Hacienda Yulo Farmers Warn of Hunger Strike if Aquino Fails to Stop Conversion of Canlubang Estate

Hacienda Yulo farmers in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna today warned President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III of a brewing indefinite hunger strike if Malacanang fails to act on their three demands submitted barely a week after Aquino assumed the presidency.

The three demands submitted to Malacañang by Hacienda Yulo farmers identified with the Kalipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) asked President Aquino to stop the land-use conversion of 7,100-hectare former sugar estate owned by the Yulo family; immediately and unconditionally distribute prime agricultural lands to farmer-beneficiaries; and pullout the platoon-sized Army troop detailed at the Canlubang estate.

For starters, about five Hacienda Yulo farmers led a sympathy fast today in preparation for a hunger strike which would take effect anytime between the weeks to come. The fast and soon-to-be staged hunger strike for land and justice are part of the 100-day peasant camp-out in the National Capital Region, which is now on its 21st day since Aquino’s inauguration on June 30.

The protesting farmers were joined by peasant activists from Laguna, Rizal and Cavite and leaders of KMP (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and supporters from other cause-oriented groups and agrarian reform advocacy groups at the gates of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon City.

“President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Yulo farmers and this is the real score at the moment. Until now, there is no presidential instruction from the Office of the President for DAR to act swiftly on the demands submitted to Aquino’s office early this month. How long would it take before Aquino makes a decisive move in favor the Yulo farmers? One year? 50 years?” asked Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin.

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Pinpin said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of a peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 41 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“So far that is the concrete step taken by Aquino with regard to the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Yulo. To farmers, that demolition is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” the Kasama-TK official said.

At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented on July 16 to newly installed Agrarian reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

Among the land dispute cases involving land-use conversions, cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and eviction of farmer beneficiaries are the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, which has been primed for eco-tourism projects, and the 7,100-hectare prime agricultural land in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna province.

The other cases of agrarian disputes presented during the dialogue with DAR secretary include land reform reversals and land use conversions in Dasmariñas and Silang in Cavite province, the seedling projects in Montalban, Rizal and the conversion of Araneta owned lands in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

In that dialogue peasant leaders of Kasama-TK and KMP asked the new agrarian reform secretary to immediately issue cease and desist orders to big landlords and real estate developers to effectively halt all land-use conversions and indefinitely suspend all these activities to prepare the stage for a comprehensive review of lands currently embroiled in legal, political and moral disputes between farmers and big landlords in Southern Tagalog region.

“The Southern Tagalog region has become the laboratory for land reform reversals, land reform denials and land use conversions since the Calabarzon days of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Hundreds of thousands of prime agricultural lands have been subjected to automatic control of big landlords and were primed for land use conversions at the expense of land reform beneficiaries and other tillers across the region,” the peasant group noted.

Citing a report of Ibon Foundation, KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said that as of December 2006, DAR has cancelled at least 108,141 CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EPs) involving 204,579 hectares. CLOA and EP cancellations increased by 3,790 percent from 1995 data of 2,780, while land area increased by 1,162 percent from 16,213 hectares. Of the cancellations, majority or 87 percent were due to subdivision of mother-CLOAs into individual CLOAs. It covered about 82 percent of the lands to 167,486 hectares.

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