Luzon Farmers March to DAR, Blast Ayala Land-grabbing and Gov't Inaction

Quezon City, Philippines, 5 June 2014 -- “Stop Ayala Land-grabbing! Implement CARPER!” This was the message today of 200 farmers from Porac and Floridablanca in Pampanga, and from Canlubang in Laguna, who are now in the process of being uprooted from the lands that they have been rightly entitled to by the CARPER Act (R.A. 9700) and the 1987 Constitution.

On their way from Monumento in Caloocan City to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) along elliptical road in Quezon city, the farmers stopped at Trinoma Mall on North Avenue to protest Ayala Land’s alleged involvement in numerous land-grabbing cases across Central Luzon. They were joined in their march by farmers from Mabalacat who have also occupied lands not yet covered by CARPER that they have made productive.

Farmers from Hacienda Luisita who also participated in the march called for suppport services delivery, a component of CARPER long ignored by government.

Also in the protest action to express support were: workers from SENTRO, members of the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, student leaders from the UP Diliman University Student Council, and members of the World March of Women who wore shirts stating “Stop Corporate Land-Grabbing!”

Cornelio Pineda, a leader of the Aniban ng Nakakaisang Mamamayan ng Hacienda Dolores (Aniban) from Porac, Pampanga, said: “Thousands of farmers across from in Central Luzon are now in danger of losing their lands because of corporate land-developers, most especially Ayala Land. In municipalities such as Porac in Pampanga, and Canlubang in Laguna, where Ayala’s projects are ongoing, gross violations of farmers’ rights have long been reported, yet DAR has still done nothing to end these worsening violations.”

In Pineda’s town of Porac in Pampanga, where Ayala Land, in tandem with local developer LLL Holdings Inc. (Leonio Land), have embarked on the conversion of 1,125-hectares of Hacienda Dolores into “Alvierra: The Next Nuvali,” farmer-leaders have been victims of extra-judicial killings, the most recent being the assassination of Menelao Barcia last May 2; Barcia was a local councilor of Brgy. Hacienda Dolores and an officer of Aniban.

Another case was the killing of Pablito Egildo in April 2013, in his home in Brgy. Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna. The killing is allegedly linked to his involvement in the land dispute of the 7,000-hectare Hacienda Yulo, which has been sold to Ayala Land. Egildo was the leader of the Kaisahan at Samahan ng mga Mamamayan sa Canlubang (Kasamaka), which had been opposing the plans of the land developer to convert the former sugar estate into a shopping mall, which would result in the displacement of 600 families of Brgy. Canlubang in the process.

“For years now, we have been petitioning DAR to swiftly resolve our land disputes so that these killings that are being linked to land being developed by Ayala, as well as the demolitions and other human rights violations can be immediately stopped,” said Pineda. “Instead it seems that DAR has chosen to sleep on our cases, even while our leaders are being murdered, and our communities, torn away from their land.”

But even more troubling, said Pineda, are indications that DAR officials could be actively colluding with land developers in illegal land conversions.

According to a series of national consultations conducted by Katarungan and the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance, at least 28,841.84 hectares of lands throughout Luzon have been affected by land use conversions and exemptions, negatively affecting 2,984 potential agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Among the most common complaints of these farmer-beneficiaries is what they believe has been the systematic corruption of local DAR officials, from the MARO (Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer) level to the provincial, and even regional directors’ offices of DAR.

What is alarming to the farmers too, said Pineda, is the fact that those tasked to implement CARPER could be the ones helping landowners to evade agrarian reform coverage, and thus are committing gross negligence of their duties.

“DAR has no excuse whatsoever for failing to protect the rights of farmers from Ayala land-grabbing, and for failing to quickly and effectively implement CARPER. We will launch a nationwide campaign against corporate greed to protest against these land development ventures at the expense of the blood and tears of farmers and their families. We will continue to picket their malls and expose their human rights abuses. We also demand that the Aquino government be true to its matuwid na daan pronouncement. Growth is without equity because the poor, especially the farmers, are excluded from development due to the failure of the government to properly and effectively implement the CARPER,” Pineda said.

The farmers who marched will also be joining the multisectoral People’s Agrarian Reform Congress: Renewed Unities for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development at the Auditorium of UP Asian Center on Friday, June 6, at 9:00 AM.

Contact: Mary Ann Manahan, +639063983206, (+63.2)355.2758, [email protected] 

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