Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Setyembre 5, 2008

Ateneo students launch their own blog on the Calatagan Farmers

Volunteers from the Ateneo de Manila University’s Office of Social Concern and Involvement (OSCI) launched a blog site on the Calatagan Farmers as one of their expressions of support. the Ateneo community, particularly OSCI together with the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) played a pivotal role in the Sumilao campaign late last year until the resolution of the case in March this year.

The calataganmarch.multiply.com blogsite is a testament of the youth’s commitment to the search for justice especially for the poor and the marginalized. The blog site was created and will be maintained by volunteer Ateneo students from OSCI. (Click on the screenshot below to follow the link to the blog site)

The blog site features the developments in the Calatagan Farmers’ campaign and the activities that the students and offices in the Ateneo will launch in support of the farmers.

The Ateneo students have come to know the Calatagan farmers firsthand in several integration activities they have conducted. An immersion session was conducted last month which was followed by several area visits to Barangays Baha and Talibayog. Early last week, the OSCI facilitated the conduct of a Medical Mission participated in by volunteer doctors and students.

The participation of the students of the Ateneo in the Calatagan Campaign (and previously in the Sumilao campaign) is a living testimony that education does not simply happen in the security and sterile environment within the four walls of the university; that education is not only the training of the minds but equally the formation of the hearts and social conscience of the young.

Clearly, these Ateneo students are not only role models in their own university but also to other young people elsewhere. They are living testaments that FAITH can do JUSTICE.

Sa mga volunteer students ng Ateneo, MARAMING SALAMAT.

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Setyembre 4, 2008

Today, they brace themselves for the long journey ahead

by Karla

To express solidarity with the Calatagan farmers, Most Rev. Broderick Pabillo, Auxillary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila and Chair of NASSA, visits Barangays Baha and Talibayog and is now celebrating a Holy Mass. In his homily, he says, “Nais ng Diyos na ang lahat ng kayamanan ng lupa ay pakinabangan ng maraming tao at hindi lang ng iilan. Di nararapat at di makatarungan na ang malalaking lupain ay mapakinabangan ng kakaunti. Hindi rin kalooban ng Diyos na masira ang kanyang nilikha. Nais niya na ang kanyang nilikha ay mapangalagaan.”

He further says, “Ang Diyos ay gumagamit ng maliliit na tao para ibagsak ang malalaki nang sa gayon ay walang makapagmayabang. Dito kayo kumuha ng lakas. Ipaglaban ninyo ang inyong karapatan.”

The Calatagan farmers are asking the Department of Agrarian Reform and the President to uphold their agrarian rights. They also ask DENR Sec. Atienza to cancel the mining contract of Asturias.

— Jane Capacio, Task Force Baha-Talibayog (TFBT), via text message

i’ve been to Talibayog twice now. i’ve talked to NGOs, farmers, OSCI, students, Asturias representatives, and government officials. i’ve heard the story of how the land that had been given to the Calatagan farmers, the land which they had already paid for in full, is now being taken from them. in fact, i’ve heard it something like twenty times from different people, but in every re-telling, i always feel deeply disturbed.

yes, that’s the best word for it. disturbed. i am disturbed by the Calatagan farmers’ plight, by the plight of this country’s poor agrarian reform beneficiaries who could never plant and live peacefully in the small parcels of land that the government had distributed them. i am disturbed because our current system does not seem to have room for substantive justice.

Nanay Virgie, spokesperson of  TFBT, and a young farmer arrived in manila last week to ask for the Ateneo community’s support for their second march on September 15. they went to different class, faculty, and org rooms to personally narrate their story to students and teachers.

they came to our Theo 141 class. i waved to Nay Virgie and she smiled back. she stood in front of our class and told us about the sad history of the Calatagan farmers. her voice wavered more than a few times and she cried. i have seen others shed tears while sharing this tale. yet others are angry, indignant. but surprisingly, no one feels despaired. the battle is long and hard, but they know that they just might win it.

