The farmers are protesting the conversion of the 507-hectare rice land for mining purposes and called on DAR and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) issued by the DENR to the Asturias Chemical Industries (ACI).
They are protesting a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, which stated that:
• the disputed land was erroneously covered by PD 27; and
• that it was “mineralized” based on the DAR decision, the 1965 Bureau of Mines study and DENR’s issuance of an MPSA and Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to Asturias Industries.
The Calatagan farmers have set up camp outside the DAR office, where they were met by Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel. Baraquel gave the farmers a seedling of a molave tree that, she said, represented the struggle of the farmers.
“The Calatagan farmers, like the farmers from Sumilao, give 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,” she said.
Task Force Calatagan, comprised of representatives from the DENR, DAR, and other concerned government agencies, was set to meet with the farmers at 4 p.m. Tuesday to resolve the conflict.
DENR undersecretary Manuel Gerochi, a member of Task Force Calatagan, said that Environment Secretary Lito Atienza has ordered the Bureau of Mines to suspend its renewal of exploration by the ACI in the disputed land. Gerochi said the period for exploration expired in December 2007.
The Calatagan farmers came from the De La Salle University in Taft Avenue, Manila where they stayed Monday night.
The farmers said that the land was agricultural and should not be used for mining.