Farmers given until May to farm CMU lands

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/10 April) – The state-owned Central Mindanao University in Musuan, Maramg, Bukidnon has given members of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) Association until next month to cultivate their 400-hectare area for another cropping season.

But BTL spokesperson Jose Benemerito Jr. said that in a letter dated January 1, 2012, CMU president
Dr. Maria Luisa R. Soliven informed them that the CMU board of was yet to form a “high-level task force” that would attend to the land conflict between the farmers and the school.

“We hope that once it is formed, the task force will not be biased,” he added.

Benemerito was here on Monday to attend a meeting on the plight of evacuees from Barangay Dao in San Fernando, Bukidnon who were allegedly harassed by a paramilitary group.

About 800 families belonging to the BTL are living off the roughly 400 hectares of land they leased from 2002 to 2007.

CMU had agreed to a status quo in June last year while the board would continue looking for a  peaceful solution to the land conflict through the task force.

Soliven said Patricia Licuanan, concurrent chair of the CMU board and Commission on Higher Education, will choose the members of the task force.

She did not respond to the query why it is called a “high-level” body, but said it will probably be composed of “national personalities.”

CMU had formed a task force in April 2011 which included a representative from the BTL, but it failed to come up with any agreement.

In 1991, The Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board awarded some 400 hectares of CMU lands to BTL farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

After a few years however the Supreme Court overturned the DARAB’s decision. Despite the SC decision the farmers continued tilling the land amid efforts by CMU to eject them, at times allegedly through harassment.

Successive school presidents starting from Dr. Leonardo Chua during the Cory Aquino administration have had failed to resolve the land conflict between CMU and the farmers. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)