Hacienda Luisita gives out initial P20-M aid to farmers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 12 2010 08:20 PM | Updated as of Aug 13 2010 07:20 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Around P20 million in initial financial assistance is being distributed to farmers who entered into a compromise agreement with Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) with regards to the sugar estate owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family.

Over 3,000 farmers lined up at the hacienda's clubhouse in Tarlac on Thursday to receive their share of the package.

Dominador Tagapuli, a farmer who worked in the sugar estate since 1971, received P6,000 cash. He said this was better than having to wait for the courts to solve the 21-year-old land dispute.

But 76-year-old Rene Yabut, whose work at the hacienda was cut short due to illness, was dismayed because the P300 handed to him would not even cover medicine expenses.

"Ang tagal namin na hinihintay, bakit ganon lang?" he said.

HLI representatives and 3 labor unions signed an agreement in Tarlac on Friday, giving farmers the choice to retain their shares in HLI via a stock distribution option (SDO) or own a parcel of land in the sugar estate.

Most of the farmers reportedly voted in favor of the SDO.

Militant groups have launched protests against what they said was an unfair deal that HLI forced farmers to approve.

Malacañang, meanwhile, washed its hands off the issue as President Aquino said it was an "intra-corporate dispute." Hacienda Luisita is owned by the Cojuangcos, relatives of Aquino by his late mother, Corazon.

President Aquino has also disclosed that he has divested his shares in HLI.

Aside from the SDO, HLI promised the sum of P150 million as financial aid to farmers under the compromise deal.

HLI said it will distribute the remaining P130 million if the Supreme Court approves the settlement agreement. - Report from Nico Baua, ABS-CBN News