Mapalad farmers keep fingers crossed

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Friday, May 30, 2014


ON THE fourth day of the farmers’ march from Bukidnon to Malacañang, they are keeping their fingers crossed to get positive response from President Benigno Aquino III on the land they have longed to own.

“Although we grabbed the attention of PNoy since he called us to have a dialogue on June 10, we still fear that our plea might not be given importance,” Organi Biong from Bitanagan Farmers Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries of Davao City said.

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper) is a law that has been extended to redistribute public and private agricultural lands to farmers who are landless.

In 2012, the Palace released a statement that all lands will be given to the farmers.

“Between now and June 2014, all agricultural lands shall be covered and distributed to qualified beneficiaries,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said last June 14, 2012.

He said that Aquino reiterated his commitment to the agrarian reform through his agreement on issuing Notices of Coverage (NOCs) to facilitate land acquisition and distribution within the time period prescribed by law.

However, farmers from Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Davao City, Bukidnon and Surigao del Sur who joined the march said they have not received even a piece of land from Aquino's promise.

“We feel that he is not serious at looking into this matter. Ang iyahang saad wala jud tumana hantod karon (Up to now, Aquino hasn’t kept his promise),” Romeo Briososa from Alliance Land Rights Movement in Mindanao (Alarm) said.

Gabriel Balunga, 65, said he has been farming “ever since I came to the world.”

“Farming is the only thing I know in the world. I do not want my children to inherit this. I want them to have their land where they can plant and not to depend on it solely as a source of income,” Balunga said.

His wife, Corazon Balunga, shares her husband’s plight.

“We walked hundreds of kilometers already. I am 59 years old and my joints hurt. But I do not want my children to struggle anymore in the future. We do not want them to become farmers if this is the case. So kaya pa ni. Layo ra ning sakit sa tiil sa tina-e,” she said.

The couple’s close friend and a fellow farmer, Rodelio Cabrehas, one of the oldest participants of the walk said he wants his grandchildren to remember him of the land that will be hopefully given to them through Carper.

“My walk now is bittersweet and I have mixed feelings of excitement and sadness. I am excited because PNoy will finally talk to us. As to his support, that is what I am sad of,” he said.

“For 10 years, I have always wanted to plant on my own land, not on the lands of big corporations. They drive us away in an instant if they want to, yet we all know that the land they are standing on is ours,” Cabrehas said.

“Without us, there will be no person alive today. PNoy should know that. But our hopes are high as the skies that PNoy will extend or start giving NOCs to us,” he added.

On June 30, 2014, Carp will expire.

On May 31, the farmers will depart for Batangas and meet other farmers from Luzon and Negros Occidental.

Together, they will walk to Malacañang.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 30, 2014.

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