when Nay Virgie and i saw each other again at the OSCI office, she embraced and kissed me. i will never forget that. here is a stranger, a farmer whom i’ve known for less than 5 days, and she already treats me with fondness. the farmers treat all of us who have been to Baha and Talibayog with fondness. over and over they say that it is an honor to have us in their midst, because they know that we can help them.

these farmers trust us. they are confident that we can help them fight their battle. i wonder if we can really live up to their expectations.

we can try, of course. as soon as i heard that Nay Virgie and Uge are doing room-to-room announcements, i asked our former OSCI facilitator if i can join them. unfortunately, i was able to help with only three classes, but it felt good to be with them, to talk about their dilemma, to urge others to help in their own ways.

the plight of the Calatagan farmers will be Matanglawin’s cover story for its 3rd regular issue. i will also be writing another story on it as final requirement for my online journalism class. i feel a little guilty at being ever the journalist, but i think that talking and writing about them would help make more people understand their situation better. storytelling is a powerful motivator, but i hope it doesn’t end with just stories.

today, the Calatagan farmers have been visited by Most. Rev. Pabillo. they will start their second Calatagan March next next Monday, September 15. the marchers will be composed of the original land title holders aged 40-75 years old.

if the first Calatagan March last April 21-29 was difficult, they expect that this one will be more so because of the age of the marchers. the farmers are fully aware of this, yet they’re willing to risk their health and possibly their lives for their cause. they will walk 300 kilometers to get what is their due. if the Sumilao farmers were able to do this, they can too.

i think this is exactly what Theology 141 is about. it’s reaching out to people, knowing their problems, and helping to solve them. this is the face of human solidarity that we’ve been blathering about in class. it is both a duty and an opportunity for us to discover what else we can do to truly be in communion with other people.

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Setyembre 4, 2008

Farming vs mining in Calatagan

By Niña Catherine Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:21:00 09/03/2008

CALATAGAN, Batangas – The picturesque view from the upland village of Luya in Calatagan town in Batangas may explain why the people would not leave their homes. Rows of rice, corn, bitter gourd, tomatoes, eggplants, okra and beans streak through the fields of Baha and Talibayog, surrounded by the sea, forests and mountains.

“One can both farm and fish here. You go to the shore and immediately you could catch big squids and shrimps,” Perfecto Aninao, 52, said.

Good harvest

“Because of farming, my six children are able to go to college. I could give what my family wants,” Aninao said.

Another farmer, Zaldy Castrojeres, 50, said his good harvest was proof that the land was productive and suited for agriculture.

Water comes from around 300 deep wells scattered in the two villages. The farm crops are delivered to public markets in Batangas City, towns in Cavite, and even to Divisoria in Manila, while the community keeps its rice for its own consumption.

Most of the 312 farmers were awarded emancipation patents (EPs) in 1989 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 27. They have occupied 507 hectares of the property that once belonged to their landlord, Ceferino Ascue.

But on Aug. 4, 2000, the Department of Agrarian Reform declared that the lands in Baha and Talibayog had become “mineralized.” A company, Asturias Chemical Industries Inc. (ACII), was planning to extract limestone and shale in 2,336 hectares of land in Calatagan.

Since then, the farmer-beneficiaries have been struggling to win their land in legal battles.

When asked if they would allow ACII to take their land, Aninao said he and the other farmers “will stay here where we were born and raised. I will not leave.”

“They (ACII officials) are making us leave this place like we are the outsiders,” he said while weeding his crops. He said he inherited the land from his grandfather, who had been a farmer since his teenage years.

From his mango trees alone, Aninao is getting P60,000 yearly. Last month, he said he expected a good harvest.

He said his family would not leave even if there were an order of government agencies because “there is no place other than Barangay Talibayog.”

“We are surviving even without the government’s assistance,” he said, noting that they have never received any help in agriculture from the government even after the land titles were awarded to them.

Agricultural vs mineral

Whether the farmers’ 507 hectares of land is agricultural or mineral has been a running dispute for seven years now.

The farmers are stepping up their campaign upon realizing that the government was denying or dismissing their petitions. (See “What Went Before.”)

Mendoza said that in the DAR resolution canceling their EPs following a protest filed by ACII, it was dubious that its investigating team came to Calatagan at summertime when the farmers just shifted planting from rice and corn to vegetable crops.

