Almost two-decade struggle for land of Hacienda Looc farmers gains support

The luxurious resort Pico de Loro was built on land taken away from the farmers. The land was supposedly awarded to the farmers by virtue of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program but it also sold the same to a real estate developer owned by the richest man in the country.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

NASUGBU, Batangas – Supporters from as far as Manila travelled all the way to Hacienda Looc here to join the farmers in their continuing fight for land, June 4.

Farmers residing in the 8,650-hectare hacienda gathered by the seaside in Calayo village. There were representatives from other villages such as Papaya, Bulihan and Looc and from Patungan village, Marogondon, Cavite.

Church people, students and peasant advocates, some of whom have supported them since the start of their struggle for land in 1996, joined them in forming the Defend Hacienda Looc Alliance.

Among them was Benedictine sister Miriam Noemi Francisco, who came with her were students from St. Scholastica’s College.

Francisco, a long-time supporter of Hacienda Looc farmers, recalled, “The path used to be muddy; now there’s road [built] not for you but for Pico de Loro [clients]. We used to go anywhere here but now we could not set foot on Pico de Loro.” Pico de Loro is one of the beach resorts established by Henry Sy’s company Manila South Coast Development Corporation (MSDC).

Benedictine nun Sister Miriam Noemi Francisco vows to continue supporting Hacienda Looc farmers during the launch of the Defend Hacienda Looc Alliance, June 4 in Calayo village, Nasugbu, Batangas. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea)
Benedictine nun Sister Miriam Noemi Francisco vows to continue supporting Hacienda Looc farmers during the launch of the Defend Hacienda Looc Alliance, June 4 in Calayo village, Nasugbu, Batangas. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea)

“Who developed this place? You and yet now you are being ignored. We would not allow that to happen.” Francisco told the farmers who applauded her.

At least 10,000 farmers and fisherfolk depend on the hacienda’s rich natural resources for livelihood. Thousands of them were beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform programs.

“It’s the government who sold the whole Hacienda Dolores to Henry Sy,” Armando Lemita, spokesman of the Ugnayan ng mga Mamamayan Laban sa Pangwawasak ng Kalupaan ng Hacienda Looc (Umalpas-Ka) lamented.

In 1990, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) granted a collective Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) to farmers in Hacienda Looc under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), covering 3,981 hectares. After several years, DAR cancelled the CLOAs after the government’s Assets Privatization Trust (APT) sold the entire Hacienda for P215 million to MSDC.

Since 2004, Sy has been converting farmlands and displacing farmers and fishermen of Hacienda Looc to give way to condominiums, a golf course, beach resorts and other eco-tourism projects.

Hacienda Looc farmers, through their lawyers, filed a case of illegal conversion before DAR against Sy. The DAR has not issued any decision yet but Sy continues to build structures within the disputed land.

Glorious history

Rhoda Gueta of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) hailed the 18 years of struggle of Hacienda Looc farmers.

“I remember vividly the 1996 caravan from Manila up to here,” Gueta said.

Gueta and Dr. Norma Bautista of Nasugbu Alliance both recalled how the campaign in 1996 compelled the investors of Fil-Estate Properties Inc. to pull out from the projects.

Farmer Armanda Lemita calls on colleagues to remain steadfast in their struggle for land during the launch of the Defend Hacienda Looc Alliance, June 4 in Calayo village, Nasugbu, Batangas. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat.com)
Farmer Armanda Lemita calls on colleagues to remain steadfast in their struggle for land during the launch of the Defend Hacienda Looc Alliance, June 4 in Calayo village, Nasugbu, Batangas. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat.com)

Lemita paid tribute to five of their colleagues who were killed in the course of almost two decades of struggle.

“Despite all the harassment, we continue to maintain our ground,” Lemita said.

The peasant leader, his wife, his daughter and his brother were arrested by some 100 combined elements of security guards, police and military on April 15. They were charged with direct assault, illegal possession of firearms, among others. They were released May 19 after a local court dismissed all the charges for lack of evidence.

Seven farmers of Patungan village in Maragondon, Cavite and one of their supporters were charged with illegal trespassing and malicious mischief in November last year. The case has not been resolved.

Just fight

Francisco said the entire congregation of the Order of St. Benedict is behind the farmers. “Your struggle is just,” she said. The nun vowed to get the support of other groups and individuals for Hacienda Looc farmers.

“We will frustrate Henry Sy, even if he is the wealthiest man in the country,” Lemita said.

Nestor Villanueva, spokesman of Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), said the plight of Hacienda Looc farmers is the same as that of other farmers in the region and in the country.

“The government itself grabs the land from the farmers. The land reform is bogus. We can never rely on anyone but ourselves,” Villanueva said.()

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