Hacienda Luisita farmers want land conversion nixed
Farm workers of Hacienda Luisita, the sugarcane plantation owned by Cojuangco relatives of President Benigno Aquino III, on Thursday asked the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to revoke the conversion order granted to the estate’s owners 15 years ago.
The Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), one of the farm unions in the estate, said the Cojuangcos had violated the terms and conditions of the order and that the 500 hectares covered by the conversion order has remained undeveloped and agricultural.
“It is clear that HLI (Hacienda Luisita Inc.) had no intention of developing or converting the 500 hectares subject of the DAR conversion order. For instead of developing the [land] pursuant to their undertaking in the application for conversion, it merely caused them to be transferred to other family-owned corporations of the Cojuangcos—Lipco, Centennary and LRC,” the group’s petition to the DAR stated.
The conversion order was granted in 1996 and covered 500 hectares of the vast sugar estate. Ambala, through its counsel, Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo, maintained that the Cojuangco family applied for conversion to avoid the distribution of land as mandated by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.
“Clearly, there is no other purpose for the transfer of ownership of the 500 hectares but to take the 500 hectares out of the coverage of the agrarian reform program. The transfer of ownership, which was also without the prior knowledge and approval of the DAR, is a clear violation of the conversion order,” it noted.c
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