Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Disyembre 2, 2008

Batangas farmers forge on to Palace

By Marrah Erika Lesaba
Southern Luzon Bureau / Inquirer
First Posted 15:49:00 12/02/2008

MALVAR, Batangas — Some 76 farmers from Calatagan, Batangas on Tuesday embarked on the second day of a march on Malacañang to demand a resolution to their land dispute with Asturias Industries.

The farmers are expected to enter Manila on December 4 and will be received by the Ateneo Community on December 5.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles sent off the farmers from Barangay (villages) Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan on Monday after officiating a mass for them at the San Sebastian Cathedral, Lipa City.

The farmers were joined by the La Salle Center for Social Concern and Action and the Ateneo Office for Social Concern and Involvement.

Church leaders requested the parishes along the route of the Calatagan farmers’ march to provide them with food and shelter.

On their first day, the farmers marched to Sta. Rosa and then slept

The farmers had originally launched their march on September 20 but were prevailed upon by Arguelles at a dialogue in Balayan town just a day after they started out to allow negotiations with Asturias’ Ramon Ang for an acceptable compromise.

But after more than two months, the farmers, in a statement, said they decided to push through with their march on Malacañang, accusing the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of issuing “decisions that have derailed our negotiating positions,” after they acquiesced to Environment Secretary Jose Atienza’s urging for them to negotiate with Ang.

Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers, said the DAR dismissed their petition for coverage while the DENR issued an opinion that the contested land is “mineralized” even when pending cases against the Asturias Industries at the DENR remained unresolved.

“We have come to believe that the DENR and the DAR are only bent on pressuring us to accept whatever offer Asturias is putting on the negotiation table.” she said.

She said the actions of the DENR and DAR are contrary to the spirit of a status quo agreement enforced during the negotiations.

Malauan said Asturias is offering 90 hectares of mostly mountainous land in Talibayog and in Barangay Luya and Encarnacion, which she described as mostly not arable.

She accused Asturias of targeting the whole of Barangay Baha for mining and a cement plant, as well as plains by the seashore for its industrial and eco-tourism plans.

“Aside from the cement plant, they are planning to build a Formula 1 race track and hotels on the land,” she added.

Manila Archbishop Broderick Pabillo expressed his support for the Calatagan farmers.

“I was with the Calatagan farmers in September and I have witnessed for myself the lush vegetable gardens, the well-tended rice lands, the fruit trees on the one hand and the struggle, anguish and fear on the farmers’ faces on the other hand,” he said.

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Disyembre 2, 2008

Cardinal Rosales to meet Calatagan farmers in Ateneo

The farmers from Baha and Talibayog in Calagatan, Batangas began their 5-day walk from Lipa City in Batangas to Manila yesterday after receiving the blessings of Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of the Archdiocese of Lipa. In his blessings at a mass celebrated with the assembly of seminarians all over the Philippines held at the Cathedral de San Sebastian, Archbishop Arguelles expressed his support for the march of the farmers. “On this first week of the new church year, God manifests himself among the farmers of Baha and Talibayog. The Archdiocese of Lipa supports the struggle of the little ones whose only strength is in God’s power” Arguelles said.

Archbishop Arguelles also announced that the Calatagan farmers will be met by his Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales upon their arrival at the Ateneo de Manila University on December 5. The Calatagan farmers were jubilant at this news. Dante Rasdas, member of the Calatagan farmers’ core group recalled that December 5 will be the anniversary of the arrival of the Sumilao farmers in Ateneo de Manila University where they were welcomed by Cardinal Rosales. “We walked with the Sumilao farmers from San Pedro, Laguna to Manila last year as our gesture of solidarity. We have witnessed how Cardinal Rosales embraced the Sumilao farmers then and how the support of the Cardinal led to the victory of the Sumilao farmers” Rasdas said. Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers said that anticipating the meeting with Cardinal Rosales gives them inspiration, strength and hope. “We are looking forward to meet the Cardinal and tell him of the story of our own struggles. We are confident that Cardinal Rosales will lend us his support as he did with the Sumilao farmers last year.

Malaluan read the Calatagan Farmers manifesto at the send-off Mass. She announced that ten of the seventy-six farmers joining the march will go on hunger strike as soon as they reach the DAR central office in Quezon City on December 6. “In our conviction to fight for and defend our land and our rights, ten farmers among us, representing the three generations of struggling farmers in Baha and Talibayog, will go on hunger strike as soon as we arrive at the Department of Agrarian Reform. In foregoing food, we will defend our right to produce food. In their voluntary act of suffering from hunger, we will assert our conviction to fight hunger” the manifesto said.

The Calatagan farmers declared that they are walking to Malacañang to ask President Arroyo to once and for all affirm the agricultural classification of the 507 hectares disputed land in Calatagan, Batangas which is also being claimed by Asturias Industries headed by Ramon Ang. DENR Secretary Lito Atienza had consistently declared that the disputed land has become “mineralized” and therefore exempted from the coverage of agrarian reform. The land was distributed to the farmers in 1989 and 1990 by the Department of Agrarian Reform under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. The farmers has since fully paid their land amortizations and had become full owners of the land. However, the former landowners, the heirs of Ceferino Ascue managed to sell the land to Asturias Industries in 1995. In 1997, the DENR issued a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) and an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) covering more than 2,000 hectares which included the contested 507 hectares distributed through agrarian reform.

