in Laguna Lake requires the mixing of salt and fresh water to spawn and survive.

“We strongly urge Manda and the LLDA authorities to refrain from further privatizing and converting the lake for the purpose of Jurassic model of development, super profiteering and fat returns of commissions and kickbacks. The LLDA is hereby prevented by national interest from entering into a contract that constitutes sell-out and all-out destruction of people’s livelihood and environment,” said Pamalakaya.

Death certificate

The Pamalakaya said the Maynilad plan is like a death certificate to Laguna Lake killing not only the livelihood of more than 500,000 people engage in fish capture and fish culture activities. He said it will also endanger the fish supply and the fish need of millions of people in the National Capital Region, Laguna and Rizal provinces. Citing the study conducted by the Netherlands government for the LLDA, it said Laguna De Bay, being the largest lake in the Philippines and strategically located in the heart of Calabarzon region, is the most viable source of water for Metro Manila’s west zone.

Maynilad, which is authorized water concessionaire of the Manila Water Sewerage System (MWSS) for the western part of Metro Manila, said the proposed plan if approved will enable the Lopez water utility firm to supply water to the remaining 29 percent covered by its agreement with MWSS in the West Zone area. At present, Maynilad renders water supply to about 703,519 customers, or only 71 percent of its total concession area. The rest of the west zone does not have enough water supply — mainly comprising the areas of Muntinlupa, Parañaque, and Las Piñas.

The LLDA said if it gives the go signal Maynilad will take over operations of the existing water treatment plant in Putatan, Muntinlupa, which currently extracts 180,000 cubic meters per month of lake water and then supplies it to the Ayala Alabang subdivision for the residents’ domestic use. Maynilad will gradually implement the 300-million-liters-per-day extraction of water from the Lake.

The first 100 million liters per day will be made available to the west zone of Metro Manila in 2010 and then water extraction will be increased to 200 million liters in 2011, and then 300 million liters per day by 2014. Maynilad has admitted that 53% of water allocated to the west zone was lost mainly due to leakages. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson also said that the critical low water level in Angat Dam was attributed to lack of rain and Napocor’s fault on excessive water releases.

According to Water for the People Network reducing water loss or non-revenue water of both concessionaires to single digit percentage will mean additional 900 mld (million liters per day) of water supply to National Capital Region.

The WPN said the multipurpose reservoir of Angat Dam, which provides for 97 percent of the domestic water supply of Metro Manila, gets its water from the Angat Watershed Reservation.

The Angat Watershed Reservation has a total area of 62,309 hectares in two sub-catchments areas. The effective drainage area of the Reservation is 56,800 hectares. This watershed, if properly managed, could provide adequate water to the Angat Dam all year round.

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Farmer activists prefer protest over street party

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Roy Morilla and Gegemon Babon

MANILA, Philippines – ” An earth shaking no.”

Farmer and other rural based groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Amihan peasant women federation, the Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) rejected the plea of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to hold their rally inside the Quezon City Memorial Circle in Eliptical Road, instead of pushing their way near the Batasan in time for Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Excuse me, but we are going to the main capital not to stage a street party and hail the Aquino administration to high heaven. We are going to Manila to present the real state of the people which is free from any shade of illusion,” the six rural based organizations said in a joint statement.

“Mr. Aquino is barely a month on office, but this 50-year old bachelor politician is leading us to another authoritarian or police state by confining us to a 10-hectare park where no one could see or hear us but a handful of park goers,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos in a press statement.

Ramos said Aquino should allow protesters to get near the Batasan complex and express the people’s agenda and true state of the nation address rather than bar them from getting near Congress and put them inside the Quezon City park like prisoners seeking fresh air and the warm of the sun.

“Our farmers, fisherfolk and the other rural people will come from as far as Quezon province. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment from Mr.Aquino, they are coming to push free land distribution and justice and tell the Aquino clique that these things are non-negotiable. Definitely they are here on SONA day to make a difference and not to join any Palace led street party,” the KMP leader added.

On Sunday, about 1,700 farmers and activists from Southern Tagalog led by Kasama-TK and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog chapter (Bayan-ST) will lead a caravan for land, truth and justice starting from Lucena City in Quezon Province and will pass several towns of Laguna and Batangas provinces before reaching the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon City in the evening to join farmers camping out in DAR. The striking farmers are from Hacienda Yulo in Barangay Canlubang inCalamba City who are on 100-day peasant strike which began on June 30.

On Sunday night, the farmers will deliver the State of the Peasant Address (SOPA) which will call for the urgent and unconditional free distribution of lands to farmer beneficiaries that include the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, the 7,100 hectare coconut lands in Hacienda Yulo and the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas.