The farmers also questioned the Supreme Court ruling in 2005, citing findings of the Bureau of Mines that minerals found over 339 hectares in five villages – Carlosa, Encarnacion, Sambungan, Baha and Talibayog – meant the land was mineralized.

“If it’s only 339 (hectares), what would they do with the remaining area in the 2,336-hectare land?” Mendoza added.

He said the farmers, who were still waiting for the DAR decision on their petition for agrarian reform coverage of their lands, were not losing hope. “If this will be denied, then we will elevate our petition to the Office of the President,” he said.

The farmers have filed a petition for the cancellation of the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) between the government and ACII. The company, they claimed, was on the list of delinquent contractors of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Mendoza said ACII violated the agreement when it failed to submit quarterly reports and pay the fines.

The company’s legal counsel, Micaela Rosales, earlier told the Inquirer that there was no reason to cancel the MPSA since the company had “faithfully complied with its provisions.” She insisted that based on a study conducted by the Bureau of Mines in 1965, the land “has always been classified, not as agricultural land, but as mineral land.”

In the meantime, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a temporary restraining order suspending ACII’s exploration activities. The farmers have put up two checkpoints after ACII tried several times to bring mining equipment into the two villages.

ACII has bought other lands in Calatagan intended for the relocation of the farmers affected by the mining project. One property, covering 60 hectares, is in Luya, five kilometers from Talibayog; the second is a 37-hectare land in Encarnacion, a coastal village near the Balayan Bay.

Some 9.7 hectares of the 507-hectare property will also be allotted for the farmers’ new houses.

But the farmers have refused to leave. They planned to walk all the way from Calatagan to Metro Manila again on Sept. 8 to ask President Macapagal-Arroyo to intervene in their case.

“We couldn’t just go. We have spent sweat, our lives and resources for this land,” Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of Task Force Baha-Talibayog, said. “It is close to paradise.”

Ateneo de Manila University confers Ozanam Award to the Sumilao farmers and their lawyer

Three and a half months after making a breakthrough in their 13-years quest to reclaim their land and signing a settlement agreement with San Miguel Corporation, the Sumilao farmers and their lawyer Atty. Kaka Bag-ao of Balaod-Mindanaw will be awarded the Ateneo de Manila’s Ozanam Award. The farmers will receive the award in a Special Academic Convocation to be held at the Henry Lee Irwin Theatre at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) today, July 15. The Ozanam Award will conferred to the Sumilao farmers “in recognition of their peaceful ways of reclaiming their ancestral lands in Sumilao, Bukidnon. The hunger strike and cross-country walk inspired fellow farmers. It also raised awareness and support from students, churches and the nation on the role of agricultural development in national development.”

The Sumilao farmers signed a settlement agreement with San Miguel Corporation last March 29, 2008 at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City which gave them 50-hectares within the 144-hectare contested property. Under the agreement the farmers will also receive 94-hectares outside the 144-hectare property.

“Our peaceful return to our land 3-months ago has given us a brighter view of the future. We are now in the process of turning the land which has been idle for more than a decade into a bountiful field of our dreams” said Peter Tuminhay, a Sumilao farmer leader. He said that cultivating the land and making it productive has not been easy. “The land has been idle for a long time and that is evident in the thick growth that has covered the land. Even just clearing the land for cultivation is labor intensive. At present we are faced by the challenge of making the land productive with our collective financial resources which are meager. While we have received commitments from the DAR in a form of financial assistance right after we gained entry into the 50-hectare property, the production loan that was promised to us has not yet materialized after more than 3 months due to the bureaucratic processes that need to be undertaken” Tuminhay added.

