JULY 9, 2015 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 0916.611.4181
Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) urged lawmakers to look into a P3.9 billion public-private partnership (PPP) project involving disputed property within the controversial Hacienda Luisita estate.
The proposed Tarlac Solar Power Project entered into by the Department of Energy (DoE) with the PetroGreen Energy Corporation(PGEC)last March was earlier reported to be located in a 50-hectare area “near Hacienda Luisita.”
However, documents obtained by farmworkers reveal that the solar plant is planned to be constructed in a disputed agricultural area located in barangays Balete and Lourdes (Texas) in Hacienda Luisita, according to Ranmil Echanis, UMA deputy secretary general.
The area is part of the 500-hectare property under the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) approved for land-use conversion by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in August 1996.
Part of this property was ceded to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) a few days after the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004. Some 200 hectares remain with the Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC), another Aquino-Cojuangco firm. While the area remains agricultural and undeveloped until now, the property is generally referred to by the media as part of the Luisita Industrial Park (LIP).
In 2012, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita or AMBALA, UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac, filed a petition to revoke DAR’s conversion order. Armed security guards and goons hired by RCBC and the Aquino-Cojuangcos figured in violent attacks against Luisita farmers tilling portions of the disputed property.
AMBALA’s petition reads: “HLI and its successors-in-interest violated the terms and conditions of the order for conversion order and the rules and regulations on conversion. The land remained agricultural in use and therefore should be placed under the coverage of the agrarian reform program.
“HLI and its successors-in-interest clearly failed to comply with their obligations mandated under the conversion order. Specifically, HLI did not pursue the proposed development plan that was contained in the application for conversion and instead disposed of the 500 hectares to other Cojuangco-owned companies and to RCBC. It also failed to implement the development plan within 5 years from 14 August 1996, the time when the Order of Conversion was granted by the DAR.”
Echanis added: “While the Supreme Court’s (SC) HLI decision excluded this 500-hectare property from land distribution, Luisita farmers believe that their petition for revocation of DAR’s conversion order remains valid and relevant as the property is still fit for agricultural use. This area should have been covered by land reform even before the SC released its final decision.” AMBALA’s petition is still pending.
PetroGreen or PGEC is under the majority ownership of the Yuchengco Group of Companies which also owns RCBC. The Yuchengcos are known business partners of the Aquino-Cojuangcos in the Luisita Industrial Park, Co.(LIPCO).
“In one state of the nation address (SONA), Aquino even questioned the feasibility of solar power projects. Paano raw kung makulimlim? Now, is he allowing this PetroGreen project to make way for the landgrabbing efforts of his family and their business partners?” asked Echanis.
Hundreds of residents in Barangay Balete are among disgruntled farmworker-beneficiaries dislocated by the Aquino-Cojuangcos’ aggressive landgrabbing complemented by the DAR’s bogus land distribution scheme. Land allocated to most Balete residents are located some 20 kilometers away in Concepcion town, making it impractical for farmers to till the farmlots.
The residential areas as well as the agricultural lots tilled by Balete and Lourdes farmers since 2005 are near the SCTEX access road where another Aquino-Cojuangco firm, Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) suddenly claimed ownership over another 258 hectares of agricultural land. TADECO ordered the eviction of hundreds of farmers and bulldozing of ready-to-harvest crops in a series of violent incidents coinciding with the DAR’s land distribution activities starting 2013.
“Aquino will most likely boast of government’s so-called land reform accomplishments in his last SONA on July 27. Once sessions resume, we dare lawmakers to immediately look into this anomalous deal entered into by the Aquino government to justify corruption, violence and landgrabbing with such noble causes as protection of the environment and renewable energy,” said Echanis.
UMA will present a comprehensive report on the state of agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita in a media conference on July 20, 4pm at the UP Diliman College of Mass Communication, a week before Aquino’s last SONA. #