Posted by: Jae | April 20, 2008

Lupang Sakahan, Hindi Minahan!*

BAHA-TALIBAYOG: Tales of Injustices, Food Insecurity and Environmental Danger

Silvino Cudiamat, a 67 year old farmer from Baha in Calatagan, Batangas thought that he had already achieved his lifelong dream of owning the piece of land that he had worked for since he was 16 years old. Tatay Ben was a tenant for 11 years before he became a beneficiary of the land reform program. He became one of the 323 beneficiaries of the land reform program under PD 27.

Today, Tatay Ben’s lifelong dream is about to be shattered into pieces. He and his fellow agrarian reform beneficiaries of the land formerly owned by Ceferino Ascue have been involved in a land controversy since 1995. Biased government agencies and a legal system that favors the rich have bended the law to favor the interests of the rich, leaving the likes of Tatay Ben in danger of losing the land that they depend on so much to live decent lives.

Social Justice

The land in this controversy was formerly owned by Ceferino Ascue. The 507.87 hectare property was planted to rice and corn. The residents of barangays Baha and Talibayog were tenants to the land.

In 1990, two years after the enactment of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the property was distributed to the tenants. Being a tenanted rice and corn land, the 507-hectare Ascue property was distributed to 318 tenant farmers under the Operation Land Transfer of the Marcos land reform law – Presidential Decree No. 27. A total of 818 Emancipation Patents were distributed to the agrarian reform beneficiaries.

For the next 10 years, the agrarian reform beneficiaries peacefully tilled the land and, given a new lease to improve their lives, cultivated the land according to their own plans and dreams. Some remained rice and corn farmers, others preferred to grow vegetables and a variety of other crops. Within those years they were able to fully pay the land amortizations to the government.

Neither the ten long years of peaceful possession nor the fact that they have fully paid the land amortizations kept the farmers safe from the threat of losing what has become justly and rightfully theirs.

Seeds of Injustice

In 1995, the heirs of Ceferino Ascue sold the property to Asturias Industries. They conveniently ignored the fact that the land was no longer theirs and were aided by the fact that the Register of Deeds of Batangas mysteriously failed to annotate the distribution of that the land in the land title. The attack on the gains of social justice began as soon as the questionable sale was consummated.

In July 1997, Asturias Industries was able to obtain from the DENR a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) and an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) covering 2,336.8 hectare including the land in question. This became their basis to claim that the land was already classified as mineral land.

Asturias Industries began the intensification of legal maneuvers to jeopardize the ownership of the farmers of the land by questioning the distribution of the land under PD27. They claimed that it was erroneously distributed since the land was never planted to rice and corn and the former land owner did not recognize any tenancy arrangements.


Bending the facts and the law against the farmers

In response to the protest of Asturias Industries, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) created Task Force Baha to verify the claims of mining company. An ocular inspection was conducted and TF Baha reported that “(1) procedural lapses attended the OLT coverage; (2)significant portions of the OLT-covered area were planted to sugar cane; and (3) the landowner did not recognize tenancy relations with the ARBs.”

A validating team was deployed by the DAR Region IV Office and they reported that “it cannot be established beyond reasonable doubt that the property is planted to palay or corn and tenanted.” The team went on to recommend based on their findings the nullification of the coverage of the land under OLT and 818 emancipation Patents the DAR issued to the agrarian reform beneficiaries.

In August 4, 2000, the DAR through USEC for Operations Conrado S. Navarro sustained the protest of ASTURIAS INDUSTRIES and nullified the coverage of the land under OLT. Navarro cited that his judgment was based on the premises that

(1) the landholding was not primarily devoted to the production of rice or corn;
(2) the tenancy relations was not clearly established and
(3) the land long ceased to be agricultural as it is “mineralized.”

Just mere 10 years after the DAR distributed the land to the farmers, it already danced to a different song – the one that Asturias Industries is playing. They did not even consider that their ocular inspection was 10 years too late and there have been changes in crops within the 10 year period. They did not even consider that landowners when faced with agrarian reform always deny having tenants. They even dug up a 1965 Bureau of Mines study to justify their claim that the land was “mineralized” and therefore ceased to be agricultural a long time ago.

The Department of Agrarian Reform became instrumental in twisting the facts and the law in laying the legal groundwork for undoing agrarian reform that it is mandated to implement, promote and defend. DAR’s arguments became the strongest legal arguments for ASTURIAS INDUSTRIES when the case was brought to the Office of the President, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court on appeal.

