Maguindanao farmers now own land they’ve been tilling for years
BULUAN, Maguindanao — Wilson Balenia, a corn farmer for 20 years, could hardly find words to describe how he felt after receiving a title to the land he was tilling from President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday.
“Our dream of having a land we can call our own has been fulfilled,” Balenia, from Upi town in Maguindanao province, said in a speech after receiving his certificate of land ownership award (Cloa) from the President.
Looking at the President, Balenia said: “You may not know it but you made us all very happy today.”
Land is life
For farmers, “land means life,” he said. “This, to us, is our life, which will help us secure the future of our children.”
Looking at the crowd inside the municipal gymnasium, Balenia said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are a family of farmers. We till lands for our livelihood but never did we have a parcel that we can call our own.”
“It is only now, only now that we have become landowners, that’s why we cannot really express how happy we are,” he added.
Balenia, who represented agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB) from Maguindanao’s first district, was one of two farmers who received their Cloa from the President during a ceremonial turnover.
The other was Abdulbassit Maliga from Maguindanao’s second district.
They represented 780 ARBs who received 834 Cloas from the President.
Peace, prosperity symbol
A total of 1,740.34 hectares of land were distributed to farmers from the towns of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Paglas, Datu Saudi-Ampatuan, Guindulungan, Kabuntalan, Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Rajah Buayan, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, Talitay and Upi.
Regional Secretary Carlsum Sangkula-Jumaide of the Department of Agrarian Reform in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DAR-ARMM), said for the past 20 years since DAR was devolved to ARMM, a total of 224,708 ha had been distributed to 67,801 beneficiaries through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Of this coverage, 16 percent or about 40,800 ha were in Maguindanao, Jumaide said.
Balenia said the Cloa that he and other farmers received would become the symbol of “love, peace and prosperity” in their respective communities.
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