GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 June) – South Cotabato officials will seek a dialog with the local governments of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat in a bid to resolve a long-drawn boundary dispute in the area.
South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said Thursday the proposed dialogue will mainly focus on the setting of possible joint interventions to help finally settle the boundary conflict involving Tantangan town in South Cotabato, Lutayan in Sultan Kudarat and Buluan in Maguindanao.
He said the initiative was agreed by members and officials of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) in a recent meeting in Koronadal City.
Tension has escalated in the last several months in communities located adjacent to the boundaries of the three municipalities reportedly due to the rising land grabbing cases in the area.
Tantangan Mayor Arnold Garingo, who elevated the matter to the PPOC, said his town already lost some 143 hectares of titled private lands due to alleged illegal occupation by claimants from the neighboring Lutayan and Buluan towns.
He said most of the lands that were annexed by the claimants were located in the lower portion of Barangay Poblacion and Barangay Cuyapo in Tantangan.
The disputed area is covered largely by irrigated rice lands that stretch to the banks of Lake Buluan, he said.
“These are all titled lands that were owned and tilled for many years by the residents there,” Garingo said.
The mayor said the alleged “land grabbing” activities started in 1994 and have worsened during the last several years.
He said some farmers in the area were forced to leave their lands supposedly due to threats of violence from the claimants.
Based on their investigation, Garingo said most of the claimants were residents of Lutayan and Buluan while a number of them were based in General Santos City.
“The illegally occupied area has continued to expand these past years. We so far validated at least 143 hectares but it appears that it’s more than that number,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)