Farmers want to cultivate rice fields at Negros First Ranch

A GROUP of farmer-petitioners asked the provincial government to allow them to cultivate about 10 hectares of rice fields within the properties occupied by the Negros First Ranch at Hacienda Ilimnan, Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia.

Danilo Tabura said during an interview at the Negros Press Club on Wednesday that they have been tilling the lands during the ownership of the Maravilla family, which sold the property to Arguelles family.

The Arguelleses later sold the land to the province.

“The ricefields are located on the riverbanks and the province does not utilize it now. We can utilize it for our living,” said Tabura, who came with 20 other claimants.

The group said they now have the right to cultivate the ricefields especially with the recent decision of the Department of Agrarian Reform dismissing the petition of the provincial government to exempt the said properties from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program coverage.

Sta. Rosa village chief Benjamin Parreño on Wednesday said the dialogue they arranged for all stakeholders of the Negros First Ranch failed after the farmers said that they will go on with their plan to enter the property and cultivate the rice fields.

The Provincial Government was represented by Atty. Ariel Cuaycong of the Provincial Legal Office. Also present were members of the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, and representatives of non-government organizations.

More security

Meanwhile, Provincial Legal Officer Jose Maria Valencia said on Wednesday that more police personnel were deployed to secure the area and its neighboring barangays after the farmer-petitioners attempt to takeover the site Tuesday.

There’s no reason for the farmers to take over the property because it was not awarded to them, he added.

The police told them that they will take action if there were complaints for illegal trespassing, that’s why they pulled out from the area to avoid charges, Valencia said.

He said the provincial government “will not entertain” these people, “if you will allow them to occupy, what will stop others from occupying the area too?”

“If they’re asking for a livelihood program, why do they have to occupy the property? That’s extortion,” Valencia said, adding that he believes “someone is behind” the farmers’ action as some of them are not from Murcia.

“Some of them come from different localities like San Carlos City, Escalante City and Salvador Benedicto,” he said. (With reports from Marchel P. Espina)

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