In a public forum in Ateneo last September, the Asturias representative Atty. Michaela Rosales revealed that aside mining, Asturias is planning to develop industrial and eco-tourism zones in the disputed area. She even announced that a Formula 1 race track will be built in the area” said Jane Capacio of the Task Force Baha-Talibayog (TFBT). Capacio said that it is very clear that Asturias is using its MPSA to take away the lands from the farmer as a prelude to converting the land to other uses later. The Calatagan farmers left the St. Thomas Academy in Sto. Tomas, Batangas early this morning and are expected to cross the Batangas-Laguna boundary today on their way to San Pedro, Laguna where they will spend the night.

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Disyembre 2, 2008

Calatagan farmers resume march to Malacanang for land

BY MARLON LUISTRO, GMANews.TV

12/01/2008 | 08:41 PM

LIPA CITY, Philippines – Seventy five farmer beneficiaries of Barangay Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, Batangas resumed their walk from Batangas to Malacanang on Monday morning to assert their claim over the 507-hectare farmland and protest against its conversion into a mining area.

The walk started at about 10 a.m. in the San Sebastian Cathedral compound in Lipa City, with the farmers passing by Malvar town, Tanauan City and Sto. Tomas on the first day of their march.

Virginita Malaluan, farmer spokeswoman, said they expect to reach Manila by Thursday, where they would continue their protest actions in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform, House of Representatives and Malacanang Palace.

In an interview with GMANews.TV, Malaluan said they were asking President Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo to declare the 507-hectare farm land agricultural in nature and stop conversion of the same into a mining site.

Malaluan said they were supposed to walk on September 20 but the farmers decided to postpone the march upon request of their negotiators.

She however said that the farmers felt betrayed in the negotiation process after Environment Secretary Lito Atienza and Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman had issued certifications that the disputed property is a mineral land.

“We have come to believe that the DENR and the DAR are only bent on pressuring us to accept whatever offer Asturias is putting on the negotiation table,” Malaluan said.

She added that mining firm Asturias Chemical Industries had been offering the farmers a 90 hectare relocation site in the villages of Talibayog, Luya and Encarnacion in Calatagan, which they refused.

Malaluan claimed that the said areas are mountainous in nature and not suited for cultivation.

“We are always giving them (Asturias) opportunities hoping that they might talk to us but it didn’t happen. We think they really can’t grant our request and perhaps this is the right time for us to continue our march,” Malauan said.

GMANews.TV tried to get in touch with Asturias Project Director Gary Sevilla but his cellphone is turned off. He is also not replying to our text messages.

This is the second time that the farmers marched from Batangas to Manila for their land. They marched earlier from April 23 to 28 this year.

The farmers were fighting for their claims over the 507-hectare contested land, originally owned by the late Ceferino Ascue and distributed to them by the national government in 1989 through Presidential Decree No. 27 and Operation Land Transfer.

Most of the farmers have fully paid the amortization to the Land Bank of the Philippines and were issued emancipation patents.

In 1995, however, the heirs of Ceferino Ascue sold the mother title of the whole 800 hectare property, including the 507 hectares distributed to the farmers to Asturias Chemical Industries.

The company plans to build a cement plant complex and industrial park in the area.

In 2005, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the DAR that the disputed land was erroneously covered by PD 27, and that it was “mineralized.”

Asturias has a 25-year mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) with the DENR, which includes the 507-hectare estate. The entire MPSA covers 2,336.8 hectares in the villages of Baha, Talibayog, Punta, and Hukay in Calatagan town.

Farmers from Barangays Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, Batangas will resume their walk from Batangas to Malacañang today to press for the resolution of the land dispute with Asturias Industries. Last September 20, 2008, the Calatagan farmers began their walk from Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, Batangas to Manila in protest of the series of pronouncements from the DENR and DAR on their case. However, in a dialog with Archbishop Arguelles in Balayan, Batangas on September 21, the farmers were prevailed upon by Archbishop Arguelles to postpone their march to give more time for the on-going negotiation with Ramon Ang and Asturias Industries to arrive at an acceptable compromise.

After waiting for more than two months, the Calatagan farmers have decided to resume their walk to Malacañang today to press the Office of the President to protect the lands distributed to them by the DAR in 1989 and 1990. The march will commence after a send-off to be officiated by Archbishop Arguelles at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa City.

“DENR Secretary Lito Atienza has encouraged us to enter into a negotiation with Ramon Ang. We obliged in good faith. However, while the talks were ongoing, the DENR and the DAR both issued decisions that have derailed our negotiating positions. The DAR dismissed our petition for coverage while the DENT has issued its opinion that our land is “mineralized” even when pending cases against Asturias Industrial at the DENR remained unresolved. We have come to believe that the DENR and the DAR are only bent on pressuring us to accept whatever offer Asturias is putting on the negotiation table. The actions of the DENR Secretary and the DAR are contrary to the spirit of the status quo agreement that is in force while the negotiations are going on” said Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers.

Jane Capacio, Executive Director of Kaisahan, one of the support NGO’s of the Calatagan farmers said that the actions of the DAR and DENR only jeopardized the negotiations with Ramon Ang. “It is as if both government agencies are trying to emaciate the farmers’ claims and their rights over the land to force them into an unjust settlement. We have recently received communication from the negotiation panel of Asturias that Ramon Ang has instructed them to stick to their proposal. This means that they are rejecting the farmers’ proposal” Capacio said. She added that this hard line stance can be traced to the actions of the DENR and DAR.

