No land reform in Nueva Ecija

“We all know that Nueva Ecija is the country’s rice granary but farmers still do not own the lands they till and worse, they are being displaced because farm lands are being converted.” – Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairman.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – With thousands of farmers facing displacement, peasant groups branded Nueva Ecija province as “a classic model of the bankruptcy of the government’s agrarian reform program.”

According to data gathered by the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon), farmers in various parts of the province are facing cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) and Emancipation Patents (EP) and foreclosure.

The group recently held a Caravan against Land grabbing and Displacement and visited Guimba, Muñoz, Cuyapo, Quezon, Licab, Aliaga, Jaen and Sta. Rosa towns.

“We all know that Nueva Ecija is the country’s rice granary but farmers still do not own the lands they till and worse, they are being displaced because farm lands are being converted,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairman.

Cases

The AMGL cited the case of farmers from villages Manggang Marikit, Bagong Barrio and Yuson (Mambayu) in Guimba town.

More than a hundred hectares that used to be part of Hacienda Davis have been covered by Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) during the 1990s. The land was leased by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Land Bank of the Philippines to the Philippine Cotton and a Taiwanese agro-corporation.

The Mambayu farmers cultivated the land from 1992 until the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) came up with a list of farmer-beneficiaries called ListaSaka in 2007. Members of ListaSaka who were able to position themselves in some parts of the land sold parcels of land to a religious sect.

The PARO filed ejectment cases against the Mambayu farmers that reached the Court of Appeals in 2010. The court decision in some of the cases were favorable to ListaSaka while some are pending. Since last year, the PARO, Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO), Philippine National Police (PNP) in Guimba and the provincial police and the 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have been forcing the Mambayu farmers to vacate the land, AMGL said.

From May up to the present, the ListaSaka members have attempted numerous times to occupy the land, backed up by police and military but Mambayu farmers, AMGL said, are able to defend their rights as they are the ones who developed the land.

The dispute was raised before the DAR -Region 3 office (DAR 3) and DAR Central office. The regional and central office affirmed that it is an agrarian case and it has jurisdiction over it. DAR 3 issued a memorandum to review the list of farmer-beneficiaries, essentially junking the PARO’s ListaSaka.

“The Mambayu case is one of the worst implementation of CARP. DAR officials who are supposed to push for land reform are the ones very eager to displace them. Their intention is to sell the lands to interested buyers and subject it to land use conversion,” Canlas said.

CARP claims that 36 percent of the total number of farmer-beneficiaries (FBs) in Central Luzon or about 95,855 farmers are in Nueva Ecija. DAR records show that 169,375-hectares have been placed under CARP.

However, AMGL said, many farmers from Quezon-Licab-Sto. Domingo-Aliaga (QLSDA), south Nueva Ecija and other towns are now facing cases of cancellation of CLOA, CLT and EP, foreclosure by Land Bank and direct ejectment by landowners.

AMGL said that even as 238.34-hectares of land in Hacienda Rueda in San Andres I village, Quezon town, have been covered by CARP, farmers received notices of foreclosure from the Land Bank. In Pulang Bahay village, Quezon, CARP covered 455.33-hectares but farmers are facing problems caused by inaccuracies caused by the Land Bank, AMGL said.

In Bicos village, Rizal, Presidential Decree 27 covered 412-hectares of land but farmers are now facing cancellation cases of CLT. Some farmers said the Land Bank committed errors in calculation, thus, increasing the amortization.

AMGL also cited the 822-hectares covered by CARP-PD 27 in Pacac village, Guimba, Hacienda Gabaldon, Hacienda Kilantang and Hacienda Anggara where farmers are also facing cases of cancellation of CLT and EP. In Sta. Rosa, Jaen, Cabanatuan City, San lsidro and other southern Nueva Ecija towns, farmers are facing land cases, usually ejectment cases filed by landowners, the group said. Some already have their EPs but landowners would petition for their retention.

“CARP and CARPer is not a program of land reform as it has not implemented any ‘reform,’ it is plainly a land transaction where DAR serves as the broker, the landlord as the seller and ‘farmer-beneficiary’ as the buyer. It is even worse than any ordinary business transaction as CLOAs, CLTs and EPs could be cancelled anytime by the landlord and DAR,” Canlas said.

Other government projects

AMGL said Nueva Ecija farmers would also be affected by the Aquino government’s promotion of the Central Luzon Development Plan (CLDP), particularly the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB) that includes the Central Luzon Expressway 1 and 2 (CLEx 1 and 2) and North Luzon East Expressway (NLEx East). CLEx 1 would pierce from Tarlac City to Cabanatuan City, then CLEx 2 from Cabanatuan City to San Jose City.

AMGL said CLEx 1 and 2 are estimated to convert about 319.5-hectares of prime agricultural lands and home lots of Nueva Ecija farmers and residents. While NLEx East would traverse Cabanatuan City, through Sta. Rosa, San Leonardo, Gapan then toward Bulacan province. It would lead to the La Mesa Parkway in San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan where MRT 7 inter-modal station is also planned to be constructed.

“This absence of land reform in the province is the very cause of farmers’ unrest. The Nueva Ecija people are historically revolutionary since the colonial times; they are also the usual victims of the state’s fascist attacks but farmers are determined to fight for their rights to land and livelihood. The present Aquino government has not promised nor implemented any reform for poor farmers, thus, Nueva Ecija farmers know that he is the same as the past anti-farmer and anti-people presidents,” Canlas said. ()

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