Workers of Asturias Industries have been stopped from bringing in equipment to a “proposed relocation site” within a 507 hectare lot already distributed to farmers, a spokesman for the group told GMANews.TV.
Armed with an order signed by Calatagan Mayor Sofia Palacios, the mining company’s workers planned to deliver and install water distribution equipment in a 9.7 hectare area, said Gary Lazaro.
The area was initially planned to be the relocation site of farmers once they were evicted from their land, Lazaro claimed.
Even after farmers secured their individual claims to their lots in 1990, the property was later sold to Asturias which currently intends to explore the land for minerals. The sale was reportedly illegal. In 1997, the company secured a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) with the government.
As soon as Asturias’ workers entered the property on Saturday afternoon, they were blocked by farmers who demanded formal and proper government documents authorizing the entry.
The mining firm’s workers “didn’t bring a conversion order” from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Lazaro said, referring to a document that would have changed the land’s classification.
If issued, the order would make the previously agricultural lots into land fit for non-agricultural use, including mining. The order would also exempt the land from agrarian reform.
In May, Calatagan farmers organized a noise barrage at the Batasan Pambansa complex to oppose the conversion of their lands into a mining site.
In late April, Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros delivered a privilege speech at the House of Representatives, emphasizing the plight of the Calatagan, Batangas farmers.
Besides criticizing the Department of Agrarian Reform for admitting it erred in classifying the property as agricultural land, Hontiveros also echoed farmers’ sentiments that the mining company’s move was “sinister and underhanded attempt to reverse what should have been an agrarian reform victory in order to convert an agricultural land into a mining area.” – GMANews.TV