“Asturias is offering us 90 hectares of mostly mountainous land in Talibayog and lands in Barangay Luya and Encarnacion which are mostly not arable. They want to get the whole of Barangay Baha for mining and their cement plant. Aside from that they also want to get the plains by the sea shore for their industrial and eco-tourism plans and. They have disclosed that aside from the cement plant they are planning to build a Formula 1 race track and hotels in the land” Malauan said.

Manila Archbishop Broderick Pabillo also expressed his support for the Calatagan farmers. “I was with the Calatagan farmers in September and I have witnessed for myself the lush vegetable gardens, the well-tended rice lands, the fruit trees on the one hand and the struggle, anguish and fear on the farmers’ faces on the other hand” Pabillo said. Bishop Pabillo and Archbishop Arguelles have requested the parishes that are along the route of the Calatagan farmers’ march to provide them with food and shelter. From Lipa, the farmers will have sleep-overs in Sto. Tomas and Sta. Rosa. They are expected to enter Manila on December 4 and will be received by the Ateneo Community on December 5.

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Disyembre 1, 2008

Calatagan Farmers’ Manifesto

A JOURNEY IN SEARCH JUSTICE,

A SACRIFICE TO ASSERT OUR RIGHTS

A Manifesto of the Calatagan Farmers

December 1, 2008 / San Sebastian Cathedral, Lipa City

T

oday, we shall yet begin another journey from our farms to the halls of power in Manila. It is a journey of three generations of farmers of Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, Batangas. This journey is our quest to find justice in a society where small, the poor and dispossessed stand no chance against the wealthy and the powerful. We embark on this journey neither out of desperation nor hopelessness, on the contrary, we will take our first step filled with hope and conviction that our sacrifice will make the rightness of our claims over our land compelling and cannot be ignored. However, we know that we shall walk against the powers that be; we shall be confronted by the cruelty of the brute power of their wealth and influence.

We are no stranger to adversity. Forty years ago, the original agrarian reform beneficiaries among us defied and endured the cruelty of our former landlord. They endured the constant threats to their lives, the fear instigated by armed goons sent by the family of Ceferino Ascue to force the farmers to bend on their knees and submit themselves to the landlords will. Despite the adversity and the danger brought about by the iron hands of the landlord and his kin, among the ranks of the farmers rose courageous leaders like Sixto dela Vega, who defied the threats from the landlord and defied their own fears and sacrificed even their own livelihood to assert their rights as agrarian reform beneficiaries. The land we now own, which were distributed to us in 1989 and 1990 under the government’s agrarian reform program, did not come in a silver platter. These lands were won through the courage and sacrifices of the elders among us.

F

or almost ten years since the land became ours, we have tilled and cultivated our land in peace for almost ten years. We have patiently made the land productive with our hands planting mangoes and other fruit trees, a variety of vegetables, corn and rice. We have raised livestock and other farm animals.

The land did not fail us. We were able to complete our land amortizations. We were able to send our children to school. We were able to feed our families. We have built our homes in our farms and raised our families. We have built our lives around our land.

B

ut greed can always find a way to undo the gains of agrarian reform and social justice. Unknown to us our former landlord managed to sell the land that has already been ours for many years to Asturias Industries. Since then, Asturias has been trying to wrest the land from us by virtue of the Mineral Production Agreement (MPSA) they managed to secure from the DENR.

They have tried every trick in the book to take away our land, the land that we fought for, the land that we have made productive, the land that we depend so much on to live. We were cajoled, bribed, threatened and sued to give up our lands. Asturias preyed on the miseries of the farmers, waiting for them to get sick or have a family emergency or any situation that renders the farmers in deep financial need. Disguised as financial assistance, Asturias managed to purchase lands from the farmers who are in deep financial need. Claiming that the land has become “mineralized” and therefore “exempted” from agrarian reform, they seek to take away the gains of the farmers’ three decades of struggle. Using every influence and power at their disposal Asturias is seeking to undo what social justice has bestowed.

T

he Department of Agrarian Reform who is tasked to implement agrarian reform and who bestowed upon us the Emancipation Patents succumbed to Asturias. They turned their backs on the program they are mandated to implement; they turned their backs to the constitutional mandate that they were supposed to breathe life into. They betrayed the farmers they were supposed to serve, defend and support. The DAR shamelessly declared that they erred in distributing the lands to farmers. In doing so, they had to twist the facts and the law.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) pretended to be a neutral agency who is seeking to resolve the land problem in Calatagan. They even went on to create a task force to look into the issue. In the end, they reneged on their promises and have taken the position of Asturias. They ignored the mining company’s violations of the MPSA. They have ignored the rights of the farmers.

The Office of the President, the DAR and the DENR convinced us to negotiate with Ramon Ang and Asturias in order to settle the issue in what they call as a “win-win” fashion. We obliged and patiently embarked on a negotiation despite our doubts and our fears. We have made extensive consultations among members and we have come up with a proposition of what we collectively believe is a just settlement with Asturias. We were even willing to relocate some of our farms leaving our fruit-bearing trees and houses in order to arrive at a just compromise.

We entered into the negotiations knowing that the balance of power is tilted against us. But we trusted the government to defend our rights, and whatever legal grounds we have. In the middle of the negotiation process, the DENR Secretary and the Department of Agrarian Reform, in violation of the status quo agreement, issued statements and communications that further eroded whatever negotiating position we have. It has become clear, that to government, the resolution of our case is our capitulation of our rights as owners of the land and as agrarian reform beneficiaries. Their actions only emboldened and hardened the positions emboldened Ramon Ang and Asturias.

