BACOLOD CITY – After camping out for 28 days behind the Provincial Capitol Building here, farmers in Negros Occidental were able to speak with government officials, who promised to help them reach a compromise with owners of land they claim is rightfully theirs.
Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano visited the campsite of farmers behind the Provincial Capitol Building in Bacolod City Saturday morning. He spoke with the farmers, who hail from Hacienda Ilimnan in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia, Negros Occidental, regarding their request that the government give them some 97 hectares of land they used to farm before the province built there the Negros First Ranch.
The ranch sits on more than 150 hectares of land the farmers insist was covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) since 1993. Some 42 farmworkers previously filed for a petition for agrarian reform coverage in 1993 and 2000. Three certificates of land ownership were generated in 2008, but these covered only 54 out of the 155 hectares petitioned.
According to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the agrarian reform beneficiaries were able to go to their allocated land in October 2011 but other parcels of land were awarded to petitioners since then.
In 2010, land owners, members of the Arguelles family sold the land to the provincial government. The property was converted into a cattle and sheep ranch under the provincial government's food security program.
Majority of the farmworkers were relocated to areas without farms to till and no livelihood, according to Danilo Tabura, chairman of Barangay Sta. Rosa Farmworkers Association.
The province filed a petition for exclusion from CARP coverage involving three parcels of land with an aggregate area of 159.4646 hectares in Baragays Sta. Rosa and Canlandog, Murcia, but this was denied by the agency in May this year due to lack of merit. A motion for reconsideration filed by the provincial government is now pending with DAR. Tabura said, some 55 families are currently displaced.
Earlier Gov. Alfredo Marañon declined to face the farm workers, and alleged them to be "professional protesters".
Mariano said however, that he will be listening to the concerns of all parties including the DAR’s Negros Occidental and Negros Island Region offices, so he can see how the agency can be of help in resolving the matter.