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.#