“Our struggle is far from over. We are yet to receive the 94-hectares committed by San Miguel Corporation under the settlement agreement. SMC has submitted to us a list of landholdings that total 59 hectares but only 28 hectares are acceptable to us. The rest of the land being offered by SMC do not comply with the conditions that was set under the agreement. Some of the lands are located very far from our homes, others are still covered by lease agreements and remain planted to pineapple. Others are not irrigated and not nearly as fertile as the 144-hectare land” said Rene Peñas, Sumilao farmer leader and paralegal. Peñas said that the failure of Congress to pass the extension and reform of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law give them reason to be concerned. “According to the settlement agreement, the remaining 94 hectares will be distributed to us under CARP but with the impasse in agrarian reform implementation after the failure of Congress to extend it is worrisome. We have heard of cases where the DAR has refused to install farmer beneficiaries in lands already awarded to them” Peñas added.

Atty. Kaka Bag-ao said that the Sumilao farmers are very careful in making decisions over the land that they have reclaimed. “The decision-making processes among the farmers has been very tedious and patience-stretching. They are very careful that the decisions they arrive at are the consensus of all their members” Bag-ao said. She said that the long and difficult struggle that the farmers had experienced molded their consciousness to be sensitive to each other and to have a deep sense of solidarity with other farmers in struggle.

Bajekjek Merida, one of the young leaders of the Sumilao farmers said that they are humbled to be given the Ozanam Award which they learned was given to persons of distinction. “The tremendous and overwhelming support that we have received during our long struggle made our success not solely ours but a success of a multitude of people and groups who have buoyed us up with their support. We shall be receiving this award not only for ourselves but for the thousands who have supported us and who remain to be supportive of the causes of other farmers who, like us, continue to struggle for a piece of land they can build their dreams on. We share this award with the countless of parishioners, priests and nuns and bishops who fed, nurtured, sheltered and prayed for us. We share this award to all the schools, their faculty and students who welcomed us and joined us in our walk” Merida said.

Atty. Kaka Bag-ao, who shares the award with the Sumilao farmers said that support of the Ateneo community to the Sumilao farmers in the past decade has been overwhelming. Bag-ao, an alumnus of the Ateneo Law School said that her Ateneo education is one of the strongest influences in her career as a lawyer. “I am overwhelmed by the recognition of my Alma Mater, who has taught me to love the path that has taken me to the side of the Sumilao farmers and other farmers like them. I am also overwhelmed to share this award with the Sumilao farmers who had been a part of most of my professional life as a lawyer. What I have not learned in Ateneo, I learned in Sumilao and that makes my education more complete” Bag-ao said. She also said that Ateneo has been part of the most crucial junctures in the Sumilao campaign. “It was here in the Ateneo where his Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales embraced the Sumilao farmers and announced his support for our cause, that evening marked the beginning of our triumphant return to the land in Sumilao” Bag-ao added.

Ateneo will also be conferring academic awards four others namely, Very Rev. Antonio M. Pernia, SVD, Bukas Palad Award in Memory of Fr. Manuel Peypoch, S.J.; Eugenia Duran-Apostol, Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan; Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Gawad Tanglaw ng Lahi; and Dr. Fernando P. Hofileña, Lux-in-Domino Award. ###

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Hulyo 7, 2008

Calatagan farmers start fencing land vs mining firm

GMANews.TV – Sunday, July 6

CALATAGAN, Batangas – Hundreds of farmer-beneficiaries in the villages of Baha and Talibayog here have started building fences over a 507-hectare contested property, a move which they said would protect their farmlands from a mining firm.

“We are fencing our lands to remind them that this is ours and to thwart all future attempts of Asturias (Chemical Industries) to convert an agricultural land into a mining site,” Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of farmers, told GMANews.TV in an interview.

The fencing project, which was launched Saturday, would initially cover a 9.7-hectare farmland designated by Asturias Chemical Industries as its relocation site for the farmers that will be displaced once the firm starts its mining activities in the area.

Armed with hammers and head hats, the farmers began fencing the area at about 11 a.m. using cut bamboo trees and barbwires.

“We will not give up our property. These farmlands are legally and rightfully ours. They would be unlawfully entering private lands should they insist on installing their equipment in our farmlands,” Malaluan said.

Joining the farmers were representatives from the church, agrarian reform, non-government organizations, and students from De La Salle University and Ateneo De Manila University.

“I think it is not only the schools but also the parishes and churches that must unite since perhaps this is the only way by which we can achieve long-term changes in our society,” said Bro. Joemari Manzano, a Jesuit seminarian, in a separate interview.