Today, we will begin our walk to Manila not filled with desperation but with renewed conviction and hope. We will begin our sacrifice with renewed hope because our Archbishop believes in the rightness of our cause.

We will march with renewed conviction that we are the rightful owners of the land we till not only because we hold the titles to our land but because we also believe that we are stewards of God’s creation. We are obliged not only to develop our land into productive farms producing food for our communities but also to protect the land and sea from environmental destruction and devastation.

We shall walk knowing that Ramon Ang and Asturias and those in government who believes more in converting our farms into a mining site, in converting the shores in Baha and Talibayog into an industrial zone and an eco-tourism zone will pull every string at their disposal to stop us from asserting our rights.

This walk will be our testament to our conviction that government should put food production at the forefront and protect our farmlands. This walk will be our testament to our conviction that the government should protect the rights of its citizens especially those who are poor against the maneuverings of the wealthy and the influential.

In our conviction to fight for and defend our land and our rights, ten farmers among us, representing the three generations of struggling farmers in Baha and Talibayog, will go on HUNGER STRIKE as soon as we arrive at the Department of Agrarian Reform. In foregoing food, we will defend our right to produce food. In their voluntary act of suffering from hunger, we will assert our conviction to fight hunger.

Pagkain muna bago semento!

Pagsasaka muna bago turismo!

Kaunlaran ng mamamayan hindi ng iilan!

– CALATAGAN FARMERS –

Pinag-isang Lakas ng Samahang Magsasaka at Mangingisda sa Barangay Baha (PLSMMB) ¢ Samahan ng Maliliit na Mangingisda at Magsasaka sa Barangay Talibayog (SMMMT) ¢ Samahan ng mga Mangingisda at Magsasaka sa Calatagan (SAMMACA) ¢ Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK)

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Setyembre 15, 2008

Calatagan Farmers’ Campaign Update 2

Update on the Calatagan Farmers’ Campaign

15 September 2008

While today would have been the first day of the walk of the Emancipation Patent holders (EP holders) amongst the Calatagan farmers, the farmers decided to postpone the walk for a week to give a chance to the negotiation that is being offered.  Never before in the nego attempts was there an openness except these last few days when it became apparent that the farmers are serious in their campaign.

The Calatagan farmers were deprived of “aces” or cards courtesy of the government agencies that are supposed to protect their rights.  DENR Secretary Lito Atienza issued a letter stating that the land is mineral while an MPSA cancellation is set to be decided upon by his office.  In response, the DAR issued a memorandum saying that it could not cover the land because it is mineral albeit a Petition for CARP Coverage is at the Office of the DAR Secretary.  As expected, DAR Secretary Pangandaman ruled not to cover under the agrarian reform program the contested 507-hectare agricultural land.

Thus, the farmers know that their only card is their title, their Emancipation Patents issued in 1989-1990, which they have fully paid for and from which they could till their awarded land.  Aside from their vested rights, they also have social capital; they have each other and they could use this capital to show the public the injustices being done to them.  In unison, they are determined to fight for their rights and for the environment that cement mining intends to destroy.

“What is a week to see if the negotiation might yield results?” asks Virgie Malaluan, the spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers.

But it does not mean that the farmers would not prepare for their campaign…

Despite the seeming breakthrough in their campaign, the Calatagan farmers are not relaxing in their preparation for their walk to Manila.  In the two barangays, the processing of calls and “victories” are continuously being discussed, the logistics for the walk are being prepared for to its finest details.  Even the makeshift stretcher is being tested to see if it could really carry a farmer.  Moreover, the spiritual and psychological preparations are being undertaken.  A vigil is set to be made everyday beginning Monday until the end of the week.

It does not mean that the support groups would not prepare for the farmers’ walk…

In preparation for the Calatagan farmers’ walk to Manila, the support groups are likewise preparing the fine prints of campaign.  The route of the Manila leg is being set up in a way that the strategic destinations are reached while giving a chance for the farmers to visit the support groups who wish to accommodate them.  The Daughters of Charity, for instance, already committed that whether the farmers would pass by SLEX or Coastal Road, their Provincial House in Paranaque or their hospital, the San Juan de Dios in Pasay, would be accommodating the Calatagan marchers.  De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila also manifested their willingness to see the marchers through when they are already in Manila.

Calatagan week in Ateneo…

This week, September 15-19, is Calatagan week in the Ateneo de Manila campus.  Today, Monday, ROOTS (Reaching for Opportunities to Serve), a student-based volunteer organization, launches a photo exhibit in two significant places in the University: the MVP building and the EDSA Walk.  The exhibit showcases the photos taken by the volunteers who visited barangays baha and Talibayog in the last few months.

On Wednesday, 17 September, there would be a student workshop on Calatagan where the immersees, volunteers and students would be discussing their papers/testimonials on the case of the Calatagan farmers.  Development Studies (DS) students would also be launching their own photo exhibit in the afternoon.  On this day, pledge cards for donations would be distributed, campaign materials would be handed out, and the signature campaign for the Calatagan farmers would be launched.