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled against Tatay Ben and his fellow Calatagan farmer beneficiaries and upheld the decision of the DAR stating that: (1) the disputed land was erroneously covered by PD 27; (2) the land was “mineralized” based on the DAR decision, the 1965 Bureau of Mines study and DENR’s issuance of an MPSA and ECC to Asturias Industries; and (the cancellation of the Emancipation Patents issued to the farmers shall be a separate proceeding under the authority of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB).

DANGEROUS IMPLICATIONS

The decisions of the different government institutions in the Baha-Talibayog case have serious implications to agrarian reform. These decisions have far-reaching implications.

Based on then case, the development and promotion of the mining industry has greater priority over social justice, agrarian reform and agricultural development;

n Lands can be classified as mineral by a mere study by the Bureau of Mines previous to P.D. 27 and R.A. 6657, it is found that “ample” reserves of mineral resources are found in the area even if there is no positive act from the executive or the legislature;

Agricultural lands can now becomen mineral lands not by executive act but through any mining agreement executed by the DENR and a private person covering such agricultural land under the mining act;

Local government units within their territorial jurisdictionn can change the classification of an agricultural land to other uses by a mere passage of a Zoning ordinance;

From Beneficiaries of Social Justice to Victims of Injustice

As agrarian reform beneficiaries, the Calatagan farmers were given new hope to improve their lives and become productive members of their community. They have developed the land that was distributed to them and made them productive. They have faithfully paid their land amortizations until it was fully paid. They are even faithful taxpayers to their local government.

With the exception of the actual cancellation of the Emancipation Patents issued to the Calatagan farmers in Baha and Talibayog, the reversal of agrarian reform and the turnaround in social justice has reached the highest level of our government system. All these favored the rich despite the strength of the claim and ownership of the Calatagan farmers of the land.

Where will the farmers turn when:

  • the Department of Agrarian Reform who is tasked to enforce the implementation of agrarian reform, on the basis of a mere study of the Bureau of Mines and an ocular inspection that is 10 years too late has decided to nullify the coverage of the land that awarded them the lands they now own?
  • the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) who is tasked to protect the environment has prioritized mining over food production and has given more weight to the claims of ASTURIAS INDUSTRIES rather than the rights of agrarian reform beneficiaries?
  • the Office of the President who holds the highest executive power of the country has chosen to side uphold the convoluted and distorted decision of the DAR?
  • the Supreme Court, the highest interpreter of laws of the land, has chosen to interpret the laws according to the myopic, distorted and biased view of the Department of Agrarian Reform?


Protest Walk: Lakbay-Kalampag para sa Lupang Sakahan, Hindi Minahan

Last December 2007, the farmers of Calatagan walked in solidarity with the Sumilao Farmers. From San Pedro in Laguna to the gates of Malacañang, 36 Calatagan farmers walked side by side with the Sumilao farmers.

On April 21, 2008, the agrarian reform beneficiaries from the communities of Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, will embark on a journey on foot from their homes to the seat of power in Metro Manila to make their voices heard. The government that gave them hope through agrarian reform has betrayed them and they are making this sacrifice to magnify the injustices committed against them.

Their 300-kilometer walk which will begin in the town Calatagan is dedicated bare the injustices being committed against the farmers of Calatagan in favor of the mining interests of Asturias Industries. Through this walk, the farmers of Calatagan are calling for the revocation of the Mineral Production Share Agreement (MPSA) issued by the DENR to Asturias Industries. Their walk is their assertion of their rights as owner-cultivators of the land.

* from http://www.calataganmarch.wordpress.com

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Responses

  1. The following are extracts from a speech by Silverio J. Berenguer at the Landowners’ Conference on 29 March 2008 at Dumaguete City.

    1. “Farmlands that used to be devoted to rice production are contributing less and less to our national food basket: our rice yield today of 2.5 tons per hectare is the lowest in Asia. The main reason can be traced to an Agrarian Reform Program that was started 36 years ago – well-intended but poorly executed, and riddled with inefficiencies that remain un-addressed to this day.”

    2. “The result is thousands of hectares of farmlands chopped up into parcels too small to deliver economies of scale for anyone with the means or the intention to invest. After all, you must invest in your land if you wish it to produce anything.”

    3. “While farmers in the rest of Asia are modernizing their methods and improving their yields, our Filipino farmers have gone back to using carabaos and wooden plows to till the soil. They can’t even afford the cost of steel plows. Gone are the days of tractor farming (and gone too are the tractor companies). Imagine, we are back to where we were 200 years ago!”

