Farmers of third largest landholding ‘distributed’ by DAR assert right to land
Farmers of Hacienda Roxas in Nasugbu, Batangas will continue their land occupation and collective cultivation today in portions of the 2,600-hectare sugar estate that was already distributed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) but still contested by landlord Roxas Co. Inc. (RCI) and pseudo-peasant leader Roy Mahinay. DAR has yet to complete the redistribution and actual installation of beneficiaries.
“We are occupying the lands as way of our assertion of our claim as legitimate tillers and owners of the land,” said peasant leader Sonny Roxas of Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Tubuhan (PAMATU) and National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).
Starting February this year, the farmers have put up a camp-out and started collective cultivation in the sugar estate. The collective cultivation of some 17 hectares in Hacienda Palico will start today.
Hacienda Roxas is the third largest landholding distributed by DAR next to Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna and Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. Hacienda Roxas is divided into Hacienda Palico with 1,024 hectares, Hacienda Banilad with 1,050 hectares and Hacienda Caylaway with 867 hectares. It was formerly owned by the late sugar tycoon Don Pedro Roxas.
“The collective cultivation campaign ongoing nationwide shows our strong conviction to break-up big landholdings and assert free land distribution to farmers,” said Eddie Billiones, leader of Katipunan ng Magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan.
Local organizations Damayan ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Roxas (DAMBA-NFSW) and PAMATU together with supporters from Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Gabriela, National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates and Sinagbayan will start the cultivation in parts of Hacienda Palico today.
The Roxas landholding was covered by the government’s land reform in 1988. The following year, DAR issued notices of coverage and subjected to compulsory acquisition the two other Haciendas of the Roxas family – Hacienda Palico and Hacienda Banilad.
The sugar-based conglomerate RCI contested the distribution based on a 1975 proclamation declaring specific portions of Nasugbu, Batangas as having potential tourism value. In 1999, the Supreme Court decided with finality that the lands are covered by CARP and certificates of land ownership issued to farmer-beneficiaries of Haciendas Banilad, Caylaway and portions of Palico must be respected.
RCI wants the awarded government agricultural lands converted into other use.
After the successful October 1993 protest camp-out of Hacienda Roxas farmers at DAR, the beneficiaries were granted their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) through a collective CLOA covering 513 hectares. The farmers opted to plant palay in the former sugar plantation but RCI land grabbed 100 hectares.
In 2016, the DAR has started the revalidation process of qualified beneficiaries for the redistribution of the said landholding. Beneficiaries include farmers and workers of Hacienda Roxas.
When majority of the leaders and farm workers under DAMBA-NFSW decided to boot Mahinay due to his corrupt and anti-farmer practices, Mahinay filed grave threat, coercion, robbery and trespassing charges against leaders of DAMBA-NFSW.
The three haciendas of Hacienda Roxas are in nine barangays in Nasugbu—Reparo, Blaran, Lumbangan, Cogonan, Catandaan, Banilad, Tumalim, Aga and Caylaway. ###