The Ateneo students would also put up their “sako statements” on Wednesday.  These are statements of support, one-liners, conceptualized by students that would be written on used sacks.  These approximate the streamers on used sacks that are on the main road of Barangays Baha and Talibayog.  The “sako statements” would be seen on the Ateneo “cages.”

On Friday, 19 September, a mini concert would be held in the campus where bands are set to sing solidarity songs for the farmers.  The gigs would be led by Shuteyeview, Smoke my Cuban, and Juan Luna.  There would also be a closing program and turn over of the exhibits.

Maraming salamat…

For these efforts that warm their hearts, the farmers wish to thank the Ateneo de Manila community.  They are grateful to the students, faculty, administrators, and Jesuit friends who have made their room to room meaningful and who put their efforts, day and night, to launch the Calatagan week in the University.  The farmers insist on putting their organizations’ names one by one:

The DS students, Political Science students, ROOTS volunteers, Sanggu officers (student council) who have exerted efforts, despite their busy academic schedules, to make an exhibit, go to Calatagan, launch a forum, and do all sorts of initiatives to increase the level of awareness of the Ateneo community on the farmers’ case.  The ASPAC, who pledged medicine support, lifts the farmers’ worry in regard to health care during the march.  Truly, they are the backbone of this campaign.

Certainly, behind all these efforts are two organizations: the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) and the Office of Social Concern and Involvement (OSCI), the silent workers, the ones behind the curtain who lead this campaign in campus and amongst the religious.

The farmers also wish to thank the church and the religious who manifested their support during the past week: Bishop Broderick Pabillo of NASSA and the Archdiocese of Manila celebrated a Holy Mass on 4 September in Calatagan.  Sr. Victricia Pascasio, S.Sp.S visited the area and listened to the farmers’ stories yesterday, 14 September, along with Atty. Melanie Pimentel of the OSG.  Sr. Vic, the farmers’ noted, is the first nun ever to have visited them.

The farmers likewise thank the Daughters of Charity, De La Salle University, and the various agrarian reform groups most especially the Partnership for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Services (PARRDS) for their help and commitment.  As always, they insist thanking CARET who is always with them, KAISAHAN, and Akbayan.

THE ASSEMBLY 2008-2009
The Political Science Organization of the Ateneo

The Official Statement of The Assembly on the CALATAGAN FARMERS

Sixty farmers from Calatagan, Batagas are gathering for another historic march from Batangas to Manila to assert their right of ownership to 507 hectares of agricultural land legitimately granted to them under a program of agrarian reform. The land, originally owned by Ceferino Ascue, was distributed almost twenty years ago (1990) to 318 tenant farmers. Emancipation patents were distributed to the tenants of the farm land. In the decade since the land was distributed many of the farmer-beneficiaries were already able to fully pay their land amortizations.

In 1995 however, the heirs of Ceferino Ascue, ignoring the fact that the land had already been distributed to farmer beneficiaries, sold the land to Asturias Industries, a mining firm. Asturias Industries secured permits to begin mining operations. The company also put in question before the Department of Agrarian Reform the legality of the distribution of the land.

The Department of Agrarian Reform in 2000 upheld the protest of Asturias Industries thereby legally denying the farmer beneficiaries ownership of the land. The protest was upheld on the grounds that 1. the land was primarily agricultural since it was “mineralized” 2. there were no defined or clear tenancy relations between the previous land owner and the farmers and 3. the land was not devoted to the production of rice or corn. The farmers’ ownership of the land was effectively revoked as a result.

The Assembly recognizes that the basis for the protest by Asturias Industries could perhaps be legally sound. We do not question the legality of the DAR decision. We also recognize the developmental potential of a mining industry for the local government of Calatagan.

However, WE BELIEVE THAT SOCIAL JUSTICE IS NOT FOUNDED ON MERE FRAMES OF LEGALITY. ADHERENCE TO THE LAW DOES NOT RELEASE ANYONE FROM THE MORAL DUTY TO WORK FOR A JUST SOCIETY. The lack of legal responsibility does not in any way absolve Asturias Industries of its social responsibility.

WE SYMPATHIZE WITH THE CALATAGAN FARMERS IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO ASSERT THEIR LEGITIMATE RIGHTS AS CITIZENS BEFORE THE LAW AND AS PEOPLE. THE ASSEMBLY IS ONE WITH THE ATENEO COMMUNITY IN THE EFFORTS TO AID THE FARMERS AND IN THE GREATER TASK OF WORKING TOWARD A MORE JUST AND HUMANE SOCIETY.

Furthermore, The Assembly sees the case of the Calatagan farmers as reflecting severe institutional flaws within the structures of administration and governance. This is clearly yet another failure of the bureaucratic apparatus. WE BELIEVE THAT SIGNIFICANT INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS ARE NECESSARY TO ENSURE THAT THE MARGNINALIZED AND UNDERPRIVILEDGED IN SOCIETY ARE PROTECTED FROM THE INTRUSIONS OF ELITE INTERESTS, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THAT THE VISION OF A JUST SOCIETY BE REALIZED.

