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CARP Lands in Tarlac City Being Claimed by Corporations

Saturday, February 19, 2011

CARP Lands in Tarlac City Being Claimed by Corporations

A farmers’ group believes that this is a case of landgrabbing and speculation in anticipation of and preparation for the construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx). The group said that as the market value of lands around the superhighways are expected to skyrocket, business firms are trying to takeover farmlands even if it meant displacing farmers.

MANILA — Farmers in Balingcanaway, a village in Tarlac City, are gearing to go head-to-head against corporate interests encroaching on the 154-hectare agricultural estate they have been cultivating since 1997. Individuals with ties to popular fast food chain Pancake House are said to be claiming the lands covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Peasant Alliance of Central Luzon) said that more than 52 farmers and their families have been cultivating the disputed land for over a decade. Many of them are also farmworkers from nearby barangays, and, because of their efforts, the land has yielded 100 to 120 cavans per hectare every harvest season. Balingcanaway is adjacent to a village called Cutcut, which is inside President Benigno Aquino III’s family-owned Hacienda Luisita.

According to the farmers, the land used to be planted with sugarcane and was administered by a certain Teresita Cruz who represented Valdez Estate.

When the land was taken over by the government through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 1990, the farmers said, Cruz allegedly used her influence and money to pressure farmers to sell their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs). This was supposedly done without the knowledge of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office. The farmers were allowed to continue farming the land, but they had to pay P5,000 ($115) per hectare to Cruz. Through the years, the amount increased to P7,000 ($161) then to P10,000 ($230) in 2008.
In 2009, a certain Janette Peña and Bob Guinto arrived and claimed that they are the legal land owners. It was the first time that the farmers saw the two individuals and they had never heard of the land being sold or even leased to anyone else. They also knew that the land was registered and titled with the city, provincial and regional DAR offices.

The following year, on July 2010, about 50 armed guards under an agency headed by a retired colonel named Ronie Bonifacio, accompanied by local police led by a Commander Leonardo Taberdo, put up a barbed-wire fence around 60 hectares of the land. Armed guards also began to stand sentry around the fenced area. The guards frequently questioned the farmers every time they arrived to do their farming on the area not covered by the fence.

In the coming weeks, more restrictions were imposed. The guards began to block the irrigation system the farmers used.

The proposed Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx). (Image from skyscrapercity.com)

The farmers went to village officials to report what happened, but the local officials did nothing.
On August 17, 2010, the farmers petitioned DAR to re-allocate the CARP-covered lands to their names. On October 11, 2010, they requested the provincial DAR office to investigate the dispute. They also filed lawsuits of Forcible Entry with Damages before the local Municipal Trial Court against Peña and Guinto. The court issued a status quo order, allowing the farmers to continue cultivating their lands.

In a show of collective strength and solidarity, the farmers dismantled the barbed-wire fence on November 29, 2010. Their action was witnessed by village officials and local police, and two farmers were arrested. Commander Taberdo said the arrest was ordered by someone he called “Gen. Bonifacio.” Since Taberdo was unable to charge the farmers with anything, he was forced to release the two men after an hour even as the farmers threatened to file grave coercion and illegal detention charges against him..... MORE


URL: http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/02/18/carp-lands-in-tarlac-city-being-claimed-by-corporations/


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