Castro wants Yulo’s Palawan ranch ‘conflict of interest’ probed
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is asking the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to look into allegations that there is conflict of interest in the appointment of Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga due to her supposed ties to a Palawan ranch partially owned by her family.
According to ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, they are studying what measures can be taken as the Yulo King Ranch (YKR) in Palawan has been the subject of petitions regarding the distribution of land to farmers beneficiaries, under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
In an audio interview — copies of which were sent to reporters on Sunday — Castro said farmers tilling the land at the YKR believe there is conflict of interest as Yulo is a cabinet official.
“Well ‘yon ang sinasabi ng ating mga magsasaka, ‘yong tungkol d’yan, at so ito nga pinag-aaralan nga natin ‘yong tungkol d’yan dahil may mga kasong daw na pag-kakamkam ng lupain d’yan sa lugar na ‘yan, at ‘yon nga ang sinasabi ng ating mga magsasaka, may conflict of interest,” Castro said.
(Well that’s what our farmers say (conflict of interest) regarding that, and we are really studying what we can do because there are cases about land grabbing in that area, and that is where our farmers say there is conflict of interest.)
“Sa DAR ano, sana tignan din ‘yong hinaing ng ating magsasaka d’yan, kay Secretary (Conrado) Estrella, at kung makikita ‘yong conflict of interest d’yan ng Secretary Yulo, ay sana ang DENR ay imbestigahan din ‘yan dahil syempre, ang ating magsasaka ang dapat nagmamay-ari ng kanilang lupang sinasaka d’yan,” she added.
(I hope DAR looks at the plight of our farmers, for Secretary Estrella, and if there is really a conflict of interest with Secretary Yulo, I hope DENR conducts an investigation too because of course, our farmers should own the lands they are tilling.)
According to Castro, having the land distributed is only just, because farmlands should belong to the farmers.
“Well, ‘yon naman talaga ‘yong ultimate na kailangan ng ating mga magsasaka ‘no, ‘yong lupa para sa kanilang pagsasaka. So matagal na nilang sinasaka ‘yong mga lupain d’yan, it’s about time na dapat maibigay sa kanila ‘yong lupa,” she said.
(That’s the ultimate need of our farmers, the land that they farm. They have been tilling the land for a long time now, it’s about time that we give them the land.)
“Kasi malaking issue ‘yan sa kanila, kasi kung talagang gustong lutasin ‘yong pinaka problema, ugat ng problema no’ng ating mga magsasaka d’yan eh di kailangan naman ay tignan din ng Marcos administration itong problema nitong ating magsasaka d’yan sa Yulo ranch,” she added.
(That’s a big issue for them, if the government really wants to address the root of the problem then the Marcos administration also needs to look into the alleged problems of farmers in the Yulo ranch.)
Castro said there are also reports that Yulo-Loyzaga is the executor of a certain YKR Corporation.
INQUIRER.net has sent an email to the DENR-Office of the Secretary for their side of the story, but they have not yet replied as of posting time.
“Parang meron na kaming na-file na resolution kaugnay ‘yan, reviewhin ko lang dahil matagal na kasing case ‘yon ng ating mga magsasaka d’yan sa Yulo na ‘yan, Hacienda Yulo, at katulad din ‘yan ng parang sa Masungi — kung alam mo ‘yong Masungi na talagang in-occupy din ng mga malalaking panginoong maylupa ‘yang may mga part d’yan sa lugar na ‘yan,” she claimed.
(I think we filed a resolution regarding that, I would just review it because it is an old case already by our farmers from that Yulo ranch. It’s like Masungi — if you’re aware of the issues surrounding Masungi which was really occupied by big landlords there, parts of that land.)
In January 2021, DAR said that they plan to distribute around 9,000 hectares of government-owned agricultural lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries in Busuanga, Palawan.
This included a portion of the Yulo King Ranch, which DAR said “has been the subject of a petition by various farmers’ organizations in Busuanga”.
“The vast tract of land under the Yulo King Ranch is classified as a grazing area, which is under an agreement between the proponent and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” DAR said in an article posted on their online website.
“With President Duterte’s signing into law of Executive Order (EO) 75, Series of 2019, on February 1, 2019, (then Agrarian Reform secretary John) Castriciones said the DAR has immediately facilitated the process of subjecting the vast tract of land in Busuanga under the CARP,” it added.
The current administration has taken a progressive stance in terms of distributing land to farmers. Last July 7, President Ferdinand Marcos signed the New Agrarian Emancipation Act which forgave over P57 billion worth of debt of 610,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries who received land under CARP.
Last December 11, Marcos asked DAR and other concerned government agencies to expedite the transfer of land ownerships to beneficiaries.