Malacanang restores Sumilao land for agri use but farmers not celebrating

In a statement, they said they “remain disturbed” because it is still a long way before they will actually get the land, especially with Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, whom they said has shown bias against the farmers.

The controversial piece of land has exemplified the sad state of the government’s CARP program as the Sumilao farmer beneficiaries staged a hunger strike a decade ago to dramatize their demand, then walked 1,700 kilometers from their hometown all the way to Manila 10 years later in a bid to reclaim the land once issued them under CARP.

The Malacañang order was handed by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye to the farmers at the College of the Holy Spirit in Mendiola. The protesting farmers have camped out at the school since Monday when representatives of their group met President Arroyo.

The farmers were first granted the 144-hectare property in San Vicente, Sumilao, way back in 1996 as part of the government’s CARP program. But the government later approved a request for conversion of the land for agro-industrial use by the Norberto Quisumbing Sr. Resource Management and Development Center (NQSRMDC) because of a the latter’s promise to establish a development academy, a cultural center, an institute for livelihood science, a museum, library, golf course, a sports development complex, an agro-industrial park, forest development and support facilities, and construction of a 360-room hotel, restaurant, housing projects, and others.

Since not one of those were established years later, the Sumilao farmers filed a petition to cancel the conversion order and convert back the land for agricultural use, not knowing that NQSRMDC already sold the land to San Miguel Foods, Inc., who started developing of a hog farm.

The farmers argued that SMFI’s hog farm was not in the plan when it was converted to agro-industrial use.

When the farmers started their long trek to Manila in October, Malacañang dismissed their petition, saying the farmers lacked the legal standing to intervene in the case. But the farmers filed a motion for reconsideration.

Malacañang then ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform to further study the case, then issued the revocation order today as recommended by DAR.

“For us … the revocation is a big milestone in our quest to reclaim our land,” said the Sumilao farmers.

But they were quick to add that “we remain disturbed because the long process of getting back our lands lie in the hands of a DAR Secretary who has shown serious bias against us in several occasions in the past.”

“We are disturbed because we have been down this road several times before; when our CLOA was voided because of the land conversion; when the Ramos ‘win-win’ resolution was voided by the Supreme Court merely because of a technicality,” they stressed.

The farmers vowed not to return yet to Bukidnon despite Malacañang’s order. “We will make our presence felt at the Department of Agrarian Reform and we will not leave until we are finally installed in our land,” they said. (MindaNews)