AGRARIAN Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano denied the motion for reconsideration of the provincial government to exclude its 159-hectare property in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia from agrarian reform coverage.
Mariano affirmed the ruling of his predecessor Virgilio de los Reyes, as he junked the petition of the Capitol, represented by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. for lack of merit, the agency announced in its website on Wednesday.
The decision came Wednesday, four days after the visit of Mariano in Bacolod City to have a dialogue with the farmers. He also had a closed-door meeting with Marañon.
The farmers, who are camping outside the Provincial Capitol building for a month already, are calling on the provincial government to allow them to recultivate the 12-hectare portion of the property, which the Capitol had purchased for the establishment of the Negros First Ranch in 2010.
After the Provincial Government lost its petition to exclude the property from Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) coverage on May 10, farmers of Hacienda Ilimnan Farm Workers Association, along with the support of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW)-Negros and its allied groups, held a rally, insisting that they are beneficiaries of the property.
‘Farmers to till land’
Stephen Leonidas, director of DAR-Negros Island Region, said the Provincial Government will allow the farmers to till a portion of the Negros First Ranch.
Leonidas confirmed this after his meeting on Wednesday afternoon with Marañon and Provincial Veterinarian Renante Decena at the Governor’s Office.
He said the meeting had a positive outcome, adding that the Capitol heeded the call of the farmers to cultivate the more than three-hectare rice land.
Leonidas added that the provincial government will finalize the arrangements “hopefully, today.”
The DAR official said he will meet with the farmers afterwards.
Leonidas said he didn’t discuss with the governor the ruling of Mariano on the Murcia property, adding that he has not yet seen the decision of the DAR secretary when he met with Marañon.
Lack of merit
Mariano issued the order in response to the complaint of the farmers against Marañon on alleged unjust eviction, the press release said.
The DAR chief had earlier vowed to go after the landlords, as he denied for lack of merit the application for exclusion filed by the Provincial Government.
“No farmer should be evicted from the farm he/she is tilling. Negros Occidental is not only the sugar bowl and city of smiles in the Philippines. It is also the bastion of haciendas,” he said.
Mariano said the Provincial Government “did not dispute the fact that before June 15, 1988 and until the year 2010, when it bought 97.2865 hectares of Lot 3 from the heirs of Alfonso Arguelles, and in 2012, when it bought Lot 1 from George Arguelles, the said parcels of land were not anymore used for cattle-raising.”
DAR records showed that before June 15, 1988 and until 2010 or 2012, the land ceased to be used for cattle-raising. Hence, they can be and were rightfully placed under the coverage of Carp, Mariano said, adding that these facts merely show that subject lands are proper subject of coverage.
While it may be true that it now devotes the parcels of land purchased from Arguelles Family for public use and purpose, the implementation of agrarian reform, is also for public use and interest, Mariano said.
He added that farm workers embarked on land cultivation of around 12 hectares in Barangay Ilimnan for food crops to ease extreme hunger and poverty in the community due to the annual “tiempo muerto,” or off-milling season. This year’s tiempo muerto is aggravated by drought caused by El Niño.