Aquino kin milking profits out of disputed lands in Luisita

policeguards

Tarlac police and masked goons prepare to violently evict farmers from a 260-hectare agricultural area claimed by the Cojuangco-Aquino firm TADECO in Hacienda Luisita a few days before Christmas in 2013. The area is now fenced off from farmers as The Office of the President, the Department of Energy and the Yuchengco firm Petrogreen begin installation of electric posts for a solar power plant project under public-private partnership (PPP).

NEWS

A coup de grâce is happening in Hacienda Luisita.

With the auditing of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) P1.33 billion debt to farmworker beneficiaries (FWBs) effectively stalled, relatives of President BS Aquino are now milking profits out of disputed lands in Luisita.

According to Ranmil Echanis, secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), this includes part of the 500 hectare property sold by the Cojuangco’s to RCBC and Centennary Holdings which is part of the debt to the FWBs. This also includes 258 hectares of land in barangay Balete that had already been issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) a Notice of Coverage (NOC) on December 17, 2013.

Yet, according to Mr. Echanis, the DAR has allowed the construction of a solar power plant in both disputed properties, owned by the Yuchengcos who are partners of the Cojuangco-Aquino’s in managing the Luisita Industrial Park inside the hacienda. The plant itself would be built inside the RCBC property, while the electrical posts which are already being set-up will be in the 258 hectare area.

The Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita or AMBALA, UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac, has a pending petition to revoke DAR’s conversion order.

According to Ranmil Echanis, deputy secretary general of UMA:  “The Tarlac solar project will worsen displacement brought about by bogus land distribution implemented by the DAR under this Cojuangco-Aquino landlord president.”

Violent eviction of farmers and bulldozing of crops inside Hacienda Luisita coincided with DAR’s land distribution process from 2013 to 2014. More than a thousand hectares of disputed agricultural areas have been fenced off by Cojuangco-Aquino firms. These areas are supposedly reserved for “development projects.”

“Luisita farmers oppose the solar project because it will set a precedent that may lead to the complete wipe-out of Luisita’s farming community,” Echanis added.

This is despite the opposition made by AMBALA against the project through a petition letter signed by more than 1,000 FWB’s. This including the petition for revocation and even on the status of the NOC lands remain unacted upon by the DAR.

President Aquino has less than a year left in office. He has been very consistent in ensuring that Hacienda Luisita would remain in his kin’s hands.

UMA supports the enactment of House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) filed by Anakpawis Partylist in Congress. #

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