MisOr farmers dismayed at DENR, DAR on land dispute

PEASANTS from a town in Misamis Oriental are dismayed Monday over the alleged disregard by two government offices on the former's petition to own a tract of land their ancestors had occupied and tilled for decades.

More than 100 farmers from Barangay Plaridel, Claveria town held a picket rally in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) provincial office in Barangay Carmen Monday to demand from the agency the fulfillment of its promises to them which until now have yet to be realized.

According to Richard Colao, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Northern Mindanao, the members of the New Indigenous Barangay Plaridel Farmers Association (Nibpfa) felt they were deceived when DAR, and before that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) promised them the land, including the 48-hectare area, would be distributed to them.

The land in question used to be rented out to a corporation by the DENR through a Forest Land Grazing Agreement (FLGA) or a pasture permit good for 25 years.

When the permit expired in 2005, Nibpfa members, now composed of the descendants of the original settlers in the area, applied for a free patent at the DENR, hoping to legally occupy the land.

The awarding of free patent is based on Republic Act 10023 or an Act authorizing the issuance of Free Patents to residential lands.

In the DENR website, it said any Filipino citizen who is an actual occupant of a residential land may apply for a Free Patent Title under this Act, “provided that in highly urbanized cities the land should not exceed 200 square meters; in other cities it should not exceed 500 square meters; in first class and second class municipalities it should not exceed 750 square meters; and in all other municipalities it should not exceed 1,000 square meters; provided further, that the land applied for is not needed for public service and/or public use.”

Colao said the peasants were confident the area would be awarded to them since after the pasture permit has expired, it will revert back to a public land, unless the FLGA contract was renewed.

But he added, the DENR denied Nibpfa’s request for a free patent, saying the land has a pending case.

In spite of that, the peasants continued to till and occupy the area.

In 2009, DAR had declared the 49 hectares of the 367 hectares in Plaridel as under the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp), with some of the Nibpfa members as beneficiaries.

But in 2011, the peasants were shocked when they discovered that there were other parties who had already applied for free patent, who were not even native of the place.

To add insult to injury, Colao said, a private entity was able to ask for a writ of demolition from the court and even accused the peasants of forcible entry.

He said the corporation and those who were able to secure the Free Patent may be in cahoots.

This, he said, is now the contention of Nibpfa, which claimed that they were the first to apply for free patent since they are the actual occupants of the land.

“Nganong gihatag man sa dili taga Plaridel ang maong Free Patent nga masangay man na ihatag sa mga lumad nga mga lumulopyo diha (Why were these strangers of Plaridel given Free Patent when the natives in the area are more deserving of that)?” he added.

Colao said their group demands the DENR to cancel the Free Patent of non residents, continue the distribution of land to the peasants under Carp, and for the court to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the demolition of the residents’ dwellings.
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