After decades of struggle, farmers inside USM reservation area to get CLOAs

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 24 August) – After almost 60 years of struggle to own the farms they plow, farmers in hinterland Arakan town in North Cotabato will finally receive tomorrow, August 25, their land titles as proof of ownership, an official said.

Rey Anfone, Cotabato provincial agrarian reform officer (PARO), said in an interview they will hand in the Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to 3,036 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) who, since the 1950s, had been tilling the lands inside the reservation area of the University of Southern Mindanao’s (USM) Cotabato Foundation College for Science and Technology (CFCST) in Barangay Doruluman, Arakan.

The beneficiaries are from six barangays in Arakan and one village in nearby President Roxas, also in North Cotabato.

Based on Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) guidelines, each beneficiary is allowed to occupy not more than three hectares of land.

Anfone said he knew “fully well” the struggles of the farmers inside the USM-CFCST reservation area.

“When we informed them that we will hand in their CLOAs, they were all smiles and many of them told us that “it was a hard battle won,” Anfone said.

He also recognized such struggle had killed a number of farmer leaders who fought hard just to get the lands.

It was in 1957 when former Elipidio Garcia issued Presidential Proclamation 428 declaring at least 4,463 hectares as “reservation area” for USM-CFCST in Arakan.

Residents in the area, many of them migrants from the Visayas, were told to vacate the place.   But they refused, and so their struggle began.

The agrarian reform beneficiaries were already the sons, daughters, grandsons or granddaughters of the farmers, some of whom died while fighting for the land, Anfone said.

“The CLOA titles will give our agrarian reform beneficiaries security and tenurial status of the land they occupy,” he added.

He said his office started the validation and identification of qualified beneficiaries in 2018 after he assumed the post.

Also, on April 2, 2017, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano had ordered the reinstallation of the beneficiaries and the coverage of the reservation area in Arakan.

This, after leaders of at least three farmer groups in the area trooped to DAR’s national office in Metro Manila and held a picket rally dubbed as “Kampuhan sa DAR” to pressure the then secretary to help in the land take-over.