Tension grips palm oil land reform areas in Agusan

THE REGION
By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN
December 5, 2017

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SAN Francisco, Agusan del Sur— Tension gripped the palm oil lands in Rosario town already up for final distribution as land reform areas on Dec. 6 after the killing of an agrarian reform beneficiary (ARB) of a splinter group which has camped out in their claimed area since Nov. 11.

The killing of Rolando Moreno Sr. on Nov. 28 was believed to have stemmed from animosities between three groups of ARBs who are awaiting installation of their lands as part of the close to 4,000 hectares of palm oil plantation areas of multinational NDC-Guthrie Plantation Inc. (NGPI) which was converted into land reform areas in 1998.

Police report said Moreno who confronted a group of ARB members from the rival group led by Nestor Alcular was shot to death at gunpoint. A recorded mobile phone video on the incident will be used by the Municipal Police Office of Rosario town in the filing of formal charges against the perpetrators.

Alcular’s faction, which is the original group of NGPI ARB Multi-Purpose Cooperative, protested the final resolution of the Provincial Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of which the writ of reinstallation on the distributed land reform lands will be released this week.

Occupied

Ahead of the turn-over event, the victim’s group led by Emmanuel Sustino has already occupied their designated areas to start developing the farm and apparently secure their parcel of lands from intruders in the wake of growing hostilities among the infighting ARB factions.

Sustino has singled out leaders of Alcular’s group for enriching themselves with the cooperative’s profits while distributing measly amount of dividends to lowly members during yearly assemblies.

He particularly cited an instance in the past when cooperative’s board of directors and staff received P20,000 each while the members were only given P1,500 each.

Sustino also questioned the unfair policy carried out by Alcular group where the size of an area for every agrarian reform beneficiary will depend on the amount of capital build up it shared which he said runs counter to agrarian reform law of equal distribution of at least three hectares each for ARBs.

He also questioned accountability of the hundreds of millions of pesos the cooperative earned in the last three years which members of the splinter groups have been deprived of dividends.

Point of interest

The third faction led by a certain Abalaya remains mum on the incident although it has been the focus of envy of Alcular’s group after DAR assigned some 307 hectares of replanted palm oil lands already bearing fruits and produced at least P2 million a month.

But Alcular’s group which also set up tents near the main entrance of the palm oil plantation has claimed the productive area as theirs being the mother cooperative and has been getting the monthly P2 million earnings since 2014 while there was still no resolution in the subdivision of the palm oil lands.

Ouster call

In statement written in vernacular, Alcular’s group has called for the ouster of Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Leoncio Bautista as they accused him of favoring the smaller factions with the more productive lands while assigning to them the rest of the less productive over matured 35-year-old pam oil tree areas.

“We call on Bautista to divide the land equally in the more productive and less productive areas which is acceptable to the three parties and if you could not resolve this, you better resign,” the statement said.

Alcular also wrote a letter to Bautista to issue a Cease and Desist Order to Abalaya and Sustino pending new resolution of the case.

Based on their previous agreements, DAR has allocated 444 hectares to Sustino group which has 147 members , Abalaya group with the same 444 hectares for its 146 members while the remaining more than 2,000 hectares goes to Alcular’s group which has more than 800 members.

Fair and square

Bautista retorted the final resolution in the subdivision of lands was reached in a fair and justifiable manner for the parties to peacefully co-exist to equal rights and access to farm roads leading to the national highway and mountainous areas.

DAR officials in a meeting with the three ARB factions and other stakeholders on Oct. 17, handed down the final decision on the distribution of lands because as what DAR Caraga Regional Director Julita Carandang pointed out, “ we could no longer wait for another time because the case has been dragging for such a long time.”

Bautista said Alcular only sent a representative during the crucial meeting which could not decide on the final agreement but later the group protested the decision in the meeting with stakeholders on Nov. 9.

He said Alcular who was present during the meeting to air their protest has even warned he could no longer control some members to be unruly if their new proposal would not be heeded by the body.
But the provincial DAR chief said the new proposal submitted by Alcular’s faction was grossly unfair since they wanted the splinter factions’ areas near the boundaries of converted land reform lands where it is already abandoned in the development of palm oil trees and near influenced areas of the New Peoples Army.

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