Farmers to get titles on land reclaimed from Lapanday in Tagum

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Jan) – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) 11 plans to distribute individual land titles to members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI), who reclaimed the 145-hectare disputed land in Barangay Madaum in Tagum City from the management of the Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) on May 17, 2017.

MARBAI farmers gather after they were installed at the plantation in Madaum, Tagum City managed by Lapanday Foods Corporation in May 2017. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

DAR 11 Director Joseph Orilla said in an interview on Monday that they surveyed the disputed land area last year and are now in the process of working on the individual land titles to MARBAI consisting of 157 members within the year.

He said the DAR 11 has been ordered by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to stop the issuance of collective land titles to cooperatives but individual land titles to farmers that are eligible beneficiaries of Republic Act 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program of 1988, to prevent issues on land ownership.

Orilla said another problem stemming from collective land ownership is that board members of the cooperatives are the ones making decision over management of their properties and sometimes without the consultation of their members that would result in land disputes between and among themselves.

On May 18, 2017, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano served the writ of installation to MARBAI farmers, recognizing them as owners of the contested property.

Long battle

In 2010, some banana farmers were removed as members of Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (HEARBCO-1), which owns 1,323 hectares of land awarded to them as agrarian reform beneficiaries by Hijo Plantation Inc. in 1996.

The 157 removed members formed MARBAI in January 2011 and filed a petition for reinstatement and accounting of harvest against HEARBCO 1.

In a case brief released by DAR 11, HEARBCO 1 entered into a 10-year Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement (BSMA) with Hijo Plantation at a price of $2.10 per box at 13 kilograms per box on October 18, 1999.

Thereafter, a Deed of Assignment of Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement was executed by and between Hijo Plantation, Inc. and Global Fruits Corporation.

But the following day, October 19, LFC and HEARBCO 1 entered into a supplemental agreement that amended the BSMA executed between the cooperative, Hijo Plantation and Global Fruits Corp.

In a decision on December 15, 2015, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator of Davao Del Norte (PARAD) ordered the reinstatement of ousted HEARBCO 1 officials, and on March 17, 2016, issued a writ of execution.

But on April 12, 2016, the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board informed the PARAD that the bigger portion of the area where the petitioners have to be reinstated were already under the occupation and management of LFC “by virtue of the existing compromise agreement dated April 9, 2011 between LFC and HEARBCO 1 entered into before RTC of Davao City Branch 14 as a result of the case filed by LFC against HEARBCO 1.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)