FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 13, 2016
More than 40 hacienda workers occupied Hacienda Illiman in Barangay Sta Rosa, Murcia, Negros Occidental to plant food crops last Monday, July 11, at 10 in the morning.
This is the latest initiative by the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) to establish the bungkalan or land cultivation areas to ease hunger of farmworkers toiling for slave wages in vast sugar haciendas in Negros Island. The Hda. Ilimnan Farm Workers Association-NFSW is an affiliate of the national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).
Hacienda Illimnan is a 155-hectare property formerly owned by the Arguelles family who sold the land to the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental in 2010. Since then, the land has been a subject of a long running legal battle between supposed land reform beneficiaries composed of hacienda workers and the provincial government.
In May 2016, the Bureau of Legal Assistance or BALA of the DAR Central office finally issued a decision denying the Application for Exemption filed by the Provincial Government. The DAR – Negros Occidental then issued a Memorandum to Proceed to start the process for land coverage immediately.
The land has been applied for CARP coverage by more than 100 hacienda workers sometime in 1993. In 1998, the DAR in Murcia town had the beneficiaries sign the Application to Purchase and Farmers Undertaking or APFU, a promissory note to ensure amortization payments under the CARP law.
Reeling from the effects of the El Nino phenomenon that struck late last year until April this year, further aggravated by the current off-milling season or Tiempo Muerto which started last June and will peak in this month of August, the farm workers decided to occupy and cultivate the land to plant palay as a means to solve hunger and lack of income caused by the absence of productive work in haciendas.
Yesterday afternoon, July 12, an emergency dialogue was conducted between the representative of the hacienda workers and the Provincial Government Legal Office, Atty. Jose Maria Valencia, with the presence of the Chief of Negros Occidental Police Office and PARO Tess Mabunay of DAR – Negros Occidental.
The dialogue ended in a deadlock with a threat from the Chief of Police of Murcia that any farmer who dares to enter Ilimnan to cultivate the land today will be arrested and jailed.
In the face of hunger and without work in the hacienda, the farmworkers stood their ground and will continue to plant palay and other food crops, despite threats of imprisonment.
“Long after the expiration of the bogus CARP law, supposed beneficiaries still suffer harassment from authorities who are supposed to protect the interest of tillers. We laud the courage of the farmworkers in Hacienda Ilimnan,” said Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General.
“A new and genuine land reform law must be put in place to protect our farmers and farmworkers. We therefore push for the immediate enactment of House Bill 555, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) re-filed by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao in the 17th Congress,” said Ramos.
References: DANNY TABURA
Chairman, MP No. 09124373899
Hda. Illiman Farm Workers Association – NFSW
GI ESTRADA, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181