Local News: Negros Farmers Air Demands Anew
Negros farmers mounted another protest yesterday in Bacolod City to press the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to break up sugar estates and distribute the land to the tillers.
FARMERS PROTEST. Members of Task Force Mapalad (TFM) trooped to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Bacolod yesterday morning to call on DAR Sec. Virgilio de los Reyes to speed up land distribution to farmers.*(Owen S. Bayog/NDB photo)
These farmers belong to the same group of protesters that breached Malacañang security on Valentine’s Day to demand that President Aquino compel DAR to move speedily in distributing land in estates that are at least 50 hectares.
Spearheading the mobili-zation for the island-wide march and caravan was Task Force Mapalad (TFM), which continues to criticize Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes for the slow pace of land acquisition and distribution (LAD) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) Law.
TFM Negros president Alberto Jayme said 1,000 farmers marched in Bacolod yesterday to show that government has not proceeded to redeem its promise to distribute land to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) quickly.
Jayme argued that the violent dispersal of protesters in Malacañang on February 14 should have shown government that farmers are serious in their quest to own the land that they till.
The farmer-leader said the protest action in Bacolod was expected to ignite marches and farmer caravans in many regions to demand the speedy distribution of land under CARPER.
He also debunked the claim by Palace officials that DAR will be working to distribute land quickly since three months have passed and the department has not made any headway on LAD.
Since July 2011, TFM claimed that DAR has not made a dent on its commitment to distribute 1.093 million hectares of agricultural land.
Ninety-four percent of these lands are privately owned. More than 33 percent of these are large landholdings, or properties 24 hectares and bigger.
Jayme stressed that in Negros Occidental alone, 135,199 hectares have not been distributed, and no notices of coverage (NOCs) had been issued on these estates.
A total of 39,604 hectares of estates 50 hectares and bigger are yet to be distributed under Phases 1 and 2A of the LAD, he noted.
For Phases 2B and 3A covering estates 25 hectares up to 49.9 hectares, Negros Occidental tops the list with 81,182 hectares still to be acquired and distributed, Jayme revealed. Phase 3B, the last component of LAD, covers properties that are 5 hectares to 24.9 hectares. Exactly 14,413 hectares still have to be distributed among agrarian reform beneficiaries.
All told, Negros Occidental accounts for more than 10 percent of the total area under LAD, Jayme stressed.*