By Marrah Erika Lesaba
Southern Luzon Bureau / Inquirer
First Posted 15:49:00 12/02/2008
MALVAR, Batangas — Some 76 farmers from Calatagan, Batangas on Tuesday embarked on the second day of a march on Malacañang to demand a resolution to their land dispute with Asturias Industries.
The farmers are expected to enter Manila on December 4 and will be received by the Ateneo Community on December 5.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles sent off the farmers from Barangay (villages) Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan on Monday after officiating a mass for them at the San Sebastian Cathedral, Lipa City.
The farmers were joined by the La Salle Center for Social Concern and Action and the Ateneo Office for Social Concern and Involvement.
Church leaders requested the parishes along the route of the Calatagan farmers’ march to provide them with food and shelter.
On their first day, the farmers marched to Sta. Rosa and then slept
The farmers had originally launched their march on September 20 but were prevailed upon by Arguelles at a dialogue in Balayan town just a day after they started out to allow negotiations with Asturias’ Ramon Ang for an acceptable compromise.
But after more than two months, the farmers, in a statement, said they decided to push through with their march on Malacañang, accusing the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of issuing “decisions that have derailed our negotiating positions,” after they acquiesced to Environment Secretary Jose Atienza’s urging for them to negotiate with Ang.
Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers, said the DAR dismissed their petition for coverage while the DENR issued an opinion that the contested land is “mineralized” even when pending cases against the Asturias Industries 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.” she said.
She said the actions of the DENR and DAR are contrary to the spirit of a status quo agreement enforced during the negotiations.
Malauan said Asturias is offering 90 hectares of mostly mountainous land in Talibayog and in Barangay Luya and Encarnacion, which she described as mostly not arable.
She accused Asturias of targeting the whole of Barangay Baha for mining and a cement plant, as well as plains by the seashore for its industrial and eco-tourism plans.
“Aside from the cement plant, they are planning to build a Formula 1 race track and hotels on the land,” she added.
Manila Archbishop Broderick Pabillo 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,” he said.