Farmers hit land conversion as firm says it’s legal
PLARIDEL, Bulacan—Peasant leader Jaime Tadeo has resurfaced to lead the protest against the development of a subdivision project here over lands that Tadeo said farmers have staked for agrarian reform.
Tadeo, a former 1986 Constitutional Commission member and spokesperson of the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (Sara), said Lumina Homes had been developing 13 hectares of agricultural land in this town.
Lumina Homes is a socialized housing arm of Vista Lands Inc., which is owned by former Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.
In a reply sent by e-mail to Inquirer, Ma. Nalen S.J. Rosero Galang, chief legal counsel of Vista Land, said the lands being developed by the Villar firm are not agricultural. The National Irrigation Authority has certified that they were not irrigated.
“The subject properties can be legally converted,” Galang said in the statement. She added that the Department of Agrarian Reform had also issued a “certificate of eligibility of reclassification” for the lands.
Farms in Barangay Culianin grow rice and vegetables. Plaridel is the second largest grower and producer of vegetables in Bulacan province.
Sara, Tadeo’s group, had petitioned the DAR to stop the conversion of farmlands into subdivisions, but Tadeo complained that the agency was taking too long to act on its appeal.
“What is taking [DAR] so long? About 85 percent of the residents in our village are farmers and are dependent on the irrigated lands. Our century bells were first stolen from us, now our lands are being taken illegally and forcibly,” he said.
Tadeo was referring to the church bells of Barangay Culianin which were stolen in 2011, along with other church items in a spate of robberies in various Bulacan towns.
“I am alarmed by this development because my own small farm of 7,000 square meters will be affected. [Similar to my plight are the conditions of] the small farmers of Barangay Culianin, who are opposing this illegal conversion since Section 65 of Republic Act No. 9700 (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms) strictly prohibits the conversion of all irrigated and irrigable agricultural lands,” he said.
Tadeo, a farmer representative to the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council, said the municipal and provincial agrarian reform offices had inspected the contested lands, but the DAR had yet to act on the farmers’ claims.
He said the land development there could affect irrigation water, which serves 12 farms and might trigger the flooding of 45 small farming areas when the monsoon season comes.
Vista Land’s Galang said the subdivision project would not block irrigation and water flow to other farms.
The lands being developed, she said, “are located at the tail end of the said (irrigation) canal, thus, any fear that the intended project will deny other parcels of land of any water is highly improbable.”
She said the municipal government of Plaridel had issued a development permit for the project. The lands in question, she added, are “duly covered by transfer certificates of title issued by the register of deeds for the province of Bulacan free from liens, encumbrances and third party claims.”
The town government issued Lumina Homes a development permit in 2013 when no objections were raised during a public consultation. Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon