Farmers urge DENR to cancel lease agreements with big landed families in Bukidnon

Oscar Maniego, provincial chair of ALYANSA Bukidnon (Alliance of Landless Farmers and Rural Poor in Bukidnon), a group backed by Task Force Mapalad, said Thursday that cancellation is the call of the day for at least 2,500 hectares of forest land used for pasture.
He said the national government has to reinvestigate the alleged violations by the Fortich and Ocaya families in their Forest Land Grazing Lease Agreements (FLGLA) with DENR.
The farmers picketed in front DENR's Cagayan de Oro regional office on May 14 to voice out their stand by holding a die-in picket and a noise barrage, Maniego said.
Maniego said Corazon Galinato, DENR regional technical director for forestry, engaged in a dialogue with the farmers. But he said Galinato only promised to file a report of their complaints to the DENR central office.
The farmers demanded the cancellation so that they could apply for a Community-based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) or agrarian reform coverage over the appropriate areas.
"Bukidnon is a province which has thousands of hectares of agricultural lands suitable for rice, corn and other staple food but still under the jurisdiction of the DENR and awaiting distribution to farmers," the group said in a statement.
ALYANSA Bukidnon said the DENR should cancel the FLGLAs entered into by Cesar and Michael Fortich, and the Circle T Development Corporation (CITADECO), which is managing the ranch of the late Gov. Timoteo Ocaya, for gross violations of the contract.
They cited that the DENR is allegedly tolerant of a scheme that circumvents the agreement by allowing the conversion of the FLGLA to FLGMA (or FLG management agreement) through a compulsory bio-physical assessment.
The group said they doubt, for example, if the 958-hectare ranch in Sitio Kiantig, Quezon owned by Cesar Fortich, has actually been devoted to sugarcane plantation than to livestock raising, which has violated FLGLA No. 122.

The group cited that the DENR Region X, in a January 9, 2008 memorandum to the undersecretary for field operations, said they have inventoried a total of 194 animal heads, which is way below the agreed cattle population based on the contract where a ranch existing for 10 years now should have a ratio of one cattle per two hectares.
They said the ranch should have 479 animals by now.
The DENR also admitted that Fortich has developed 137.17 hectares of sugarcane plantation inside the ranch, which far exceeded the 20-hectare ceiling stated in the contract, the group said in a press release.
The group also called agrarian reform coverage of the 65-hectare land within the 820-hectare Ocaya ranch. However, DENR has yet to turn over the land to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office.
The group wants DENR to enact its recommendation to cancel the FLGLA No. 333 of CITADECO for failing to pay its loan obligations based on the contract.
The group has also called for the cancellation of the FLGLA of Baclig Ranch and the granting of a Community-based Forest Management application of farmers in Villalon ranch, all located in Barangay Panalsalan, Maramag.
As of presstime, representatives of the leaseholders could not be reached for comment.

The Cesar Fortich FLGLA will expire in 2018, another Fortich holding in 2019, with the Ocaya's and the Bacligs' in 2011. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)