Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peasant group slams Arroyo on land conversion

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines - The peasant federation Task Force Mapalad has slammed the family of President Gloria Arroyo for its last-minute move to convert the family-owned Hacienda Bacan from agricultural to industrial use in Negros Occidental province.

It said the 157-hectare sugarcane haciendaB in the village of Guintubhan in Isabela topwn, placed under coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 2001, was previously promised by Arroyo for distribution to 67 farmer-beneficiaries.

TFM president Jose Rodito Angeles said a report Wednesday by Vera Files that Ruy Rondain, lawyer of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, filed an application for conversion of Hacienda Bacan last June 15 before the Department of Agrarian Reform.

The application for conversion was filed on behalf of Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corporation, the registered corporate owner of the hacienda.

“The filing of the application is dubious and devious. Hacienda Bacan is already government property since the Land Bank had already issued payment for it two years ago in the amount of P42.3 million,” Angeles said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Angeles said that under the agrarian law, lands under CARP coverage cannot be subject to conversion.

He said DAR had twice ordered the register of deeds of Negros Occidental to issue a new title for the hacienda in favor of the government but the ROD had not done so up to now, reportedly due to pressure from Arroyo.

“We have also conducted protest actions to compel the ROD and even the Land Registration Authority in Quezon City to register a new title for Bacan so that DAR could already issue the CLOA (certificate of landownership award) of the farmer-beneficiaries, but we have been ignored,” Angeles said.

Rogelio Salva, leader of the farmer-beneficiaries in Bacan, said they have filed before DAR a motion opposing the application for conversion.

In the opposition motion, Salva said that Rivulet Corporation had no more juridical personality to apply for conversion since Badan had been acquired and paid for by the government, that the application for conversion was meant to evade CARP, and that it violated DAR rules on conversion under Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 2002.

Under AO No. 1 Series of 2002, irrigated agricultural lands such as Hacienda Bacan is non-negotiable for conversion (Section 4), and lands already under land valuation and acquisition are highly restricted from conversion (Section 5).

Salva said they are going to undertake active forms of protests to press for the dismissal or denial of the application for conversion of Hacienda Bacan.

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