Lumads call on DENR to fast-track distribution of land tenure instruments

QUEZON CITY (Task Force Mapalad/August 10) — Some 30 lumads or indigenous people from Mindanao gathered Tuesday in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City to call for quick processing, approval, and distribution of land tenure instruments that would allow them access to vast tracts of open public lands.

Among these land tenure instruments are community-based forest management (CBFM), certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT), free patents, and certificate of landownership award (CLOA).

Oca Samaniego, chair of Danggawan-Landless Farmers Association (DLFA) in Ocaya Ranch in Maramag, Bukidnon, said the processing and approval of their applications for CBFM have been grindingly slow largely because of the government’s lack of budget to conduct surveys and the continuing resistance of big ranchers.

“Many ranchers have lost their right to the public lands because their pasture lease agreements had either lapsed or been cancelled due to violations. Many of these public lands are within the ancestral domain of the lumads. The government should hasten the distribution of land instruments to allow the lumads and poor farmers to have access to these lands,” said Samaniego.

He said one major cause of poverty and unrest in Mindanao is the poor man’s lack of access to land.

Samaniego also called on the government to give them protection against harassments and killings by armed goons employed by big ranchers.

He said that in Ocaya Ranch, armed men continue to harass farmers occupying a portion of the land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Last week, at least 10 masked men armed with heavy rifles fired at farmers occupying a portion of Montalvan Ranch, also in Maramag, wounding two and hurting 30 others.

Members of the Nakaw-Dologon Farmers Association (NDFA) have called on the DENR to deny the application for renewal of Montalvan Ranch and instead approve their application for CBFM covering 200 hectares of the ranch.

“The lease agreement of Montalavan Ranch had expired, but why do they still occupy the land? Give the land to farmers, not to cows,” said Erlinda C. Bacadon, chairperson of NDFA.

Members of Panalsalan-Dagumbaan Tribal Association (PADATA) also asked the DENR to cancel the Forest Lease Grazing Management Agreement (FLGMA) of Villalon Ranch, also in Maramag, saying that its Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) was fake because it was obtained from another lumad group in a different area.

Samaniego said most ranchers violate their contracts by planting commercial crops in the land granted to them by the DENR instead of sticking to raising cows as contained in the lease agreement. (Task Force Mapalad)