“We should all unite, because without the land, we will have no food to eat.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
SAN JOSE DEL MONTE CITY, Bulacan – Since the 1980s, Roseli De Lima, 49, and her husband have been living in Purok 2-Bricks, San Isidro village, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. Tilling the land is their primary source of livelihood.
“My husband plant the crops, and I sell it in the city,” said De Lima. They sell their vegetables and rice produce, and keep some for their daily consumption.
But their source of livelihood might soon be gone, since the Araneta Properties Inc. have claimed ownership of the land and aggressively threatened to evict the farmers for the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) project.
An international fact-finding mission led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reported that the Araneta Properties Inc. also have other planned joint-venture projects with some of the biggest real estate companies in the Philippines.
The KMP and the Asian Peasant Coalition conducted the mission in San Jose del Monte City on April 14 to 15 in the villages of Tungkong Mangga, San Roque and San Isidro. The groups presented the mission report on April 16 in UP Balay International.
The KMP said that the Aranetas are claiming a total of 3,500 hectares of land in San Jose Del Monte City. This includes the said three villages and some portion of the nearby Pangarap village in Caloocan City where the 22.8 kilometer MRT-7 project will be constructed.
Aside from the MRT-7 project, the area will be the site for the Colinas Verdes Residential Estates and Country Club, and the Altaraza Town Center.
The Colinas Verdes Residential Estates and Country Club is a joint-venture partnership with Sta. Lucia Real Estate and Development signed in 2003, and will cover 261 hectares of land in Tungkong Mangga. This planned community and enclave will include high-end residential lots and townhouses, a leisure center, a commercial center, a university center and sports and recreational facilities.
Other features of the plan include “a nature park, corporate business center and mass housing.” Phase 2 of the joint venture is underway and Phase 3 is already being planned.
The IFFM report said the Colinas Verdes project will affect the farmers in the subvillage of San Isidro in Tungkong Mangga. “There are instances wherein the crops planted by farmers are being bulldozed by the employees of the Colinas Verdes. The security personnel also prohibit farmers from planting and harvesting their crops,” the report read.
Altaraza Town Center is a P7 billion ($158 million) partnership project between Ayala Land Inc. and Araza Resources Corp., another company owned by Gregoria “Greggy” Araneta III. The Altaraza Town Center is the first township development project of Ayala Land in Bulacan.
The first phase of the project will include a mixed-use development for business and housing projects. Economy housing and mid-rise residential condominium units under residential brands Amaia and Avida will be constructed in the area. A 100-bed capacity hospital is also planned in the project.
Based on the farmers’ testimonies, the Altaraza project bulldozed and converted more than 100 hectares of productive agricultural lands in Tungkong Mangga.
“All these so-called development projects would benefit from infrastructure projects like MRT-7, the expansion of North Luzon Expressway-Circumferential road 6 and the inter-modal transport system,” said the report.
The largest real estate companies and businesses in the Philippines are also setting up investments in San Jose Del Monte City.
Other projects in the area include: the 15-hectare Soundstage Studio of the media network ABS-CBN of the Lopez Group of companies http://www.sjdmcity.com/index.php/2-uncategorised which is projected to be similar to the Universal Studios in the US; the 19-hectare Camella Homes, and the 30-hectare NuVista San Jose residential.
Also under construction is the expansive SM City San Jose Del Monte owned by SM Prime Holdings that is part of the 194-hectare mixed-use development project of tycoon and Filipino billionaire Henry Sy.
Tata Candelario, a longtime resident of Tungkong Mangga village said this “development” actually means “destruction,” as it takes over lands on which grows food that feeds the nation.
He said the affected area is where they grow various kinds of vegetables which supply the markets in Novaliches, Manggahan, and Litex in Quezon City, where people get their food every day.
“That is why we should all unite, because without the land, we will have no food to eat,” he said during the presentation of the report.
The MRT-7 project is under President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Public-Private Partnership program. It has 14 stations stretching from Quezon City, Caloocan City and San Jose Del Monte City. This $1.44 billion PPP project was awarded to Universal LRT Corp. (ULC) which will secure an Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the Japanese government to finance 80 percent of the project.