Farmers express unease as railway project nears completion

As President Rodrigo Duterte and Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade leads the unveiling of new train sets of the Manila Mass Rapid Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) today, farmers from the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB) expressed unease with what will happen to San Jose Del Monte farmers because of the train project. “We are supporting progress and development but we are worried about our situation once the MRT-7 reaches its completion in June 2022. Mapapalayas ang mga magsasaka sa lupang sinasaka namin para sa pagkain at kabuhayan. Ano ang plano at magagawa ng mga kandidato para sa aming mga magsasaka?,” according to Cecilia Rapiz, leader of AMB.

In the past years, farmers from the so-called Araneta lands in SJDM faced the constant threat of eviction from Greggy Araneta, brother-in-law of presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos Jr. “Land grabber Greggy Araneta harasses farming communities in agricultural villages of SJDM. His armed goons forcibly closed a farm to market road, and repeatedly destroyed our crops and threatened us with violence and eviction,” Rapiz said.

Araneta plans to transform the veggie and fruit farms into an exclusive residential area, anticipating higher land prices as the construction of MRT-7 nears completion.

The controversial MRT-7 Project is the focal point of SJDM farmers’ more than 20-year struggle and resistance against land grabbing and displacement. More than a thousand farmers from various rural villages in SJDM, Bulacan are threatened to be displaced by the big-ticket railway project and the urbanization it entails. 588 hectares of agricultural lands in Tungkong Mangga village, 311 hectares in Sitio San Isidro, more than 84 hectares in Sitio Ricafort, and more than 70 hectares in Sitio Dalandanan are all in danger of being wiped out. These productive lands are tilled and occupied by hundreds of farming families.

From 2004 to 2015, some 2,106.3 hectares of productive agricultural lands in SJDM were converted. Various road and infrastructure projects in SJDM and across Bulacan province accelerated the land-use conversion.

The MRT-7 is a 24.7-kilometer rail line. It will comprise 14 train stations, starting from North Avenue to an inter-modal depot and terminal in Barangay Tungkong Mangga. The controversial project started in 2001 as an unsolicited proposal from the SMC-MRT 7 Inc. (formerly Universal LRT Corporation), a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation. It was approved by the NEDA in 2004 and its concession agreement was signed in 2008 during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. It was continued as a PPP project under the Aquino government. In 2016, the US$440.2-million supply contract for the railway project’s 108 train sets was awarded to South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem.

In April 2016 when the railway project started its construction, the SMC-MRT 7 Inc. also started bulldozing farm lots in Bgy. Tungkong Mangga in SJDM.

Land grabbing and land-use conversion are prevalent in SJDM, among the prime targets of land developers and real estate corporations such as the Villar family-owned Vista Land and Landscapes Inc. The local government is developing the city as a “New Super City” and Metro Manila’s gateway to Central Luzon. Big real estate corporations have strategic and big-ticket investments and projects in SJDM. ###

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s