Tug of War in Hacienda Luisita

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has set June 10 as the date for initial land distribution in Hacienda Luisita but the parties to the dispute, including DAR, appear to be getting deeply embroiled in a tug-of-war.



The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has set June 10 as the date for initial land distribution in Hacienda Luisita but the parties to the dispute, including DAR, appear to be getting deeply embroiled in a tug-of-war.

Last Thursday, June 2, Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) vice president Ernesto Teopaco called a meeting with Luisita village officials and union officers known to be loyal to management and announced that the Cojuangco family will now move to restore the stock distribution plan (SDP) through a signature campaign among farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs).

Romeo Ramos, brother of slain Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) president Ricardo Ramos said that in the meeting Teopaco reiterated management’s claim that land distribution will not work for the farm workers and that the SDP is a better scheme and should be restored.

“This is double talk. The company has said that that they will abide by the court’s decision but they are now saying something else,” Ramos told GLNS.

Ramos attended the meeting in his capacity as a barangay (village) council member of Mapalacsiao. He replaced his slain brother in the village council.

TADECO is the parent company of Hacienda Luisita Inc., the registered owner of the 6,000-ha. sugar plantation that covers 10 villages in the towns of La Paz and Concepcion and Tarlac City. Both corporations are owned by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.


The SDP is the scheme under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government implemented in Hacienda Luisita in 1989 wherein stock shares were distributed to the farm workers instead of land.

It was revoked by the government in December last year after the 5,000-strong farm workers union and the sugar mill workers’ union struck over demands for better wages and benefits in November 2004.

After the SDP revocation, DAR has started the process of land distribution but the management, in two petitions, asked the Supreme Court to stop land distribution by issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO). The high court has yet to decide on the case.
This coming June 10 is the 18th anniversary of CARP.

At least 14 workers and their supporters have been killed in connection with the labor and land dispute and the killing are being blamed by the workers on management, the military and the police.

The workers’ demand for land distribution has been known as an overriding issue in the hacienda and is the root cause of the strike.

Work fast

Also last Thursday, DAR provincial officer for operations Nicolas Salvador told United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) officers in a dialogue that only the list of names of potential FWBs from La Paz town has been submitted to his office. Barangay Motrico, in La Paz town, is only one of the ten barangays comprising the hacienda.

“We had to work fast. We knew that that the landowners would ask for a TRO. We immediately submitted to the Land Bank copies of the titles and the claim folders for (CARP) coverage. But we were met with delays in the validation of potential beneficiaries.” Salvador told ULWU officers.
Salvador said the 1,700 hectares targeted for distribution to some 5,077 FWBs through a collective certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) is only a “partial” distribution.

ULWU president Rene Galang and Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) chairperson Joseph Canlas sought a dialogue with local DAR official to ask for copies of the titles of lands subject for land distribution, the list of qualified beneficiaries and to seek clarification on the issuance of the collective CLOA.

ULWU has asked DAR that it should be consulted in the identification of beneficiaries.

DAR officials earlier announced that of the original land comprising the hacienda, at least 4,873 ha. are eligible for CARP coverage, 1,023 ha. were cancelled and 38.5 ha. are classified as roads and canals.

The following lots are included in the initial distribution: Lot 18 (556 ha.) in Barangay Motrico, La Paz, Lot 30 (210 ha.) in Tarlac City and Lot 25 (1,015) in Barangays Pasajes, Pando and Parang in Concepcion town, according to DAR records.


Salvador said his office encountered difficulties in pinpointing which of the lots in the titles are agricultural, and therefore subject to CARP coverage, because they have been “consolidated, parceled and reclassified” a number of times over the years.

He told the group to study three titles, all classified as agricultural, that cover more than 5,000 ha.: TCT No. 236741 in Tarlac City covering some 2,000 ha., TCT No. 236742 in Concepcion covering some 1,800 ha., and TCT No. 236740 in La Paz covering some 1,800 ha, as well as 10 more titles of land in Tarlac City.

ULWU has demanded that land distribution should cover the land as it existed before SDP was implemented and that the Cojuangco family should be held accountable and give back to the farm workers the proceeds from all illegal transactions done while the SDP was in effect.

ULWU has recommended that the “mother titles” of the hacienda land should be the starting point of land distribution namely: TCT. No. 4173, TCT. No. 4174, TCT. No. 4175 and TCT No. 30418.

Among the parcels sold by HLI are the 500 ha. converted to non-agricultural use and sold in 1996, the 77 ha. sold to the Base Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project SCTEP), and at least P550 million from the mortgage of an undetermined number of hectares.

Asked on the implication of the mortgage of the lands subject to land distribution Salvador said: “It’s normal. Landowners mortgage their properties and once covered (by CARP) the Land Bank will redeem it.”

Stop quarrying

Another point of contention is the illegal quarrying inside the hacienda by contractors of the SCTEP.

Last May 31, in a conference at the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) office in San Fernando, Pampanga, operators of illegal quarry in the hacienda were told to once and for all stop their activities and rehabilitate land they already damaged.

In the conference, Rolando Domingo, assistant manager of Hazama-Taisei-Nippon Steel Joint Venture (HTN-JV), the main contractor of the Clark-Tarlac section of the SCTEP and Rolando Tongco, a Hazama sub-contractor and holder of a special quarry permit agreed to stop quarry operations and to submit an abandonment and rehabilitation report to the EMB 15 days after the meeting.

Rex Domingo, BCDA vice president for operations also agreed to inform all their contractors to stop quarrying within Hacienda Luisita and remove all equipment used for quarrying.

The meeting was attended by ULWU and AMGL officers and representatives from the BCDA and the EMB, as well the SCTEP contractors.


The agreement was reached as a result of complaints raised by ULWU and AMGL.

“If we did not protest against the illegal quarry, productive land which are supposed to be distributed will continue be ruined. The farm workers already lost more than a million pesos in potential cane harvest which were destroyed (by the illegal quarry operations),” AMGL chairperson Joseph Canlas said.

On May 3, the EMB issued a notice of violation to Hazama on the grounds that quarry operations were being done without an environmental clearance certificate, but it was largely ignored.

Illegal quarry operations in the hacienda have been going on since last year covering four barangays and more than 40 ha. of land. On November 17, 2005 HLI signed an agreement with Hazama wherein HLI allows Hazama to quarry anywhere in the hacienda for five years.

ULWU has strongly denounced the agreement and the quarry operations saying HLI has no more right to enter an agreement regarding the land after the SDP has been revoked and has been covered by CARP.

The murders of Luisita union officers Ricardo Ramos and Tirso Cruz have been linked to their opposition to the construction of the SCTEP and the quarry operations.

For every square inch of land

But even with the CARP coverage, it seems the farm workers will have to fight for every square inch of land.

ULWU president Rene Galang said that pro-management village officials and scabs have illegally occupied and used vast tracks of land.

As of February, almost half of the 992 ha. already under cultivation by the farm workers in the hacienda is occupied by management loyalists who have no right to the land, Galang told GLNS.

Last year, without the knowledge of the union, HLI signed an agreement with the Tarlac City government wherein HLI allows the use of 10 ha. in each of the seven barangays in the hacienda which are part of Tarlac city for livelihood projects.

Union officers said the lands were used to build fishponds and plant export crops such as okra (gumbo) as well as for raising livestock.

“What we need in the hacienda are crops for consumption and not for export. We feel that union members who have sacrificed are being robbed of their just share. Only those close to the management benefit from the projects,” Galang said.

“Management continues to use the land and deprive the workers. We have no choice but to fight for every square inch,” he said. Gitnang Luson News Service / (Bulatlat.com)

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