    4. “In the Philippines, we have a total of 8.5 million hectares of arable land. To date, DAR and DENR have already distributed 6.5 million hectares to 4 million farmer beneficiaries.

    5. “Productivity took a dive as irrigation systems were abandoned by many farmer-beneficiaries, and the land was left lying fallow.”

    6. “The report says that 26 percent of the farmer-beneficiaries sold their lands! In Nueva Ecija, the figure was 41 percent. In Laguna, selling and mortgaging was as high as 53 percent. In Quezon, it was 28 percent, and in Iloilo 35 percent!”

    7. “So where are we, after 36 years and at least 142 billion pesos of government budget spent since 1987 on the CARP program? Mind you, that’s a modest estimate, because in 1995, Ernesto Garilao, seeking support from the World Bank, said that the total cost of implementing CARP had ballooned to 250 billion!”

  2. yun nga ang typical na madidinig mo sa landowner.

    totoo naman na riddled with inefficiencies ung carp, pero sino ba ang nakinabang sa mga inefficiencies na yun? e di landowners. pinayagan ng carp ang stock distribution option. to whose benefit? ang may-ari ng hacienda luisita. bakit nga ba nawawalan ng food supply? dahil ang agricultural land, via conversion, ginagawang industrial o commercial. nung nagsimula ang tide of industrialization, sabi nila sa magsasaka, wag kayo “romantic”, kailangan natin ng pabrika, magiging manggagawa naman kayo dun. pero ano long-term cost?? food security.

    small farms? three hectares? napatanunayan na na viable sya as a household farm. kailangan lang ng support services, na pinangako ng batas, pero di binigay ng batas.

    selling and mortgaging of lands? kasi nga malimit, wala o kulang ang support services na binibigay ng pamahalaan. second generation problems have therefore emerged. ang “leaseback system” umusbong dahil sa ganyang problema, kawalan ng resources. at dahil hindi equal ang power relations, tilted against the farmers ang leaseback deal. aba, sa isang kaso namin sa agusan, P600, per hectare, per year ang naging deal. at tali ang magsasaka dun for 25 years!! san ka ba nakakita ng ganun kagarapal na setup?

  3. more excerpts…

    8. “The truth is, the Philippines now has the distinction of being No. 31 in the list of failed agrarian reform programs in the world. The only three countries where such programs have succeeded are Taiwan, Japan and Korea.”

    (yung mga recipients ng land reform sa japan, korea at taiwan ay nag kaisa at isinama-sama nila uli ang mga lupa na kanilang natanggap. kasi alam nila na ito lang ang tanging paraan upang maging effectivo ang land reform. “in union there is strength” wika nga. but this expression does not work among Filipinos who unfortunately has a different psyche. inggitan ang namamagitan sa atin kaya kanya-kanya ang lakad o dating natin. ang dami pang mga anak ang mga magsasaka natin. kaya papano magiging viable ang 3 hectares ha? magiging viable lang ang 3 hectares kung pag sama-samahin uli ang mga ito, the end result of which is actually a reverse engineering of land reform!)

    9. “As far back as 1988, China was already facing food shortages, rationing and record grain imports.
    That’s when they decided to return to private land ownership.”

    10. “Vietnam never embarked on any agrarian reform program despite its communist orientation, and yet it has managed to become not only self-sufficient in rice; it is the 2nd largest rice-exporting country after Thailand.”

    (hindi naman lahat ng mga land owners ay mga walang hiya. hindi land reform ang kailangan ng mga magsasaka natin kundi mga butihing land owners. kailangan lang ang matatag na batas na tinataguyud ang kapakanan ng mga magsasaka laban sa mga walang hiyang land owners.)

  4. sanay na naman kami sa ganyang mga linya, and variations thereof. di rin naman bago.

  5. come on ‘day, what kind of rebuttal is that? daw sa perdi ka na oy (hehe). what about this new variation; kung walang land reform, wala sanang problema sa minahan ang kalatagan. aber. ;p

  6. ‘day, nga-a may editing na karon. abi ko wa-ay ka naga edit diri. akig ka na ka nakon? you are such a sore…(hehe)paghidaet!

  7. what did i edit?

    busy lang today, kaya di ako nakaapprove ng comments. tinatamad lang ako magrebut, kasi wala naman new and thought provoking arguments. at madami akong trabaho ngayong mga panahong ito. madami na papers na ginawa dyan addressing those points :)

  8. Is it okay to use this for my project about “agrikultura”? It would be very helpful for me… Thanks…


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