A day after lobbying for the enactment of the CARP reform and extension bill at the Agrarian Reform Summit held yesterday by Catholic bishops, legislators and civil society at the Pope Pius Center, the Calatagan farmers continue their walk around Metro Manila to rally for their cause. The fifty-five Calatagan farmers have marched all the way from Calatagan in Batangas to Metro Manila to protest the impending conversion of their farmlands into a mining site of Asturias Industries.
The Calatagan farmers are scheduled to meet the members of the House Committee on Agrarian Reform at 1 pm this afternoon where they will present their case. The Caltagan farmers, who are in danger of losing the land distributed to them under the agrarian reform program 10 years ago, are lobbying for the passage of HB 1257 authored by Akbayan Party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel.
Rep. Hontiveros-Baraquel said that the bill’s provision on the indefeasibility of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and Emancipation Patents, which are titles issued by the DAR to agrarian reform beneficiaries, is very meaningful to farmer beneficiaries like the Calatagan farmers. “Agrarian reform beneficiaries are often faced with the threat of losing the land and the titles distributed to them cancelled even years after the distribution of the land. HB 1257 addresses this issue squarely through the indefeasibility provision which provides that titles issued through the agrarian reform program can no longer be cancelled one (1) year after its registration in the Register of Deeds. This provision is already incorporated in the substitute bill on CARP reform and extension approved by the Committee on Agrarian Reform in the House” Hontiiveros-Baraquel said.
Virgie Malaluan, spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers said that they will will try to convince the lawmakers to include the provisions on land conversion in HB 1257 in the committee’s substitute bill. “The problems we are having in Calatagan arise from the attempts of Asturias Industries to convert prime agricultural land into a mining area. We know that land conversion is one of the major problems faced by farmers like us. We need to protect our farmlands from being converted to other uses especially now that the country is facing a food crisis” Malaluan said.
The Calatagan farmers will seek to convince the Committee on Agrarian Reform to conduct an a congressional on agricultural lands being converted into mining sites. “In our case, the lands in Baha and Talibayog are being reclassified into a mineral lands only on the basis of a 1965 Bureau of Mines study which reported the presence of limestone and shale in the area and the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement issued to Asturias Industries without the benefit of neither a presidential proclamation nor an act of Congress’ Malaluan said.
The Calatagan farmers marched from Calatagan to Manila from April 21 to 29 to seek the cancellation of the MPSA of Asturias Industries and to ask President Arroyo to confirm the agricultural classification of the 507-hetare disputed land through a proclamation. This call was echoed by Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles of the Archdiocese of Lipa in a pastoral statement issued last April 28.