Last June 28, workers of Asturias allegedly tried to bring in several trucks with mining equipment to begin their project in the area, but the farmers stopped them by barricading the streets and demanding for legal documents authorizing their entry.

Three days later, the farmers received reports that the mining firm would once again try to enter the community after its trucks were sighted at the nearby Balayan town.

They said these things happened despite an April 29 order by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to temporarily suspend the mineral exploration permit of Asturias in Baha and Talibayog in order “to prevent untoward incidents in the area.”

The series of events, Malauan said, likewise prompted the farmers to fence their respective lands.

GMANews.TV tried to get in touch with Gary Sevilla, Asturias community project officer, but his cellphone was turned off. He was also not responding to our text messages.

In an early emailed statement sent by Asturias legal counsel Micaela Rosales, she said that based on the Bureau of Mines Geological investigation in 1965, the land being claimed by the farmers “has always been classified not as agricultural but mineral land.”

She also claimed that the 507-hectare disputed property was acquired by Asturias “with the court’s consent” and not grabbed as alleged by the farmers.

The land in Baha and Talibayog, originally owned by the late Ceferino Ascue, was distributed to by the national government to 312 farmer beneficiaries in 1989 under Presidential Decree No. 27 and Operation Land Transfer.

Most of the farmers have fully paid their amortization on the Land Bank of the Philippines and have been issued emancipation patents (EPs).

In 1994, however, the heirs of Ascue, using the original certificate of title, sold the whole 800-hectare property, including the 507-hectare land owned by the farmers, to Asturias Chemical Industries.

The firm plans to build a cement plant complex and industrial park in the area.

Asturias later protested before the Department of Agrarian Reform that the land should not have been distributed to the farmers since it contained minerals, which the DAR agreed.

On July 28, 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the DAR decision that the property is a “mineral land.”

Asturias has a 25-year mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) with the DENR, covering 2,336 hectares of land in the villages of Baha, Talibayog, Punta and Hukay in Calatagan. – GMANews.TV

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Hulyo 4, 2008

Ateneo, La Salle students unite to help farmers


STUDENTS from De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University launched Buklod Bakod campaign to help farmers in Calatagan, Batangas prevent mining undertaking by Asturias Industries.

The students will go to Bgys. Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan to help farmers fence their farmlands.

The initiative is spearheaded by DLSU-Center for Social Concern and Action, DLSU-Committee on National Issues, the DLSU Student Council, the Ateneo Simbahang Lingkod Bayan, and the Ateneo University Student Council.

The students groups expressed their support for the farmers and vowed to defend the gains of agrarian reform.

Last April, the Calatagan farmers walked for more than 300 kilometers to demand for the revocation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement issued by the government to Asturias, the basis of which is a 1965 Bureau of Mines findings that the farmlands are part of a 2,000-hectare “mineralized” area.

The farmers renewed their appeal to the government to revoke the mining agreement.

“A food crisis is imminent. The government must not allow productive farmlands to be converted for mining,” said Ka Uper Aleroza, chairperson of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK).
For her part, Ka Virgie Malaluan, spokesperson of the Baha-Talibayog farmers, said that Asturias should not be given a velvet glove treatment.

The farmers said that despite a suspension order on mining exploration permit in the contested area, the Asturias Industries, tried to sneak in mining equipments in the property last Saturday, June 28, 2007, in the guise of holding a medical mission and mangrove reforestation for the farming community. Jeffrey C. Tiangco

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Hulyo 3, 2008

Calatagan farmers determined to keep their land

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 14:10:00 07/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines — When the House of Representatives deferred voting on the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) last June 10, the 55 farmers from Calatagan, Batangas decided to go home.

Armed with their emancipation patents — equivalent to land titles — as proof of their ownership to the land and the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) against mining firm Asturias Chemical Industries (ACI), the farmers were confident that the 512-hectare of farm land was theirs.

But last June 28, trucks and sales agents from ACI tried to enter the lands of the farmers, allegedly to plant mangroves and set up relocation sites for the farmers.

