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Farmers hail cancellation of ranch leases

Posted by Abi Kwok on August 22, 2008

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 19:01:00 08/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Farmers from Bukidnon hailed what they called a “breakthrough” in their quest to own the lands they till as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) cancelled two major ranch leases over violations.

The Alliance of Landless Farmers and Rural Poor in Bukidnon (Alyansa Bukidnon), consisting of indigenous people’s and farmers’ groups in the province, called DENR Secretary Jose Atienza’s a “positive response” to their call.

“We are grateful for Atienza’s positive response to our demand. He has not only upheld the rights of landless farmers to utilize and have access to and utilize production forest lands, he also upheld the law against violators,” said Oscar Maniego, chairman of Alyansa Bukidnon.

Atienza on Wednesday cancelled the Forest Land Grazing Lease Agreements (FLGLAs) of ranches owned by Circle T Agricultural Development Corporation (Citadeco) and Alan Uy Ranch.

Citedeco, owned by the family of the late provincial governor Timoteo Ocaya, covers 820 hectares in Barangay (villages) Kuya and Danggawan in Maramag, Bukidnon; the Alan Uy Ranch covers 472 hectares in Barangay Panalsalan, also in Maramag.

The DENR found that Citedeco had been subleasing a portion of its grazing land to a certain Javier Sagarbarria, a violation of Item 28 of the terms and conditions of the Lease Agreement and Section 38 of DAO (DENR Administrative Order) No. 99-36, or the revised rules governing the administration, management, development and disposition of forest land used for grazing purposes.

Alan Uy Ranch’s violation, on the other hand, was planting pineapple on almost 98 hectares, “which is in excess of the 20 hectares allowed for food production,” the DENR said.

The DENR ordered both ranches vacated immediately and their lease agreements surrendered.

Farmers’ groups have been urging the DENR to cancel the permits of different ranches to increase the land available for tilling.

Maniego said of 187,548 hectares of production forest in Bukidnon, only 26,977 hectares, or 15 percent, are being utilized by farmers under the Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) program.

To press their demands, farmers’ groups have been camping out at the DENR office in Quezon City to seek a dialogue with Atienza.

“This is a breakthrough for a group of landless [but] organized farmers to get a favorable decision from the DENR on the cancellation of violated pasture lease agreements. Holders of FLGLAs in Bukidnon are very powerful and politically entrenched, that many of us farmers who merely work for them are scared,” Maniego said.

“The cancellation of these pasture leases signifies that the poor farmers and indigenous peoples who are deprived of land to till have hope to uplift their lives if only government is sincere in implementing laws and programmes and will not lift a finger in punishing erring forest land lease holders,” Maniego said.


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