Sumillao farmers to march around Palace

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

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

During the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos, the Department of Agrarian Reform had awarded the land to the farmers. But his executive secretary Ruben Torres reversed the DAR’s ruling, a decision which the Supreme Court upheld.

SMFI subsequently bought the land from its previous owner, Norberto Quisumbing Sr., and began developing it into a hog farm.

“The Arroyo administration declared that the revocation of the Conversion Order issued last December 18, 2008, was only the first step that it will undertake to return the land to its rightful owners – the Sumilao farmers. The victory prompted the Sumilao farmers to return home to Sumilao in order to give the government space to implement the order,” the farmers said in a statement.

Napoleon Merida Jr., president of San Miguel Landless Farmers Association (SALFA) said that delays in the action of the government have resulted in the loss of land for the Sumilao farmers.

“SMFI never ceased building their hog farm while the government made no moves to distribute the land to us,” Merida said.

He noted that SMFI has continued building more structures on the land despite Arroyo’s order and has delivered hogs and started farm operations.

Lawyer Kaka Bag-ao, legal counsel of the Sumilao farmers predicted a long legal battle against SMFI.

“San Miguel Corporation has filed its appeal on the revocation order. We have filed our own motion and answer to the SMC appeal. Moreover, Norberto Quisumbing Sr., the former owner of the land (who sold it to San Miguel) questioned the legality of the order in the Supreme Court,” she said.

The farmers’ march will begin Monday with a press conference at 9am at the Caritas Manila. (MindaNews)