Thursday, April 1, 2010 [ sunstar.com.ph ]
TWO years after San Miguel Corporation (SMC) awarded 50 out of the 144 hectares to the Sumilao farmers, land titles are yet to be received by the farmers.
Peter Tuminhay, spokesperson of the Sumilao farmers, said representatives of SMC and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) just kept on promising to give the land titles to them.
“We have met with the representatives of SMC and DAR and they have promised the land titles every time we met. Deadline after deadline came and went but the promised land titles failed to materialize. Even the title of the 50 hectares we are now tilling remains an unfulfilled promise,” Tuminhay said.
He added that the lands offered to them by SMC have various problems since some of the lands are still leased to Del Monte while some had titles that were not surrendered by the landowners.
On March 29, 2007, the Sumilao farmers signed an agreement with SMC represented by its president Ramon Ang in the presence of Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales.
In the agreement, SMC ceded 50 of the 144 hectares being claimed by the Sumilao farmers and committed to acquire 94 hectares of land outside the disputed property for distribution to the farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
The agreement marked the end of the farmers’ campaign which started with their historic 1,700-kilometer march from Sumilao in Bukidnon to Malacañang in Manila.
The march prompted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to revoke the conversion order covering the contested property in December 2007 and ordered the distribution of the property under Carp forcing SMC to the negotiating table with the farmers.
After the signing of the agreement, the Sumilao farmers returned home, occupied and began to cultivate the 50 hectares covered by the agreement.
However, after two years, the Sumilao farmers are yet to receive the land titles of the 50 hectares within the contested property and the 94 hectares outside the 144-hectare disputed land.
Tuminhay said last February, SMC legal counsel lawyer Fred Peñaflor committed to distribute the titles for the 50 hectares they are now tilling and the 94 hectares outside the 144-hectare property on the second anniversary of the agreement’s signing.
“After waiting for two years and listening to promises several times, this will be the last deadline. Should they fail to distribute the titles today, as they have promised, we take it that SMC is not serious about fulfilling its commitments to us. It is almost a year since our leader, Rene Peñas, was gunned down here in this land. We can no longer wait for more promises. We will to return to our original claim. Should they again break their promise today, we shall begin to occupy and cultivate portions of the original 144 hectare land,” said Yoyong Merida, another spokesperson of the Sumilao farmers.
With this, Merida called on those who have supported their struggle to once again join them in their cause.
“We will not stop until we cultivate the land that belongs to us,” Merida added.
During Monday’s second anniversary of the signing of the agreement, Malaybalay Archbishop Honesto Pacana celebrated a Mass with the farmers at their camp outside the gates of SMC in San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon.
Pacana has joined the farmers in demanding the distribution of the Sumilao property. (PR)