The SOPA will also call for the pull-out of Army troops in several haciendas that include Luisita, Yulo and Looc. “President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Yulo farmers and this is the real score at the moment. Until now, there is no presidential instruction from the Office of the President for DAR to act swiftly on the demands submitted to Aquino’s office early this month. How long it would take him before he makes a decisive move in favor the Yulo farmers? One year? 50 years?”, said Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin.

Pinpin said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 42 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“ So far this is the concrete step taken by Aquino as far as the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Yulo is concerned and for the farmers the act is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” the Kasama-TK official said.

At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented on July 16 to newly installed Agrarian reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

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.

“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,” said KMP.

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, KMP 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.#

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SORA pits vs. Aquino’s SONA

By Bianca Jing Bajing Jing and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-Farmer groups led by the peasant activist group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Amihan peasant women federation, the Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) delivered their own State of the Nation Address (SONA) dubbed as State of the Rural Address (SORA) on the eve of the 1st SONA of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino.

About 2,000 farmers, peasant women, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and indigenous people listened to SORA led by KMP national spokesperson Antonio Flores.

In his 10-minute SORA speech, Flores told Aquino that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)and its five-year extended version the CARP with reforms remained a comprehensive failure and perpetual agrarian disaster to millions of landless farmers all over the country.

“If Noynoy wants to perform in accordance with national interest he would announce the immediate and free distribution of hacienda lands like the 6,435-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, the 7,100 Hacienda Yulo in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City and the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas to mention a few. If he do this, then we will have progressive future for seven out of 10 Filipino farmers who don’t have lands,” the KMP spokesman said in his SORA.

The SORA delivered by Flores also asked Aquino to immediately prosecute former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for high crimes and corruption, scrap the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, dismantle death squads which are still maintained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and pull out deployed government troops in areas of agrarian disputes.

Flores likewise informed President Aquino on the demand of relatives of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to prosecute Arroyo’s military and security officials involved in political killings and abductions. Some of those he mentioned during the SORA were former defense secretary Norberto Gonzalez and former Army general Jovito Palparan.

“SORA is the real state of the rural people as far as our groups are concerned and our SORA is authentic, based on day-to-day experience and struggle for daily survival,” the KMP leader said.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap rejected the plea of President Aquino to hold their rally inside the Quezon City Memorial Circle in Eliptical Road, instead of pushing their way near the Batasan in time for Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Excuse us, but we are going to the main capital not to stage a street party and hail the Aquino administration to high heaven. We are going to Manila to present the real state of the people which is free from any shade of illusion,” Hicap said.

“Mr. Aquino is barely a month on office, but this 50-year old bachelor politician is leading us to another authoritarian or police state by confining us to a 10-hectare park where no one could see or hear us but a handful of park goers,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Hicap said Aquino should allow protesters to get near the Batasan complex and express the people’s agenda and true state of the nation address rather than bar them from getting near Congress and put them inside the Quezon City park like prisoners seeking fresh air and the warm of the sun.

“Our farmers, fisherfolk and the other rural people will come from as far as Quezon province. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment from Mr.Aquino, they are coming to push free land distribution and justice and tell the Aquino clique that these things are non-negotiable. Definitely they are here on SONA day to make a difference and not to join any Palace led street party,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 42 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“ So far this is the concrete step taken by Aquino as far as the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Yulo is concerned and for the farmers the act is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” the Kasama-TK official said.

At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented on July 16 to newly installed Agrarian reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

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.

“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,” said Kasama-TK

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, KMP 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.#

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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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Manila’s justice chief set review on Belgian funded lake rehab project

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Rey Manangan

MANILA, Philippines- Leaders of the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday welcomed the decision of Department of Justice (DoJ) secretary Leila de Lima to review the controversial P 18.7 billion Laguna Lake rehabilitation awarded to a Belgian firm by the previous administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Vice chairperson Salvador France said the decision of Justice secretary de Lima to review the opinion issued by her predecessor-former secretary Alberto Agra that the project is an executive agreement and governed by Republic Act 8182 or the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Act of 1996.

In Agra’s opinion, ODA loan agreements may be considered an executive agreementm which the under revised implementing rules of the Government Reform Procurement Act are exempted from its provision requiring government projects to be subjected for bidding.
But in their July 2 letter of appeal to Secretary de Lima, the Pamalakaya leaders stressed the issue is a matter of life and death to 6 million people residing around the lake’s surroundings.

“Honorable Secretary de Lima please pardon us for bringing this early to your honorable office. We believe this is a matter of national interest beyond the sectoral interest of small fisherfolk in Laguna Lake and the 6 million people surrounding the country’s largest but dying lake. We affirm this is a matter of life and death in which your honorable office can play a decisive role to correct the grave mistakes of the past,” Hicap and France said in their July 2 letter to de Lima.

