Bukidnon farmers camp-out at DAR 

 

While the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is scrambling to negate and overturn all pro-farmer policies of former agrarian reform secretary Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano, about a hundred farmers from Bukidnon will start a two-week protest camp-out outside the DAR central office to press the current DAR leadership for the immediate installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries and the pursuance of free land distribution.

 

Farmer-beneficiaries from Bukidnon Free Farmers Association and Laborers Organization (BUFFALO), Tried Agricultural Movers Association of Rural Active Workers (TAMARAW), and the Landless Tillers Inhabitants of Musuan (LIMUS)—collectively known as BTL—has brought their decades-long struggle for land outside the door step of the DAR.  “We have waited for so long for DAR to take action on our plight. We cannot wait any longer. We demand the current DAR to recognize our rightful claim to the 517-hectares of land that we are tilling inside Central Mindanao University (CMU).

 

Coverage and distribution of proclaimed lands

 

BTL farmers petitioned DAR to cover and distribute the CMU lands based on Executive Order No. 448 or “Accelerating the Acquisition and Distribution of Agricultural Lands, Pasture Lands, Fishponds, Agro-Forestry Lands and Other Lands of the Public Domain Suitable for Agriculture”.

 

The said EO directs the transfer of ownership of suitable lands to the DAR for distribution. “Sec. 1-A of EO 448 states that all lands or portions thereof reserved by virtue of Presidential proclamations for specific public uses by the government, its agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations, suitable for agriculture and no longer actually, directly and exclusively used or necessary for the purposes for which they have been reserved, as determined by the Department of Agrarian Reform in coordination with the government agency or instrumentality concerned in whose favor the reservation was established, shall be segregated from the reservation and transferred to the Department of Agrarian Reform for distribution to qualified beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.”

 

The 517-hectare is part of the 3,401-hectare CMU lands proclaimed by former President Carlos Garcia. In the 1970s, the farmers organized themselves, formed BUFFALO and collectively petitioned the lands for distribution. In 1989, the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) approved the distribution of 400-hectares of land to 252 beneficiaries. Encouraged by this decision, other farmers had then formed TAMARAW and LIMUS to claim more of the land that they are already tilling.

 

The CMU administration contested the DARAB decision, leading to a Supreme Court ruling in 1992 that cancelled the Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) of farmers pursuant to a provision in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program exempting lands targeted for school sites and experimental farms for educational purposes.

 

However, instead of using the lands for its actual intent, the CMU harassed and displaced the farmers tilling the lands and leased more than 1,200-hectares of land to for agri-business venture use to private companies.

 

In 2011, the CMU administration under its then new President Maria Luisa Soliven banned the farmers from the land. CMU only allowed the farmers to stay and continue tilling the land if they would pay the rent of P1.00 per hectare. In the same year, the BTL farmers launched Operation Tikad (cultivation) to assert their right to land despite threats and continued harassment from the CMU administration.

 

Now, BTL farmers are demanding the government for their installation to the land. “The absence of genuine land reform led to this predicament. This is just the start of many protest camp-out at DAR,” said Antonio Flores of KMP. ###