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Hacienda farmers still pray for land

/ 12:04 AM July 17, 2014

One month after President Aquino junked the petition of owners of Hacienda Matias in the southern part of Quezon province to exempt the 1,800-hectare estate from land reform, farm tenants are praying for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to immediately start handing over the land to them.

“We’ve been praying novena every night, seeking divine intervention, that no more problem will arise and for the DAR to immediately start the land distribution, not only in Hacienda Matias but also in other big landholdings in the Bondoc Peninsula,” said Maribel Luzara, president of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP).

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Luzara said her group was also appealing to the President to release even a portion of some P72 billion in coconut levy fund to help beneficiaries of the government’s land reform program. “Providing us with land with no financial help to make it productive is useless,” she said.

Luzara said that since the coco levy fund came from the “blood, sweat and tears” of their elders, they should benefit from it.

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No word from DAR

More than 1,000 tenants in the vast estate in San Francisco town were still awaiting word from the DAR when it would start distributing parcels of the Matias estate based on the Malacañang decision on June 9. Luzara described the situation there as “peaceful but tense.”

“We expect the landowners will oppose the Palace decision in their own way,” she said, while calling on the police, the military and the Commission on Human Rights to protect the farmers from any untoward incident.

According to KMBP, six farmer-leaders have been killed in agrarian-related conflict while some 400 criminal cases, mostly for theft of coconuts, have been filed by landowners against more than 300 tenants.

In an interview early this month, Samuel Solomero, officer in charge of the provincial DAR, said his office was preparing for the transfer of ownership to the government and eventually the generation of individual titles or certificates of land ownership awards (Cloas) to beneficiaries in the hacienda.

He said the DAR was committed to finish the land acquisition and distribution of land in the Bondoc Peninsula and the province’s fourth district.

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Distribution goal

Considering the total land acquisition and distribution (LAD) balance of 16,000 ha in the beginning of this year, Solomero said the department was looking at distributing one-third (5,645 ha) before yearend.

In 2013, the DAR distributed 3,412 ha, 2,515 ha of which are in the Bondoc Peninsula.

Solomero denied allegations of farmers’ groups that only 480 ha from the 1,200-ha Hacienda Reyes had been distributed in Mulanay town, also in Quezon, in February last year and that no more distributions followed. Other landholdings owned by such families surnamed Quizon, Tan, Edaño, Napeñas had also been given to beneficiaries, he said.

The list of new Cloa recipients is available if the groups want to audit and validate them, he said.

Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan) Quezon, said he would look into the list but remained “skeptical” about the figures.

“The situation on the ground remains the same,” he said. “Many farmers are restive and still struggling to own a piece of land to till.” Delfin T. Mallari Jr.

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TAGS: agrarian reform, Aquino, Cojuangco, Hacienda Luisita, News, Regions
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