“They brought drilling materials, so we presumed they were going to start mining exploration activities,” said Magistrado Mendoza, legal counsel of the Calatagan farmers on Thursday.

Tension erupted when the farmers formed a human fence to prevent ACI personnel from entering their lands.

Mendoza stressed that the farmers were the legal owners of the land.

“The farmers fully paid all fees, including taxes,” he said.

Mendoza added that the conflict started when ACI was also issued a land title and a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA). But DENR Secretary Lito Atienza issued a TRO on the MPSA last April.

Instead, ACI was able to obtain a mayor’s permit, even though the TRO was still in effect.

“Kaming mga magsasaka ay nakahanda upang hadlangan ang proyekto ng Asturias. Papanatilihin namin ang aming karapatan na depensahan ang lupa. Amin po yun hindi naman kanila. Bakit naming hahayaang pasukin at sirain nila ang lupa [We the farmers are ready to stop the project of Asturias. We will fight for our right to defend our land. It is ours, not theirs. Why will we allow them to enter and destroy the land]?” said Virgie Malaluan, one of the Calatagan farmers.

Akbayan chairperson Etta Rosales said three human rights violations were evident in the case of the Calatagan farmers: social justice, right to adequate food, and right to sustainable development.

“Why in heaven’s name are we importing rice and too much surplus of agricultural products? We have an absence of national consciousness in addressing the right to adequate food that makes our food production self sufficient to feed the people,” Rosales said.

She added that the violation of the rights of farmers would affect all consumers, because the farmers supply the food to both the cities and provinces.

“It is beyond logic that they should allow the minero [miners] to prevail over the magsasaka [farmers]. The right of the peasant is the right of the Filipino,” Rosales added.

The more than 800 farmers who were issued land titles in Calatagan vowed to remain vigilant in protecting the farm land.

“Oras na kami umalis ay tiyak na papasok sila. Mananatili kaming aktibo sa pagbabantay [The moment we leave, they will definitely enter. We will be vigilant in our watch],” Malaluan said.

Farmers have set up outposts around the farm land, to guard against ACI personnel who would attempt to enter.

“Binakudan namin ang aming lupa, araw-gabi kaming magbabantay, at naglagay kami ng checkpoint sa lahat ng entry points na pwedeng pasukan ng ACI [We put up a fence around our land, which we will guard day and night. We also set up checkpoints in all entry points where the ACI could enter],” said farmer Ruperto Aleroza.

Students from Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and De La Salle University (DLSU) have also launched Buklod Bakod on Thursday, aiming to set up fences around the Calatagan farm lands to prevent ACI from entering.

Rosales said they would continue to help the farmers obtain their land like they did in Sumilao. But Mendoza added that they would use only “non-violent means to protect the rights of the farmers.”

“The longer we resolve the issue, the higher the tension in the area and the more confused the people are,” he said.

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Hulyo 2, 2008

Calatagan Update

Task Force Baha and Talibayog

Calatagan Farmers’ Campaign Update

July 01, 2008

Looming threat of Asturias’s entry of construction materials

hangs in the air of Baha and Talibayog, Calatagan

Second Attempt
Two hundred farmers, qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries, some barangay councilors and their support groups trooped into the streets of Barangays Baha and Talibayog last night to barricade two points of entry in the said barangays.

The farmers did this in response to the news they received regarding Asturias’ plan to bring in construction materials inside their barangays. Fortunately, nothing happened last night but the looming threat of entry of the Asturias camp into their community made their nights sleepless. They decided to actively monitor the movement of the Asturias camp in their community since Friday.

First Attempt

On the night of June 27, Friday, the farmers received news that Asturias would be conducting Mangrove Tree Planting, Medical Mission and a Mass in the communities of Baha and Talibayog.

At 6:00 am on June 28, Asturias together with their support group conducted their mangrove tree planting activity. At 8:00am, 12 policemen arrived in the area and immediately went to the barangay hall where the medical mission was on going. At 10am, Mayor Sofia Palacio arrived in the area with Mr. Gari Sevilla, one of Asturias’ representatives and Mr. Harlan Torres, a former municipal councilor of Calatagan. They went in and out of the area without acknowledging the presence of Calatagan farmers who were on the streets at the time.

