Archdiocese of Lipa
28 April 2008
The Archdiocese of Lipa has always supported the demand of the farmers and fishermen of Barangays Baha and Talibayog in their struggle for their rights. Since the time when Gaudencio Cardninal Rosales was Lipa Bishop, the local Church of Lipa which comprises the whole Batangas Province, has advocated for respect of the rights of the poor for the lands they till and the rich marine surroundings Batangas is gifted by God with. Moreover, the Church supports all efforts to preserve the province’s natural beauty.
The Church in Lipa joins the protest march of the fifty-five farmers and fishermen and their supporters to plead with the authorities for respect for their rights to the land they own and till. As the present Archbishop of Lipa, I am with the marchers in the clamor for the cancellation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of the Asturias Chemical Industries (ACI) and their security of tenure as farmer beneficiaries. They are the rightful owners of the land as evidenced by their Emancipation Patents, the full payment of amortization and the continuous possession of such gift from the Lord, which has provided through patient labor abundant food for the province and even beyond it. These farmers have remained steadfast in cultivating their properly awarded land even when assailed with many legal cases.
The Church has again and again lamented and protested against the displacement of people and the damages done to the integrity of God’s creation effected by irresponsible mining. The Church in LIPA bewails the use of mining laws to dispossess the farmers of their legitimate rights to the land they already own as it has been classified earlier and clearly recognized as agricultural. It is unfortunate that the government, which is supposed to protect the rights of the poor and assist the farmers to become even more productive, appears to connive with business that promises progress with little concern for the total good of the people and for the preservation of nature.
I join my voice to that of the farmers who ask the President to issue a Presidential Proclamation reiterating that the said land is agricultural. In the past, I have supported the successful cry of the Sumilao and Negros farmers because I saw that the problem in our province, most especially the Baha and Talibayog farmers, are exactly the same. Let us pray to God that the authorities, headed by the President, will hear the cry of the poor. The Calatagan farmers are not seeking extraordinary favors. They only ask that their rights be restored and respected.
Like the rest of my brother bishops, I am not against progress. The Church appeals to the government leaders and will support all their initiatives for progress that does not further marginalize and impoverish the great majority who are poor and that does not destroy the beautiful nature of our country, especially Batangas has been gifted with.
(SGD) ARCHBISHOP RAMON C. ARGUELLES