Malaybalay bishop to lead thanksgiving mass for Sumilao farmers

A staffmember at the Bishop's house confirmed to MindaNews that Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of the Archdiocese of Manila, who was instrumental to the agreement sealing the fate of  the farmers, could not make it here as earlier announced.

Pacana will celebrate the 11 a.m. mass with other priests at the multipurpose hall in the community of the farmers.

One of the farmers in Sumilao said their colleagues who went to Manila for a pre-signing march earlier this month might arrive Sunday morning as Malacañang has offered the use of Air Force C-130 planes to transport the farmers back home.

Lawyer Arlene Bag-ao, counsel to the farmers, announced the signing Saturday noon at the San Carlos Seminary Complex in Makati City with Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales as witness.

The government announced the Sumilao land case is finally "resolved" in an announcement Saturday afternoon at website.

The MOA signed by representatives from both parties, including agrarian reform officials and Bishops Broderick Pabillo and Cardinal Rosales, provided a transfer of 50 hectares within the 144-hectare land wholly claimed by the farmers via a deed of donation.

The MOA details the so-called "implementing guidelines" for the basic agreement entered into by all parties on March 3, 2008, which reportedly defined the parameters of today's settlement.

The report said SMC will acquire 94 additional hectares outside of the original 144-hectare property for the farmers, to complete the 144 hectares claimed.

The farmers are to identify their choice of land parcels outside the property from a list provided by SMC.

Cardinal Rosales, a former bishop of Malaybalay who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest, reportedly initiated and backed the three-month negotiations with SMC since January.

The Catholic Church, led by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, formed the multi-sectoral Task Force Sumilao to talk with SMC.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) announced that the deed of donation giving the 50 hectares to the farmers was also signed by SMFI Saturday noon.

Earlier reports cited the formation of a new cooperative made up of initial qualified beneficiaries who will own the lands. Reportedly, other qualified beneficiaries from MAPALAD and San Vicente Landless Farmers Association (SALFA) will be included in the succeeding processes.

But there is still no word on who exactly among the farmers get the land.

The report said President Arroyo has ordered the DAR to expedite the process of determining qualified farmer beneficiaries and pledged the support of all other agencies of government.

DAR has conducted the technical survey delineating the 50 hectares to be given the farmers and is also determining which parcels of land within the vicinity of the original property can be acquired by SMC for distribution to the farmers, according to the report.

As part of the MOA, all pending cases by all parties would also be dropped.

The parties reportedly paid a courtesy call on President Arroyo in Malacañang.

The farmers staged a two-month march last year from Sumilao to Manila to dramatize their demand. Their action led to the revocation of the conversion order declaring the contested land as an agro-industrial site.

The farmers lamented, however, that the revocation order has not been implemented.

They then staged another march in Manila starting March 3, around Malacañang, in a bid to force President Arroyo to finally grant their demand for the distribution of a 144-hectare land now being developed by San Miguel Foods, Inc. into an agro-industrial estate. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)