‘PNoy more interested in war preparedness’

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/26 July) — President Benigno S. Aquino III has given more importance to the country’s war preparedness than giving assistance to farmers, Napoleon Merida Jr., chair of the Panaw Sumilao Multipurpose Cooperative, said.

Merida lamented Aquino’s silence on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program-Extension with Reforms and his unclear plans on support services for the farmers.

Merida, who was in the Batasang Pambansa to listen to Aquino’s second State of the Nation Address Monday, said he was “disappointed” that the president should prioritize buying a battleship.

The Sumilao farmers hogged the headlines in 2007 when they marched from Sumilao town in Bukidno to Manila to press their claim on a 144-hectare estate in their place under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

They walked 1,700 kilometers for 69 days to the national capital.

In a subsequent memorandum of agreement brokered by Church officials the farmers eventually got 50 hectares of the property and promised to be given an additional 94 hectares “preferably within Barangay San Vicente” in Sumilao.

The MOA was signed between the farmers, San Miguel Corporation, Office of the President, Department of Agrarian Reform and the Church.

San Miguel Corporation had bought the disputed land where they built structures for a piggery.

Meanwhile, provincial board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. said Aquino’s Sona did not address issues on environment protection and conservation. He noted that the President did not order the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to stop processing applications for mining and exploration permits.

“It would have also been welcome news had the President committed to fund roads in the provinces especially the secondary national arterial roads,” Beltran added. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)