Farmers travel from Mindanao to denounce Lapanday land grab, violence

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Farmer-members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc. (MARBAI) travelled all the way from Madaum, Tagum City in Southern Mindanao to denounce landgrabbing and violence perpetrated by Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC), a fresh fruit production company owned by the Lorenzo landlord family.

The farmers, along with the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) held a protest action Thursday, March 30, in front of the Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) Office in Makati City. They pelted the LFC office with rotten bananas, while chanting “Land grabber!” and “Berdugo!” (butchers)

They called for the junking of the onerous Agribusiness Ventures Agreement (AVA) that Lapanday uses as legal basis to take over 119.25 hectares of lands intended for MARBAI with 159 ARB members. Despite MARBAI not being a party to the said AVA, Lapanday’s claims has resulted in the dispossession of farmworkers.

According to MARBAI spokesperson Antonio Tuyak, the land formerly owned by the Hijo plantation was voluntary offered for coverage in the 1990s. The land was awarded to employees and three groups of ARBs were formed. In 1999, the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Cooperative 1 (HEARBCO1) entered into a growership contract with Lapanday and Global Foods Corp. for a period of 10 years.

After a decade, the HEARBCO1 incurred debts amounting to P1M. A majority of HEARBCO 1 farmworkers rejected the renegotiated contract with Lapanday because it is highly disadvantageous to the farmworkers.

The said employees organized and formed MARBAI and filed for a petition to reinstate them to their tillage. A compromise agreement was reached in 2011, reducing the farmworkers’ debt to P800,000. On December 2015, the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board issued a final and executory order reinstating MARBAI farmworkers to the land. The current DAR under Secretary Rafael Mariano, started the installation process in October last year.

But LFC, time and again defied said orders of the DAR Secretary. On December 9 last year, farmers under MARBAI and their supporters were able to successfully occupy their lands. But security guards shot and wounded ten farmers in 2 incidents – on December 12 and 14. At dawn of December 31, 2016, armed security guards of Lapanday forcibly evicted MARBAI farmers from their lands.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that the MARBAI farmers will be here in Manila until the DAR finally executes the actual installation of beneficiaries. “The Madaum farmers are determined to take back their lands from Lapanday and the Lorenzos,” said Ramos.

A scion of the Lorenzo family, businessman Martin Lorenzo, is now also part-owner of the Cojuangco-Aquinos’s Central Azucarera de Tarlac in the controversial Hacienda Luisita sugar estate.

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