Resolution and Statement of Support for Calatagan Farmers

Written by Office of the Secretary-General
Monday, 21 July 2008 00:28
Sponsored by: Committee on Social Concern and External Affiliations
Authored by: Rob Roque

A Resolution Calling for Support for the Calatagan Farmers

Whereas, Article V, Section 4 of the 2005 Sanggunian Constitution states that “The Sanggunian, recognizing the rightful and vital role of the Filipino youth in national efforts to advance and preserve freedom, democracy, human rights, national dignity and interest, social justice, unity, peace, and development in Philippine society, shall raise the Ateneo student body’s critical awareness of and proactive response to issues and their root causes affecting the life of the nation and the Filipino people.”;

Whereas, the Sanggunian, in its capacity as the representative of the student body, has had a history of supporting causes of social justice such as that of the Sumilao Farmers in 2007;

Whereas, the plight of the Calatagan farmers is, in the opinion of the Sanggunian, a clear case of gross neglect for social justice, primacy of food security over mineral extraction and care for the environment;

Wherefore, be it resolved that the Sanggunian shall release a public statement of support for the campaign of the Calatagan farmers stating the opinions of the Sanggunian on the issues surrounding the case and the unequivocal support of the Sanggunian in light of this judgement;

Wherefore, be it further resolved that the Sanggunian shall inform its constituency of the issues surrounding the case of the Calatagan farmers and find possible venues through which members of the community can show their support or be proactively involved in the campaign for social justice;

Wherefore, be it finally resolved that the Sanggunian shall inform its counterparts in other universities of its decision to support the Calatagan farmers and invite them to declare their support as well, in light of their ideals and thrusts;

Whereby all the aforementioned shall take effect upon a vote of at least a majority of the Central Board.

Noted by:

Omar Castañar
President
Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila


Statement of Support for the Calatagan Farmers

In line with its stated principles of upholding social justice, environmentalism and concern for the greater good of society, the Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila declares its unequivocal support for the Calatagan Farmers, the latest victims of social injustice plaguing our country today. We base our decision on the merit of the following points:

(1)    That in 1990, through Presidential Decree No. 27, the 507.87 hectare estate of Ceferino Ascue was distributed to 318 tenant farmers of Barangay Baha and Talibayog, Calatagan Batangas. Over the next decade, they would till the land they have been granted and by the end of that ten years, they were able to fully pay the land amortization to the government. In effect, the 318 farmers should be the legal owners of the land.
(2)    That in 1995, the heirs of Ceferino Ascue sold the property to Asturias Industries, despite the fact that the land had already been given to the farmers. In 1997, Asturias Industries obtained a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) based on a 1965 study of the Bureau of Mines, and an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) covering a land area including that of the Calatagan farmers. Based on this claim of considerable mineral resources buried below the estate, the company questions the legality of the land distribution to the farmers under PD 27.
(3)    That in August 4, 2000, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) nullified the coverage of the land distributed to the farmers because (1) the land holding was not primarily devoted to rice or corn production, (2) tenancy relations were not established, (3) the land ceased to be agricultural when the mineral reserves under the estate were proven. DAR released this judgment despite being the same institution that facilitated the distribution of the land to the farmers.
(4)    That in 2005, the Supreme Court sustained the ruling of DAR on the matter.

We respectfully stand by the farmers on this issue because we believe that the state should not prioritize bigger corporations over the farmers who form the base of our society; that it should uphold social justice over corporate greed; that it should prioritize environmental protection, agricultural development and agrarian reform in the face of a looming food and environmental crisis, over mineral extraction despite its economic benefits; that the government’s responsibility is to uphold the greater good of its constituents and it will do so if the Calatagan farmers’ rights are protected.

We believe that only when the state begins to uphold the ideals of truth and justice, and the common good will our country achieve the progress and prosperity it continues to long for. We believe that standing by victims of social injustice such as the Calatagan farmers is a crucial step in achieving this.

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Setyembre 11, 2008

Calatagan News and updates 1

Update on the Calatagan Farmers’ Campaign

8 September 2008

Several events have occurred since the Calatagan farmers launched their “pre-walk” in 1 September 2008. On that day, the farmers put up streamers that contain their calls along the road of Barangays Baha and Talibayog. On 4 September, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila and Chair of the NASSA, celebrated a Holy Mass in Calatagan. A day after, the farmers received the Resolution of the DAR Secretary denying the farmers’ Motion for Reconsideration on their petition to cover the contested 507-hectare land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). On 7 September, Akbayan partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel also visited Calatagan to express solidarity with the farmers.

The church supports the struggle of the Calatagan farmers

In his homily, Bishop Pabillo said that land, being a creation of God, must be protected by the people. We are stewards of his creation and as such we are accountable for it. Land should also be shared by many and not be monopolized by a few. The poor and marginalized must have access to God’s creation so that the rich could not boast before the Lord. Bishop Pabillo went on to say that these two reasons – the need to conserve and share God’s creation – make the Catholic Church doubt mining as an industry. He noted that up to present, mining in the country remains irresponsible. With this, he concludes by encouraging the Calatagan farmers to pursue their fight for their agrarian lands against the onslaught of cement mining.

The following are the excerpts of Bishop Pabillo’s homily:

“Kanina po sa pagbasa natin ang inyong isinagot ay ‘ang daigdig, lahat doon, ang may ari ay ang ating Poon.’ Inulit-ulit po natin yan. At yun po ay totoo. Hindi tayo ang may ari ng lupa, ang lupa ang may ari sa atin.

Sa totoo, tagapangasiwa lamang tayo, kaya ang may ari ng lahat ay ang Dios. Kaya dapat tingnan natin, ano ba ang gusto ng may-ari? Ano ba ang gusto niya? At ito po ang gusto ng Diyos: ginawa ng Diyos ang lahat at ipinagkatiwala sa tao kasi ito ay para sa lahat. Na ang kayamanan ng lupa ay mapakinabangan ng mas maraming mga tao, hindi lang ng iilan.

