Bondoc farmers pin land reform hopes on Aquino | Inquirer News
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Bondoc farmers pin land reform hopes on Aquino

By: - Correspondent / @dtmallarijrINQ
/ 12:04 AM June 17, 2014

LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Farmers in Quezon province’s Bondoc Peninsula are pinning their hopes on President Aquino to fulfill the promises he made in Malacañang last week to solve the raging agrarian conflict there, according to a farmer leader.

“If President Aquino will be true to his words, the agrarian conflict in the Bondoc Peninsula will soon end,” Maribel Luzara, president of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP), said in a phone interview on Monday.

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Agrarian conflict has claimed the lives of six farmer leaders in Bondoc over the years. Close to 400 criminal cases, mostly for theft of coconuts, have been filed against more than 300 tenants by owners of estates that were placed under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), KMBP records showed.

The Bondoc Peninsula continues to be one of the hotbeds of agrarian conflict in Southern Tagalog, with big landholdings controlled by a few, mainly in the towns of San Francisco, San Andres, San Narciso and Buenavista.

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“We will continue to initiate different forms of protest actions in our struggle to own land,” Luzara said.

On June 10, the President met Luzara and seven other farmer leaders in Malacañang after farmers from Quezon staged a protest march to Manila on June 3 to demand the resolution of the agrarian conflict and the return of the multibillion-peso coconut levy fund to the farmers.

Aquino vowed that his administration remained committed to distributing land under the CARP before his term ends in 2016. The extended CARP is set to end this month but the President has asked Congress to pass an urgent bill extending the land reform program until 2016.

Luzara said the President promised to immediately resolve the case of the 1,736-hectare Hacienda Matias in San Francisco, which is now pending in the Office of the President. Luzara is a tenant of Hacienda Matias.

The owners of Hacienta Matias are seeking an exemption from the CARP by declaring their estate a “cattle ranch.” They brought the case to Malacañang after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), in June 2012, denied their application for exemption for lack of merit.

The President also vowed to investigate and stop the killing and harassment of farmer leaders in the area, Luzara said.

She said Mr. Aquino particularly asked for the records of KMBP leader Elisa Tulid, who was gunned down in October last year.

“We’ve had enough of the killings and harassment. The farmers are now terrorized and afraid. President Aquino should really stop the killings,” she said.

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