“Madam secretary, to begin with, former Justice Secretary and Solicitor General Alberto Agra recently issued an eight page opinion affirming the legality of the loan agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Belgian government involving the rehabilitation of the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake which will cost the Belgian financial bank a total of P 18.7 billion,” they added.
Acccording to Pamalakaya, former Secretary Agra issued the opinion upon the request of acting Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Horacio Ramos who sought the advice of the DoJ on whether the loan agreement between the two countries shall be considered an executive agreement or a treaty that needs the approval of the Philippine Senate and what Philippine laws govern the loan agreement between the two countries.
In his eight page opinion issued less than two weeks before the inauguration of President Aquino, former justice secretary Agra asserted the loan agreement may be considered an executive agreement based on the ruling issued by the Supreme Court in the Commissioner of Customs v. Eastern Sea Trading case, where it differentiated an executive agreement from a treaty.
In the said ruling, the Court held that international agreements involving political issues or changes of national policy and those involving international arrangements of a permanent character usually take the form of treaties.

On the other hand, executive agreements involve arrangements of a more or less temporary nature such as commercial and consular relations. The P18.7-billion loan agreement was signed by the government through the DOF and Fortis Bank on April 30, 2010.

Pamalakaya learned the project is covered by a loan agreement between the government through the Department of Finance (DoF) and the Fortis Bank SA/NV, a Belgian commercial bank which offers a comprehensive package of financial services for private and professional clients, wealthy individuals, corporate clients, financial institutions and public entities.

The loan granted by the Belgian commercial bank is to be guaranteed by the office National du Ducroire Delcrederedienst, the export credit agency of the Belgian government. Secretary Agra said the loan is considered official development assistance (ODA) under Republic Act 8182 or the Official Development Assistance of 1996.
The loan was intended to improve the environmental condition of the lake in order to uplift the socioeconomic condition of the people within the Laguna de Bay regionand its spillover development effect benefiting the entire Metro Manila and the whole country as a whole, in the long term.

The project is composed of subprojects such as dredging of the lake nautical highways; lake water-quality improvement; development and operation of the lake ferry-transport system; and lakeshore development.

The project will be implemented for 850 days and the contract was awarded to Baggerwerken through direct contracting, an alternative mode of procurement. Sources said Baggerwerken is a Belgian company engaged in the business of keeping the sea lanes open, construction of some of the world’s biggest ports and protection of the coastal population against flooding and violence of the seas.

The supply contract was entered into by and between then-Environment secretary Eleazar Quinto for the government and Dimitry Dutilleuz for Baggerwerken. Quinto was one of those midnight appointees of former President Arroyo and was followed by Ramos, another midnight appointee of the former President.

The Pamalakaya leaders said they were highly puzzled about the project since this rehabilitation undertaking was not even brought to the attention of Laguna Lake people. Everybody was kept in the dark. This project is an across-the-lake mystery to 6 million people of Laguna Lake.

“The DoJ, the DENR and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) did not bother to inform, consult or seek the collective opinion of 6 million people living along the lake regarding the ambitious lake rehabilitation project funded by the Belgian government,” the group insisted.

“The fisherfolk of Laguna Lake through Pamalakaya wish to inform your honorable office and the chair of the EU delegation to the Philippines—Honorable Alistair MacDonald that there is nothing honorable with the P 18.7 billion Laguna lake rehabilitation project simply because the project was questionable and merely a passed on project by the Arroyo administration to the Aquino government that should be reviewed and scrutinized by the present dispensation,” the group in their letter to the DoJ chief.

“Nobody knows what the project is all about? Madam Secretary it seems to us the P 18-7 billion project is one of the midnight contracts rushed by President Arroyo and the Office of the President before Arroyo’s term expired on June 30. We have this strong feeling that this project is another money making campaign on the part of the former Arroyo presidency,” the group added.

Pamalakaya also sought the help of Secretary de Liam to faciliate a talk with the highest official of the EU commission in the Philippines to immediately ask the Belgian government and its Belgian embassy in Manila to indefinitely suspend or terminate the contract for the P 18.7 billion rehabilitation project in Laguna Lake.

“We are suspicious of the project which is packaged as rehabilitation project of Laguna Lake. The Philippine government could be pursuing a bogus rehabilitation project in the name of privatization of Laguna Lake at the expense of the livelihood and community rights of over 6 million lake people,” it said.

Pamalakaya said the 18 billion peso project was meant for the setting up of support infrastructures for the full-blown privatization of the lake. The government intends to clean the lake and get rid of fishing communities and urban poor villages in preparation for the grand entry of big business planning to put up an international airport and world class hotels along the lake.#

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