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit ang simbahan nakikipanig sa mga maliliit na mga magsasaka, na mga mangingisda, na kayo ay magkaroon ng lupa. Kalooban ng Dios na hindi lang yung mga mayayaman ang may lupa dahil sa may pera sila, na sila ang may ari ng libo libong ektarya, at ang mga tao ay mamawalan ng pakinabang sa lupa.

Higit sa lahat, ang gusto ng may ari na ang kanyang ginawa, ang kanyang nilalang, ay mapakinabangan ng mas matagal na panahon. Kaya nga nagdududa rin ang simbahan tungkol sa pagmimina. Kasi lahat ng pagmimina ay paninira. Kapag minina mo na, sinira mo na. Hindi ito sustainable.

Ang totoo, iyang bundok na yan habang nandiyan, yan ang nagbibigay buhay. Kapag yan ay minina, pag sinira na yan, mawawala na mga puno diyan, mawawala na ang tubig at ang lupa. Kaya dito dalawang bagay ang ating pinaglalaban at kasama nyo kami dyan. Na hindi nararapat, na hindi makatarungan na ang malalaking lupain ay napapag-ari lamang ng iilan, na ang marami ay mawawalan ng pakinabang sapagkat hindi yan ang gusto ng Dios. Ang gusto ng Dios ay mas maraming makinabang sa kanyang nilikha.

Ang gusto ng Diyos na pangalagaan ay iyong sustainable, yung palaging nagbibigay ng buhay. Ang pagmimina ay isang industriya na sa ngayon sa Pilipinas ay hindi pa responsable. Na ang pagminina ay paninira lang ang gagawin at sila lang ang makikinabang sa ngayong panahon. Kapag nasira na, ang susunod na henerasyon ay hindi na makikinabang. Tandaan po natin ito, ang daigdig, ang lahat doon, ang may ari ating Poon.

Pero sinasabi nyo na ang hirap yata ng mga laban dahil sila iyong may pera, sila iyong may impluwensiya, sila yung may technical knowledge, may mga potential na pwede pang mag import sa labas para gawin ang gusto nila, sila po yong may plano, tayo po ay wala naman pong alam, mangmang naman tayo. Kaya maganda rin pong pakinggan ang ating unang pagbasa, nung sinabi po dito, ang akala ng tao na karunungan ay kamangmangan sa paningin ng Dios.

At ang Dios ay gumagamit ng maliliit na tao, upang ibagsak yung malalaki. Upang walang magmayabang sa harapan niya. At yan po ang pagkilos ng Diyos sa kasaysayan, palaging panig siya sa mga maliliit at hindi sa mga makapangyarihan. Kaya ito po ang mabuting balita: kahit na si Hesus na anak ng Dios ay naging tao, naging maliit na tao, isang karpintero. Ipinanganak sa liblib sa Nazaret, na walang nakakakilala. Nakita natin na nung siya ay magsimula ng magpahayag, ang pinili niya na maging mga kasama niya, na maging mga apostol niya, ay mga mangingisda.

Kaya tingnan niyo napakaganda po ng mga mensahe ng Diyos sa araw na ito, angkop na angkop sa ating ginagawa. At ang bawat misa po ay isang patotoo na hindi tayo iiwan ng Diyos. Kung naibigay nga ni Hesus ang kanyang buhay sa atin, ano pa ang hindi niya maibibigay sa atin? Sa mga kahilingan natin? Kaya bawat misa ay nagpapatatag sa ating loob dahil mahal tayo ng Diyos. Hindi tayo pababayaan at ito ay paalaala ng pag-ibig ng Diyos. Na ibinibigay niya ang kanyang buhay, ang kanyang laman sa atin, kaya hindi niya tayo pababayaan. Kaya’t taglay ang ganitong paninindigan, ipagpatuloy po natin ang ating ipinaglalaban at ang ating pagdiriwang.”

Ayon din sa salita ng Diyos na tayo ay magkaisa at may lakas tayo kung tayo ay nagkakaisa. Pero kung kanya-kanya tayo at walang pakialaman, walang mangyayari. Ayon din po sa salita ng Diyos na ang ating pakikibaka ay mapayapa. Hindi tayo gumagamit ng dahas. Nagtatawag tayo ng pansin sa media at sa mga tao, nagpapakasakit tayo pero ayaw natin na ang iba ang masaktan. Sa patuloy po nating pakikibaka sana ay gabayan tayo ng salita ng Diyos. Siguradong tayo ay magtatagumpay kasi hindi tayo pababayaan ng Panginoong Diyos.

Bishop Pabillo visited the two barangays by boat and land. He also went to the proposed relocation site where billboards of Asturias were placed. He obliged to requests to visit the house of the farmers, look at their farms, and see an ailing EP holder.

In Congress or in the streets

Representative Hontiveros-Baraquel, for her part, gave an update on the advocacy for CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPER). She does not lose hope that CARPER would be passed into law by December of this year. Like the advocacy in Congress, Representative Hontiveros-Baraquel commits to see the Calatagan farmers through until they reach the victory on their land case. She reiterates that Akbayan is with the farmers since the start of their long struggle. As such, the party is not there to give inspiration but once more, as in many times in the past, to draw lessons from, and inspiration for, Akbayan’s work.

