Farmers oppose land use conversion for subdivision project in CDO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/08 November) — A group of agrarian reform beneficiaries and farmers engaged in organic farmers is opposing land use conversion which would pave the way for multi-million housing projects in Barangay Lumbia, a suburban district of this city.

Just a few meters from a newly bulldozed road leading to a subdivision project, members of the Palalan CARP Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative (PCFMPC) hanged streamers saying “no to land use conversion.”

To prove their point that the 111.141 hectares awarded to the farmers on Sept. 8, 1992 is still “very much agricultural,” the PCFMPC invited reporters to visit their organic farm named “Uma sa Kalinaw” (Farm for Peace) Monday.

Fernando Bermoy, one of the PCFMPC members and an expert in sustainable agriculture said  their land is very productive as a mere 2,500 square meters can generate an income of P15,000 a month.

Bermoy said they named their farm Uma sa Kalinaw as they wanted to prove that even small farms can be very productive.

“Kung dunay abot ug makaon ang mag-uuma, dunay kalinaw” (If farmers are productive and have something to eat, there will be peace), he said.

Their organic farm has high crop diversity and they produce their own fertilizer.

“Bahay Kubo has only 14 vegetables, we have in our farm 36 kinds of vegetables and 50 herbs for gourmet and medicinal purposes,” Bermoy said comparing their farm to the enumeration of vegetables in the folk song.

He said the lowly upland kangkong planted in a 2,500-sq. m. organic farm can earn as much as P2,000 and tanglad (lemon grass) another P500 per week.

They have a coffee (Robusta variety) nursery that caters to the planting material needs of Nestle coffee farms that can earn as much P8,000 a month.

They also have 40 hectares planted to organic mango whose potential can be very huge as “class A market has the demand for the naturally produced mangoes” as well as high value cashew trees.

“What we have is a very financially viable farm,” Bermoy said.

But some so-called unscrupulous members of the cooperative have reportedly connived with land prospectors and subdivision developers.

This has pitted them in a bitter legal battle against their former co-beneficiaries, who have sold their priced agricultural land won through the government’s agrarian reform program twice already.

“As of now, from the original 67 agrarian reform beneficiaries of PCFMPC, 37 have remained with their lands,” Bermoy said.

Andy Donggay who now chairs the PCFMPC said that they have questioned in court the legality of the sale of the agrarian reform lands.

In August 2009, a group of farmer beneficiaries claiming to represent the PCFMPC sold the lands to a certain Diana Biron of Pasig City.

But the Cooperative Development Authority did not recognize the group that transacted the sale.

In March this year, another group again “sold” the land for P250 million to the Mt. Carmel Engineering Services.

The PCFMPC is now working for the annulment of these transactions and for the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators.

Donggay, a yuppie turned organic farmer said that they wanted to protect the land from opportunists and that they would not hesitate to pursue them in the courts. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)