The Calatagan farmers are walking on their fourth day since they began their Lakbay Kalampag para sa Lupang Pansakahan last Monday. During the last 3 days, the walking Calatagan farmers spent the nights in Balayan, Lemery and Batangas City. They have logged 98 kilometers in the first 3 days and will be crossing the 100th kilometer mark ontheir 40 kilometer leg from Batangas City to Lipa City. Gari Lazaro, coordinator of the Calatagan march, said that the first 2 days were the most punishing to them. “The farmers have already adjusted. On the third day they walk as if they are one body at times at a pace of 8 kilometers per hour. The distance, the pace and the heat are punishing but they are inspired by the gestures of support they receive along the way” Lazaro said.
Inspired by show of support
In Lemery, Batangas last Tuesday, The Calatagan farmers were welcomed by Fr. Lito Malibiran , parish priest of San Roque Parish, who celebrated the Mass with the farmers. They were spent the evening in the parish and were provided with food and the badly needly fresh water. Fr. Mabiliran is also the chairperson of the ecology committee of the Archdiocese of Lipa.
In Batangas City last Wednesday, Mayor Eddie Dimacuha made arrangements for the Calatagan farmers to be housed in the Batangas East Elementary school and dispatched a medical team from the Batangas City Health Office who gave the farmers a medical check-up and provided them with medicines. Barangay Chairman Robert Mendoza also expressed his support to the farmers and donated rice and canned goods.
Ka Virgie Dimalaluan, spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers said that they were touched by the show of support from the church and local governments. She said that even ordinary people extend gestures of support. “We are inspired by even the smallest gesture of support form the ordinary people we pass by. Some hand us food and water and even money from their pockets” Malaluan said.
In San Jose, Batangas, the Calatagan farmers were welcomed by the different labor unions and organizations including the Lucky 4A Workers Union, PKI Empoyees Welfare Union, United Coconut Chemicals Inc. Employees Labor Organization, members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor and its youth arm, Star Toll Way Maintenance and Drivers Union, Limcoma Labor Organization and Batangas Labor Alliance for Development and Solidarity.
In Lipa City, the Calatagan farmers will be hosted by Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles who will celebrate a Mass for them on Friday, April 25. Archbishop Arguelles has expressed his support to the Calatagan farmers even as early as last year and has been actively negotiating with the government on behalf of the farmers. He is expected to issue a pastoral statement on the Calatagan march during the mass.
In the House of Representatives, Akbayan Partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel delivered a privileged speech in support of the Calatagan farmers. “The choices in this case is very clear, do we trample on the rights of agrarian reform beneficiaries to serve the interests of a mining company? Do we sacrifice more of our agricultural lands to give way to mining operations despite the food crisis? In whatever angle we view this case, it is very clear that the Calatagan farmers’ cause is right and just’ Rep. Hontiveros-Baraquel said.
DENR Task Force meeting
A meeting of the Task Force on Calatagan will be held on Friday, April 25. The task force was formed after the dialogue between Sec. Lito Atienza, Archbishop Arguelles, the Calatagan farmers, Task Force Baha-Talibayog and Fr. Malibiran in October last year. The task force is composed of representatives from the DENR, MGB, DAR, Archdiocese of Lipa and Task Force Baha-Talibayog. The Task Force was formed by virtue of the DAR-DENR Joint Special Order No. 01 series of 2007.
According to the Calatagan farmers’ legal counsel, Atty. Magis Mendoza one of the issues that will likely be tackled in the task force meeting will be the Dec. 21, 2007 renewal of the Exploration Permit issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR to Asturias Industries. “In a series of meetings of the task force from December 2007 until March this year, Sec. Lito Atienza has constantly assured us that the DENR has not yet granted a renewal of the Exploration Permit to Asturias Industries since it expired last July 29, 1999. We were surprised to learn that despite these assurances from the Secretary himself, the DENR-MGB approved the renewal as early as December 21, 2007. When we asked the DENR about it we were told that Sec. Atienza was not informed by the MGB of the approval and he acted immediately by calling for the suspension of the permit. We have to clarify how this happened and we want to secure a written order of suspension” Mendoza said.
UPDATE: The DENR requested the postponement of the Task Force meeting scheduled for tomorrow. The new schedule will be posted as soon as it becomes final.
Contact Persons: Josel Gonzales/Manila (09276409726) Murin Velasco/Batangas (09162461163)