During her visit, Representative Hontiveros-Baraquel was accompanied by colleagues from Akbayan and the farmers’ federation Pambasang Katipunan ng Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK).

Unfavorable DAR resolution, letter opinion, and memorandum

These statements of support were welcomed by farmers who once again received a non-favorable decision from the DAR. In its resolution dated 2 September 2008, the Office of the DAR Secretary said the farmers’ Motion for Reconsideration on their Petition for CARP Coverage is unmeritorious. This is because the Supreme Court already had a ruling in the Aninao Vs. Asturias decision.

Despite the Calatagan farmers’ arguments that they have titles over the land, that they have fully paid for it in the Land Bank of the Philippines, and that the land remains agricultural to this day, the DAR refused to cover the landholding under CARP.

The Calatagan farmers were not surprised with this decision.

In 11 June 2008, DENR Secretary Lito Atienza issued a letter to DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman informing him of the legal position of the DENR. Accordingly, the 507-hectare land is mineral in classification. He made this letter in spite of a case pending at his office seeking the cancellation of Asturias’s mining contract. His letter became the basis of DAR Undersecretary Delfin Samson in issuing a memorandum that the DAR could not cover the 507-hectare land under CARP. Like the DENR, the DAR issued the memorandum even if it is set to decide on the farmers’ Motion for Reconsideration on the Petition for CARP Coverage.

The Calatagan farmers ask: How can the DENR and the DAR rule objectively on our cases when they already made actions against us?

They further ask: should we make another sacrifice just to illustrate that we are serious in our struggle for our land?

Another walk for land

The farmers are gathering their strength for a renewed campaign. They intend to walk again.  This time, it would be a walk of the EP Holders, the 48 to 76 year old women and men who received their land titles in 1989-1990, paid for their amortization, and cultivated the soil so that they could feed their children, send them to school, and give them a decent life.

They ask that we walk with them. Join Bishop Pabillo and Representative Hontiveros-Baraquel who walked with them and who intend to see them until victory. Join the farmers’ Archbishop, Most Reverend Ramon Arguelles, who does everything to highlight the case be it in Malacanang or in the Office of the Provincial Governor. Join the Ateneo community that welcomed the farmers’ spokespersons when they were hopping from room to room to create awareness. Join the OSCI of Ateneo and the many students who would hold a Calatagan week in campus. Join the DLSU students who planted mangroves to add a layer of protection to the beautiful yet threatened ecosystem. Join the artists, the musicians who would sing with and sing for the farmers. Join the community organizers who live with the farmers to facilitate the numerous discussions. Join the lawyers and the paralegals who journey with the farmers in using the law as a tool for their empowerment.

The support groups of the farmers often meet at the KAISAHAN Office. Feel free to call us at 433-0750 or 926-6042.

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Setyembre 7, 2008

Calatagan farmers to march again vs land conversion

MARLON LUISTRO, GMANews.TV
09/07/2008 | 09:03 AM
CALATAGAN, Philippines – Sixty farmer-beneficiaries here will be marching again from Batangas to Manila to assert their claims over the 507-hectare farm property that is about to be converted into a mining area.

The 300-kilometer walk will begin in the villages of Baha and Talibayog on Sept. 15. The farmers expect to reach Malacañang “within a month.”

“We have decided to walk for the second time because we feel that our first march (in April) did not reach (the concern of) the President. Somehow, we believe that the President still has the heart for the farmers,” Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of the farmers, told GMANews.TV in an interview.

Last April, the farmers walked for five days from Calatagan, Batangas to Manila and staged rallies in front of the offices of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to protest against conversion of agricultural lands into a mining area.

The farmers said they felt betrayed when Environment Secretary Lito Atienza issued a certification in June 12 that the 507-hectare contested property in Baha and Talibayog is a “mineral land.”

“This means the DAR can no longer cover the said land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program,” Malaluan said.

In the second wave of their march, she said that the farmers are expecting that President Arroyo will declare the contested land agricultural in nature and stop conversion of the same into a mining area.

“We believe it is only the President and the Congress who has the power to reclassify lands (into mineral), which Secretary (Lito) Atienza has already assumed,” Malaluan said.

She also said that President Arroyo could help the farmers by reminding the DAR, DENR and Calatagan municipal government to “observe good governance and consider the plight of the farmers who are being deprived of their rights to property.”

“This walk symbolizes something that if they are going to grab our lands, this is what will happen to the farmers – left astray and without any property whatsoever that we can really call ours,” Malaluan said in Filipino.

The farmers like her are fighting for their claims over the land, originally owned by the late Ceferino Ascue, and distributed by the government to 323 farmer beneficiaries in 1989 through Presidential Decree No. 27 and Operation Land Transfer.

Most of the farmers have fully paid their amortization in the Land Bank of the Philippines and were issued emancipation patents.

In 1994, however, the heirs of Ascue, using the original certificate of title, sold the whole 800-hectare property, including the 507-hectare land owned by the farmers, to Asturias Chemical Industries.

The firm plans to build a cement plant complex and industrial park in the area.

In 2005, the Supreme Court affirmed the DAR decision that the disputed land was erroneously covered by PD 27, and that it was “mineralized.”

Asturias has a 25-year mineral production sharing Agreement with the DENR covering 2,336.8 has. in the villages of Baha, Talibayog, Punta and Hukay in Calatagan. – GMANews.TV

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