29 April 2008
The 55 Calatagan farmers walked to the Senate yesterday to express their support for Senate Bill 2047 authored by Senator Jinggoy Estrada introducing reforms and a 7-year extension of CARP and to bring their case to the attention of the senators. Later in the day,they picketed the Region IV office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) as their legal counsel filed their opposition to the motion to dismiss filed by Asturias Industries against the farmers’ petition for cancellation of the company’s MPSA.
The Calatagan farmers marched to De La Salle University in Taft Ave. where they received a warm welcome from the DLSU Community and the La Salle brothers. A Mass was celebrated at the university’s Chapel of the Pearl of Great Price by their pastor, Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles of the Archdiocese of Lipa. In his homily, Archbishop Arguelles that he has known and supported the Calatagan farmers’ cause for year. He said that one day the nation will realize that it has forsaken the poor by allowing the rich to take away what little the poor farmers from Baha and Talibayog have. The Batangas prelate issued a pastoral statement expressing the support of the Archdiocese of Lipa, which covers the whole of Batangas province, to the cause and the march of the Calatagan farmers. He said that the support of the archdiocese for the Calatagan farmers was started by Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales during his term as Archbishop.
“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” Arguelles’ pastoral statement said. He also said that he joins his “voice to that of the farmers who ask the President to issue a Presidential Proclamation reiterating that the said land is agricultural.” The archbishop said that he has supported the cause of the farmers from Sumilao and Negros because their cases are similar to that of the Calatagan farmers. Earlier in the day, representatives of the Calatagan farmers and Task Force Baha-Talibayog met with Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo at the Sto. Niño Parish in Tondo, Manila. Bishop Pabillo expressed his support for the Calatagan farmers and is expected to issue a statement later in the week. Bishop Pabillo, together with Cardinal Rosales, was instrumental in the resolution of the case of the Sumilao farmers exactly a month ago today.
As this developed, the Calatagan farmers are marching to the central office of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City today where they will pitch camp. They will be met by Akbayan Party-List Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, another staunch supporter of the Calatagan farmers. The solon will give the farmers a seedling of a molave tree which she said aptly represents the will and conviction of the Calatagan farmers. “The Calatagan farmers, like the farmers from Sumilao, gives the struggle for agrarian reform and justice a human face. They are living symbols of what Akbayan has been fighting for, victimized by the greed of the rich landlords yet unwavering in their conviction to stand up to their rights and claim what is rightfully and justly theirs. It is for farmers like them and cases like theirs that Akbayan is working for the reform and extension of CARP in Congress” the solon said. Rep. Hontiveros-Baraquel is principal sponsor to House Bill 1257 which calls for the introduction of critical reforms and the extension of the CARP.
“One of the key reforms that we have introduced and which was carried by the substitute bill approved by the House Committee on Agrarian Reform is the provision on the indefeasibility of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and Emancipation Patents. The Calatagan case demonstrates how the farmers can still be haunted by their former landlords even more than a decade after the distribution of the land and even despite their having paid fully their land amortizations” Hontiveros Baraquel said.
The Calatagan farmers will picket the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as the Multisectoral Sectoral Task Force on Calatagan that was created jointly by DAR and DENR will meet at 4pm today. The Task Force is composed of representatives of the DENR, DAR, MGB, NGO’s and PO’s including the Calatagan farmers and the Archdiocese of Lipa.
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.