After winning back 144-hectares of land in a settlement agreement with San Miguel Corporation last March 28, the Sumilao farmers continue their advocacy for agrarian reform. This time they are supporting the cause of the farmers in Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, Batangas who are scheduled to begin their 3000-kilometer walk to Manila Monday, April 21 2008.
Last December, around 40 farmers from Baha-Talibayog in Calatagan joined the Sumilao farmers in the final legs of their 1,700 kilometer walk from Bukidnon to Manila. The Calatagan farmers joined the Sumilao farmers walk from San Pedro, Laguna all the way to the Department of Agrarian Reform Central office in Quezon City.
“We were touched by the show of solidarity of the Calatagan farmers during our walk last year. They have sacrificed with us and they inspired us during the time when we were almost overcame by fatigue. During their 5-day walk with us, we exchange experiences and we have come to know their problems. While their case is different from ours, there are similarities” said Napoleon Merida Jr., one of the spokespersons of the Sumilao farmers. Merida said that, like the Sumilao farmers, the Calatagan farmers are already beneficiaries of agrarian reform but are facing a grave threat of losing their land to land conversion.
“We lend our wholehearted support to our fellow farmers from Calatagan. We are praying for the success of their walk and we will ask those who supported our walk to support them too. They are victims of injustice just like us” Merida added.
Atty. Arlene Bag-ao, legal counsel of the Sumilao farmers will join the first leg of the Calatagan farmers’ walk from barangays Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan to the municipality of Balayan. “We support the Calatagan farmers because we believe that they are rightful beneficiaries of the land that they till. They are victims of the twisting of the law to favor the interests of the rich” Atty Bag-ao said.
Sixty agrarian reform beneficiaries from Calatagan, Batangas facing eviction due to land conversion announced today that they will march from Batangas to Metro Manila to protest a government decision to reclassify an agricultural area into a mining area to allow a private company to excavate limestone, a mineral used in the production of cement.
Ka Uper Aleroza, national chairperson of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK) and resident of Calatagan, Batangas, said that the march of the Calatagan farmers is their expression of the opposition to attempt to dispossess the rightful beneficiaries of agrarian reform of the lands they are tilling in favor of turning the land into a mining area. “We oppose the reversal of agrarian reform in Baha and Talibayog. It is unjust to dispossess the farmers of Baha and Talibayog of the land that was rightfully transferred to them 10 years ago to give way to mining. In the face of a food crisis, the government should be serious about its implementation of the land conversion ban. Our march from Calatagan to Manila is our assertion of the rights of the farmers as agrarian reform beneficiaries and as our assertion of our role as producers of food. Lupang pansakahan, hindi minahan” Aleroza said.
The Calatagan farmers would begin their marching noise barrage on April 21, 2008 in Calatagan, Batangas. They are expected to arrive in Manila on April 27 and would continue their march to hold several protest actions in the Senate, DENR, and DAR. The Calatagan farmers would also attend the House of Representatives Committee on Agrarian Reform hearing on HB 1257, or the CARP Extension and Reform Bill, a measure that the farmers support to extend, strengthen and accelerate agrarian reform in the country.