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Calatagan Farmers March for Social Justice

He who has less in life should have more in law,” Ramon Magsaysay.

If one desires to bridge the gap of social inequalities in Philippine society we have a moral and constitutional obligation to see to it that those with less in life or the poor disposed farmers should have a fair deal in their quest to be productive contributors in our society.

The Philippine Constitution of 1987 clearly mandates the State to promote comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform under Art II, Sec 12. While Art XII, Sec 1 commits the State to the goals of a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth and obliges the state to promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform. In lieu of all these articles and sections in the 1987 constitution why are the farmers of Calatagan, Batangas under the threat of getting dispossessed once again?

The plight of the Calatagan Farmers as described by Saligan an NGO in support of the
farmers’ march that ended on May 1st, 2008:

Just like in the recent case of the Sumilao farmers, the case of the Calatagan farmers involves a situation where farmers whose right over land awarded to them under the government’s Agrarian

Reform Program is being threatened by greed and government inaction.

On various dates between 1989 and 1990, 818 Emancipation Patents were issued to 312 farmer-beneficiaries under Presidential Decree No. 27 covering about 507 hectares of agricultural land located in Barangays Baha and Talibayog, Calatagan Batangas. The property was among those formerly owned by Ceferino Ascue. For the next 10 years, the agrarian reform beneficiaries peacefully tilled the land and, given a new lease to improve their lives, cultivated the land according to their own plans and dreams. Some remained rice and corn farmers, others preferred to grow vegetables and a variety of other crops. Within those years they were able to fully pay the land amortizations to the government.

Sadly, neither the farmers' ten years of peaceful possession nor their full payment of the land amortizations have kept the farmers from being threatened with losing what has become justly and rightfully theirs.
If the land has been distributed through a presidential decree how can the former land owner (heirs of Ceferino Ascue) still sell(?) or assign(?) the property they no longer own? Well, they did in 1995. Asturias Chemical Industries Incorporated (Asturias) "acquired" the property despite the fact that the tenanted areas were already awarded to farmer-beneficiaries. This is a chemical company that is not into mining but probably into this is mine and mine and still mine and not yours because I can do whatever I want in an administration with questionable mandate where loopholes and making loopholes is the order of the day.

Through sleight of hand oooops ok I meant legal maneuverings and to seal the deal Asturias entered into a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement in 1997 with the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). It does not matter that 10 years after they “acquired” the “mineralized” land where they intend to mine and build a cement plant and industrial park along with hotels, etc. that they have yet to comply with basic MPSA conditions such as the submission of reports and declaration of mining feasibility to the government. It makes one wonder why after10 years of failing to fulfill its undertaking the government has not exercised their duty to enforce the law to annul the MPSA based on Asturias non-compliance.

As if the discrepancy and timing is not highly questionable if not spurious there seems to be some kinks below that probably illustrates incompetence or something else:

Relevant documents secured from the national and local government agencies/units have revealed that significant portions of the subject property are still classified as agricultural. These documents are as follows, namely:

a. Land Classification Map 3276;

b. The Comprehensive Land Use Plan of the Municipality of Calatagan as evidenced by three (3) Certification on various dates of the Municipal Planning and Development Office as to land use classification of the subject property.

Moreover, the then Secretary of DENR, Angelo T. Reyes in a letter dated 17 March 2006 addressed to Mr. Ruperto B. Aleroza, stated that:

“xxx please be informed that this Department has not submitted a recommendation to the Office of the President to proclaim as mineral reservation the aforesaid Barangay of Baha, Talibayog, and Hukay.”
Ang Lagay errrrr what’s up with that and despite Asturias failure to comply with the requirements they have the gall to threaten to evict the farmers who are the legal owners of the 507 hectares asserting their “right” under MPSA. If they are not in compliance, technically there is no basis for the MPSA and the sale should have been illegal all along as they acquired the property 5 to 6 years after it was awarded to the farmers. Worse how can they come up with an arrangement with the government on MPSA when the land in question was still classified as agricultural?

It makes one wonder why Lito Atienza the secretary of DENR and former Talibani anti-condom mayor of Manila telling the farmers to “negotiate” with Ramon Ang of Asturias Chemical Industries Incorporated? Why should the farmers deal with Ramon Ang when the deal was “consummated” with the heirs of Ceferino Ascue where his chemical company that is also into mining “acquired” the property the farmers now owned and tilled for 10 years? IWhat exactly is Ramon Ang offering the farmers in return, 90 hectares of mountainous area unsuitable for farming. Should Asturias go after the heirs of Ceferino Ascue and the government go after the heirs of Ascue for selling or assigning the property the state already distributed to the farmers? Why are the farmers "persuaded" to negotiate with Asturias when the farmers fulfilled their part paying the land in full and the acquisition, classification, and MPSA were done after the fact tells you something really smells fishy.

The Calatagan Farmers are on the march for their very existence while the rich and well connected people are making a mockery of the farmers’ constitutional right with the help of government bureaucrats setting up stumbling blocs frustrating the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The farmers arrived in Muntinlupa City early Wednesday (12/3/08) morning and are expected to go to the De La Salle University on Thursday and the Ateneo de Manila University on Friday, where they will be met by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, before marching to Malacañang to seek a dialogue with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Join their trek to justice in solidarity, support them and join POGB at Facebook Cause, or financially through Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, send an email for further inquiry.

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