“This is a big victory for us because we were able to defend our rights to the land that our families have owned for generations.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Farmers and residents of Lupang Ramos in barangay Langkaan 1, Dasmariñas, Cavite can celebrate their Christmas in relative peace after successfully preventing the local government from proceeding with its planned forced eviction, December 22.
A December 21 dialogue between the farmers, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) resulted in the farmers compelling NGCP and DAR to rescind the notice to vacate, after it was revealed that NGCP did not go through the proper process.
“This is a big victory for us,” said Miriam Villanueva, spokesperson for Katipunan ng mga Lehitimong Magsasaka at Mamamayan sa Lupang Ramos (KASAMA-LR), “because we were able to defend our rights to the land that our families have owned for generations.”
Villanueva also thanked the supporters who expressed solidarity with the farmers in Lupang Ramos. “We wrote history today,” she said to the organizations and delegations from different regions and sectors.
NGCP’s compliance certificate ‘fraudulent’
The tactical victory came from the results of the December 21 dialogue called by DAR. NGCP was slated to proceed with its Tuy-Dasmariñas 500kV Transmission Line project, which threatened to displace almost 400 families in the 372-hectare farmland. According to Villanueva, NGCP agents have been trying to enter Lupang Ramos without permission as early as 2014.
In 2018, NGCP broke ground with the transmission line project in Tuy, Batangas with the construction of a substation. It has since continued with the project, awarding it to Maxipro Development Corporation (MDC).
NGCP today is a private corporation, created by virtue of Republic Act 9136 which dissolved and privatized the National Power Corporation. One of its directors is Zhu Guangchao, director-general of the State Grid Corporation of China, the world’s largest utility company. MDC, meanwhile, is a local partner of the Shanghai Power Transmission and Transformation Engineering Company.
It was only recently that KASAMA-LR found out that there was a go-ahead for the NGCP project; a fact they found odd since Lupang Ramos was still disputed by no less than five entities. Further investigation revealed that there had been several dialogues between NGCP and the other five claimants – but never with KASAMA-LR, which represents the farmers and residents of Lupang Ramos.
During the dialogue, it was found out that although NGCP had already secured an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the transmission line project, it did not go through a phase of public consultation, rendering it invalid.
According to Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA), which represented the farmers of Lupang Ramos, what took place was a “project presentation” attended by barangay officials from Dasmariñas, and not a formal public consultation.
“Because of the pressure from the supporters and the dialogue, NGCP was forced to step back,” Villanueva said. “NGCP and DAR said they will talk to the [Regional Trial Court] to have the notice of eviction delayed.”
Development for whom?
Lupang Ramos stands at an intersection between a decades-long struggle for land and a persistent push for so-called economic development.
Most of its residents’ families have lived in the land for generations and have seen it change hands. During Spanish colonization, Lupang Ramos was part of the large swathes of friar land in Cavite. The Revolution of 1896 and subsequent American occupation led to the land titles being sold off to the Manila Golf and Country Club.
In 1965, Emerito M. Ramos, Sr., a businessman and official during the Second World War, acquired no less than 16 land titles for Lupang Ramos. Over the years, Ramos and his sons have skirted around land reform policies through land-use conversion and other tactics. At various points, Ramos and his sons sold parts of the land to Ayala Land, Luke Roxas, GSIS, and the Central Bank of the Philippines – embroiling the land in years of legal dispute.
Despite challenges, the residents of Lupang Ramos have put up a decades-long fight for their land. In 2011, KASAMA-LR was established as a way to assert their rights to the land. In 2017, residents of Lupang Ramos successfully held their first communal bungkalan activity – a historic moment for the Philippine peasant movement.
According to Manuel Asuncion, spokesperson for Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Cavite, the NGCP project is only “part of a province-wide network of development and infrastructure projects that benefit a small class of businessmen and foreign multinationals.”
“Meanwhile, thousands of farmers and fisherfolk are forced to evacuate and lose their livelihoods in the name of development,” he added.
He noted that there is no power shortage in Dasmariñas. Instead, the power that will be generated by the project will go to “development projects in Naic and Bacoor.”
In Bacoor, the “Green and Blue Network” initiative is a series of projects meant to “spur economic growth” in the city. These include the 320-hectare Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project along Bacoor’s coastline, a planned LRT-1 extension to barangay Niog, and expansions to the Manila-Cavite Expressway.
The Bacoor reclamation projects have drawn flak for its attempts to displace thousands of families alongside the city’s coast, particularly in the suspicious series of fires in areas affected by the project.
Residents displaced by these development projects are slated to be relocated to Naic, where First RGP Land Development Corp. has secured contracts for low-cost housing. At the same time, Ayala Land, Inc. has recently established a special economic zone through the Cavite Technopark.
Asuncion stressed that Cavite residents are not opposed to development projects, “but we have to ask ourselves who benefits from these projects.”
The residents of Lupang Ramos share the same sentiments. “Subdivisions will not be able to feed you,” is a quote farmers would often say.
They also hold no illusions that this will be the last episode in their struggle. “They’ll try to come back,” said Asuncion. “But we won’t get tired of standing with our farmers.”