Farmers demand DAR, Castriciones to resolve crucial land cases

On the second day of the protest caravan of peasants from Southern Luzon, contingents will hold protest-dialogues at national agencies to raise their concerns that remain unresolved at the local level. “Farmers are fed up with the lingering situation of landlessness and poverty. We are earning our keep through tilling but landgrabbers are evicting us from our farms, the military are terrorizing our communities, and not even the government can protect us,” said peasant leader Eddie Billones, chairperson of Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), KMP’s chapter in the region.

Farmers from at least 20 landholdings in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, and Rizal provinces will hold a dialogue with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national and regional officials. Farmers from provinces went to DAR to dialogue and seek resolution with their decades-long land dispute cases.

“Farmers want concrete resolutions and actions from DAR and Castriciones regarding the 7,000-hectare Hacienda Yulo in Laguna, the 352-hectare Lupang Ramos, and landholdings Kapdula, Aguinaldo, and Jovillana in Cavite; the land conversions across Batangas and Rizal, and the dispute between farmers and conglomerate San Miguel Corporation. 

In Sariaya, Quezon, some 3,000 farming and fishing families will be evicted with the construction of SMC’s P352-million agro-industrial complex. Farmers who rely on coconut farming and fishing will be uprooted from their communities. SMC is also building a P200-million coal-fired power plant in Pagbilao town that will encompass four villages. In the boundaries of Rizal and Quezon, farmers are opposing the controversial Kaliwa Dam project that will inundate more than 28,000 hectares of protected forestlands and displace some 11,000 families from the Agta-Dumagat-Remontado tribes. Kaliwa Dam, a pet project of President Duterte with China, will be funded through a Chinese loan deal worth $236 million. In Batangas and Rizal, Vista Lands Inc. of the Villar family persists with its aggressive expansion of real estate development projects. 

“These land dispute cases are crucial and DAR’s perennial slowpoke treatment is getting into our nerves. Ilang taon na kaming pabalik-balik sa DAR region. Bumagal pang lalo ang resolusyon sa mga kaso sa lupa dahil sa pandemic. Pagdating ng mga magsasaka dito sa DAR national, sasabihin sa amin, sa online lang tayo mag-usap.” Billones laments. 

The dialogue with Secretary John Castriciones would have been a face-to-face meeting at the DAR Gymnasium in Quezon City to allow social distancing but the agency canceled the meeting at the last minute and instead called for a schedule via online meeting. 

Hindi namin matatanggap ang sagot mula sa DAR na “titingnan po natin” at “noted po,” says Billones who also noted that DAR has a budget allocation of P8.85-B for 2021, with a remaining balance of 523,092 hectares of private agricultural land for acquisition and distribution.

KMP said 34 years after Mendiola Massacre that symbolizes the Filipino farmers’ bitter struggle for land, the situation remains unchanged. “Then and now, farmers are still marching on the streets and protesting. We will continue to do so until we achieve our just demands,” Billones concluded.

Southern Luzon farmers are holding camp at the Commission on Human Rights and will march to Mendiola tomorrow on the 34th year commemoration of Mendiola Massacre. #

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