Farmers press for land ownership

Posted on April 10, 2014

BACOLOD CITY -- About 400 agrarian reform beneficiaries held simultaneous rallies outside the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) offices in four towns and three cities in Negros Occidental Tuesday to demand the immediate release of their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs).

“CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) is already 25 years old and yet, large landholdings remain untouched waiting to be acquired and distributed to the farmers,” said Felipe Levy Gele, incoming secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid Ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Negros Occidental.

Mr. Gele noted that many farmers have been charged with criminal cases like forcible entry to kick them out of the CARP landholdings.

KMP members as well as peasants belonging to the Mapisan Alliance held protest rallies in the towns of Hinigaran, Binalbagan, Cauayan and Hinoba-an and the cities of Kabankalan, Himamaylan and Sipalay.

Tension heightened in Himamaylan and Kabankalan when policemen tried to disperse the protesting farmers and accused them of illegal assembly. The policemen allowed the protests to proceed after negotiations with the peasant leaders.

Mr. Gele said they will hold more rallies against provincial and municipal agrarian reform offices until all the CLOAs have been distributed to all the ARBs.

Records from DAR Region 6 show that in Negros Occidental -- one of the provinces in the Philippines with the largest land area covered by CARP -- about 26,100 hectares have yet to be distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

The agency distributed only 5,500 hectares to ARBs in Negros Occidental last year while target distribution this year is 26,000 hectares. -- Adrian P. Nemes III