Urbanization spreads to provinces outside Metro Manila
Urbanization is most pronounced in provinces contiguous to Metro Manila.
Bulacan province, for instance, has been subject to rampant conversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural uses. It is now home to several government relocation sites and part of the P63-billion Metro Rail Transit (MRT 7) project of San Miguel Corp.
Expected to be completed in 2020, the 22-kilometer elevated railway will run from North Avenue in Quezon City to San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan.
Land reform awardees
MRT 7’s intermodal depot and commercial components will cut through 103.48 hectares of the farming communities of Barrio Visaya and Sitio Ricafort in Tungkong Mangga. The land is owned by the Aranetas.
Bananas, root crops and rice in Ricafort have sustained holders of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (Cloas), like Ronnie Manalo, since the 1960s.
In 1998, about 300 ha of the land were placed under the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, but the Araneta family filed a petition for exemption in the Department of Agrarian Reform, claiming the land was undeveloped and unirrigated.
There are 28,586 farmer-beneficiaries nationwide who are Cloa holders but still do not till their designated lands as of 2016, according to the state-run Philippine Information Agency.
Pending dispute case
In the 15th Congress, then Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus and Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño argued that since the case was pending with the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council, the Araneta family did not have the right to make decisions affecting the property, including consenting to the construction of MRT 7.
For Manalo and fellow residents, the Aranetas have long made decisions that adversely affect those living off the land.
For example, they banned Sitio Ricafort residents from developing a long dirt road that connects their upland village to the foot of the mountain and by extension to the Novaliches market where they sell goods twice a week.
“The government has no rules here. It’s the rules of the Aranetas that are followed,” Manalo said. —REPORTS FROM JINKY CABILDO, MATTHEW REYSIO-CRUZ AND KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING