Manila’s high court asked to stop 2 presidents from converting lands

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bombshell Moran and Bb. Joyce Cabral

MANILA, Philippines-Leftwing fisherfolk activists belonging to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Tuesday said theSupreme Court ruling upholding the ban imposed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) two years ago on land use conversion of agricultural lands should cover the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” AquinoIII and the 157 Hacienda Bacan in Negros Occidental owned by the family of former President and now Pampanga (2nd district) Rep.Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said aside from Hacienda Luisita and Hacienda Bacan owned by the families of President Aquino and ex-President Arroyo respectively, the high tribunal ruling against land use conversion should also cover other big cases of land grabbing and land-use conversions like the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas and the the 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo in Canlubang, Laguna.

“The DAR has no choice but to stop and scrap the planned land use conversions in Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Bacan, Hacienda Looc and Hacienda Yulo. There should be special treatment to Aquino and Arroyo and the landed feudal aristocracies in the country. Their lands should be subjected to immediate, unconditional and free distribution to farmer beneficiaries,” Hicap stressed.

The Pamalakaya official pressed President Aquino and Rep. Arroyo to heed to the Supreme Court ruling against land use conversion and allow DAR to take over their lands and have it distributed for free to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“Aquino and Arroyo are legally bound to honor the high court ruling. They must give up their immoral and illegal control onHacienda Luisita and Hacienda Bacan respectively,” said Hicap.

Quoting a report from peasant NGO– Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra), the Pamalakaya leader noted that from 6 million hectares of rice lands the country had, the coverage was reduced to 4 million hectares due to land use conversions. Hicap said in Cavite alone, from 1989 to 1993, irrigated rice land fell from 14,710 hectares to 12,800 hectares due to land use conversions. Recently, the DAR placed 217 hectares of rice land known as Tropical Land in Cavite for land use conversion.

“The ban on land use conversion should be effectively implemented to stop this anarchic land use conversions and destructions of rice lands and other prime agricultural lands. To set the record straight, the DAR itself is the main instrument in enforcing land use conversions. From 1988 to 1997, a total of 129, 467 hectares of land were converted for other purposes and in Cagayan Valley around 442, 648 hectares,” said Pamalakaya.

In a ruling issued last June 18, the high court’s First Division unanimously agreed that the DAR was right to impose a moratorium at the time when the country was suffering from global rice crisis. The SC dismissed the petition filed by the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations (Creba), an umbrella organization of 3,500 companies and individuals in the real estate business. The real estate group questioned Memorandum No. 88 issued by then Agrarian reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman.

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