DAVAO CITY – A group of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in Mindanao is seeking the help of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in installing the farmers as landowners of properties occupied by large agricultural companies in Mindanao even though the farmers have been given the certificate of land ownership award (CLOAs) by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Speaking during “Wednesdays’ at Habi at Kape,” Romeo V. Ticon, project staff of the Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon sa Kanayunan (UNORKA)-Mindanao, said some of their ARB members have not been installed as landowners due to the refusal of the big companies running banana, oil palm, and coconut plantations, mostly in Davao del Norte and Agusan del Sur, to honor them as owners.
Ticon asked the President to order the DAR to release the installation orders immediately so that the farmers can start benefiting from the properties that had been taken by the big plantation companies from them.
Leoderic P. Luzeñada, UNORKA-Mindanao secretary general and member of the Sto. Tomas Individual Farming ARB Cooperative (SIFARBCO), said he recalled receiving their CLOAs as among the 179 land reform beneficiaries in 2000 but they have yet to own their properties now planted with bananas in Sto. Tomas town, Davao del Norte.
He said the SIFARBCO members were supposed to have collectively owned 214.8 hectares at 1.2 hectares each ARB.
He said the SIFARBCO members could not take over as their properties are still bound to a 30-year “leaseback” agreement which the ARBs signed with a banana company in 2002.
But Luzeñada said the ARBs demanded that their properties be returned to them after complaining the stingy annual rent of P4,500 per hectare being paid by the banana firm in Sto. Tomas.
“We can no longer stomach the measly rent. It’s killing us. We are pitiful, and drowned in debt,” he said in the vernacular.
A year after Duterte assumed the presidency, Luzeñada said the 30-year agreement between them and the company had been revoked but no installation had taken place, as the company was able to secure a motion for reconsideration from the court.
He lamented that the 16-member Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) has yet to resolve the land dispute two years after.
The PARC, chaired by the President, is tasked to “coordinate the implementation of the CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) and to ensure the timely and effective delivery of the necessary support services.”
Ticon said the land disputes would be among the issues that will be tackled during the Mindanao Farmers’ Conference on July 13 at the Davao City Recreation Center where 3,000 farmers in the banana, coconut, oil palm, cacao, coffee, tropical fruits, and cereals from all over Mindanao will attend.
He said the organizers aimed to present the Mindanao agrarian reform framework and direction for peaceful transformation and development and request for policy support from both executive and legislative sectors of the government.
Last June 13, Duterte distributed a total of 12,548 CLOAs to 13,585 farmer-beneficiaries, which cover 24,000 hectares from the provinces of North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.