After the Asturias group went for lunch, the policemen came back and started negotiating for the entry of construction materials in the barangay. The policemen showed some documents that they claimed were complete. Thus, the farmers should let the Asturias camp to start their construction and operation immediately. When all of this was on going, the construction materials which were loaded in a truck and a pick up truck can be seen from where the farmers are located.

However, the farmers immediately noticed that the documents that the policemen showed to them were not complete. The documents were signed by the former Mayor Peter Oliver Sevilla and there was no approval from the provincial government to operate in the area.

The farmers asserted their right over their land. They did not budge in their position.

At 4:00pm, the policemen requested the farmers and the Asturias to back off from each other for 100 meters. The farmers did move from their position while the Asturias camp complied with the policemen’s request.

During this time, the policemen also removed the checkpoints that the farmers constructed in the road. According to them, that checkpoint was not official such that it is just obstructing the barangay road. The farmers allowed the policemen to do so.

At 9:00pm, the PNP local chief once again requested everyone to go home but the farmers said that they would just go home when the construction materials brought by Asturias’s would leave their barangay.

Thirty minutes thereafter, the Asturias’s camp together with the materials and the policemen left the barangays. Some members of Task Force Baha Talibayog (TFBT) followed the Asturias’s camp to make sure that they actually leave the barangay premises.

After this incident, many of the farmers decided not to go home and instead watch the two entry points of Baha and Talibayog.

Call for Action

You can support the farmers cause by:

· Be part of the Buklod Bakod activity starting on Saturday, July 5, 2008. This will be the first day of a community wide fencing of the farmers homelots and farmlots;

· Discuss their issue to your community, school and friends and gather support for the farmers cause;

· Be part of the support group of the Calatagan farmers; and

· Lend them a hand through your prayers.

MANILA, Philippines – Farmers in Calatagan town in Batangas province are up in arms against a cement company that they claim is poised to hold operations on a property they claim their own.

Members of Task Force Baha-Talibayog had accused Asturias Chemical Industries Inc. of attempting to bring their construction equipment into the contested area Monday night.

Asturias reportedly has a mineral production sharing agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The property in question is the more than 2,336-hectare area traversing the municipalities of Calatagan and Balayan.

According to the group, the attempt of Asturias to bring in their construction equipment inside the villages prompted hundreds of farmers, qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries, some barangay councilors, and their support groups to barricade two points of entry in their respective areas.

“Fortunately, nothing happened (Monday) night. But the looming threat of entry of the Asturias camp into our community made our nights sleepless,” Task Force Baha-Talibayog said.

“So, we decided to actively monitor the movement of the Asturias camp into our community since Friday,” it added.

The group claimed that the first attempt of Asturais to bring in their equipment was last June 28, allegedly under the guise of mangrove tree planting activity, medical mission, and a Mass in the communities of Baha and Talibayog.

They said that Mayor Sofia Palacio arrived in the area around 10 a.m. with a certain Gari Sevilla, allegedly one of Asturias’ representatives, and Harlan Torres, a former municipal councilor of Calatagan.

The group said Palacio, Sevilla, and Torres went in and out of the area “without acknowledging the presence of Calatagan farmers who were on the streets at the time.”

The group further said that around lunchtime, policemen started negotiating for the entry of construction materials in the village.

The policemen purportedly showed some documents and asked the farmers to let the Asturias camp to start their construction and operation immediately.

As the negotiations occurred, the group said the cement firm’s construction materials, which were loaded in a truck and a pick up truck, were already sighted near the area.

Farmers said the documents presented them were signed by former Mayor Peter Oliver Sevilla and that there was no approval from the provincial government for the company to operate in the area.

A conflict reportedly almost ensued had not the police managed to appease both camps, with the alleged construction materials of Asturias finally leaving the premises. GMANews.TV

Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Hunyo 28, 2008

Farmers bar move to kick them out of their land

MANILA, Philippines – Farmers in Calatagan, Batangas have aborted an attempt by a local miner to evict them from land they already own and till.

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

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