Farmers from Barangays Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, Batangas will resume their walk from Batangas to Malacañang today to press for the resolution of the land dispute with Asturias Industries. Last September 20, 2008, the Calatagan farmers began their walk from Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, Batangas to Manila in protest of the series of pronouncements from the DENR and DAR on their case. However, in a dialog with Archbishop Arguelles in Balayan, Batangas on September 21, the farmers were prevailed upon by Archbishop Arguelles to postpone their march to give more time for the on-going negotiation with Ramon Ang and Asturias Industries to arrive at an acceptable compromise.
After waiting for more than two months, the Calatagan farmers have decided to resume their walk to Malacañang today to press the Office of the President to protect the lands distributed to them by the DAR in 1989 and 1990. The march will commence after a send-off to be officiated by Archbishop Arguelles at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa City.
“DENR Secretary Lito Atienza has encouraged us to enter into a negotiation with Ramon Ang. We obliged in good faith. However, while the talks were ongoing, the DENR and the DAR both issued decisions that have derailed our negotiating positions. The DAR dismissed our petition for coverage while the DENT has issued its opinion that our land is “mineralized” even when pending cases against Asturias Industrial at the DENR remained unresolved. We have come to believe that the DENR and the DAR are only bent on pressuring us to accept whatever offer Asturias is putting on the negotiation table. The actions of the DENR Secretary and the DAR are contrary to the spirit of the status quo agreement that is in force while the negotiations are going on” said Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers.
Jane Capacio, Executive Director of Kaisahan, one of the support NGO’s of the Calatagan farmers said that the actions of the DAR and DENR only jeopardized the negotiations with Ramon Ang. “It is as if both government agencies are trying to emaciate the farmers’ claims and their rights over the land to force them into an unjust settlement. We have recently received communication from the negotiation panel of Asturias that Ramon Ang has instructed them to stick to their proposal. This means that they are rejecting the farmers’ proposal” Capacio said. She added that this hard line stance can be traced to the actions of the DENR and DAR.
“Asturias is offering us 90 hectares of mostly mountainous land in Talibayog and lands in Barangay Luya and Encarnacion which are mostly not arable. They want to get the whole of Barangay Baha for mining and their cement plant. Aside from that they also want to get the plains by the sea shore for their industrial and eco-tourism plans and. They have disclosed that aside from the cement plant they are planning to build a Formula 1 race track and hotels in the land” Malauan said.
Manila Archbishop Broderick Pabillo also expressed his support for the Calatagan farmers. “I was with the Calatagan farmers in September and I have witnessed for myself the lush vegetable gardens, the well-tended rice lands, the fruit trees on the one hand and the struggle, anguish and fear on the farmers’ faces on the other hand” Pabillo said. Bishop Pabillo and Archbishop Arguelles have requested the parishes that are along the route of the Calatagan farmers’ march to provide them with food and shelter. From Lipa, the farmers will have sleep-overs in Sto. Tomas and Sta. Rosa. They are expected to enter Manila on December 4 and will be received by the Ateneo Community on December 5.