“Staging a demolition exactly on the day we remember the peasant struggle is the highest form of disrespect.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – While farmers trooped to Mendiola to press for their urgent demands, guards from the Metropolitan Water Sewerage System (MWSS) forcibly evicted 11 families in Sitio Seedling, barangay Macabud, Rodriguez, Rizal province, October 21.
According to reports gathered by the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), the demolition was the first of two series in an effort to drive out the peasants from the area. A second wave is scheduled to happen on October 25, targeting 25 more houses, the group said.
Jerry Luna, KASAMA-TK chairperson, stated that no documents were presented and no consultation was made between the residents of Sitio Seedling and MWSS officials. “Staging a demolition exactly on the day we remember the peasant struggle is the highest form of disrespect,” he said.
Before a demolition could proceed, a court must issue an order and a notice to vacate must be given to affected residents.
This is despite an ongoing series of dialogues between the farmers of Sitio Seedling, MWSS, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources requesting the government agencies to inspect and classify the land around Sitio Seedling as agricultural, as per President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 75.
The group is also concerned that guards from Star-E Security Agency and Catalina Security Agency might be employed as demolition teams. The two agencies, according to KASAMA-TK, have a history of harassing the residents of Sitio Seedling.
Sitio Seedling is part of the La Mesa watershed reservation, a 2,659 hectare protected area and is considered the last remaining rainforest near Metro Manila. The reservation was established in 2007 under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration and spans parcels of land in Quezon City, Caloocan City, and the municipality of Rodriguez, Rizal.
According to Tanggol Magsasaka Timog Katagalugan, approximately 2,270 hectares of the watershed are should be considered agricultural lands. The group states that farmers in Sitio Seedling have been planting vegetables and bananas the area for agricultural use since the 1990’s, “long before MWSS became interested in the area.”
KASAMA-TK is calling on Rodriguez Mayor Dennis Hernandez and Rizal Governor Rebecca Ynarez to “give urgent notice and take urgent action” by stopping the demolition and “support the farmers’ struggle in both words and actions.” (RVO)