Absence of genuine land reform program emboldens goons, paramilitary groups and state forces in attacking farmers — KMP

September 26, 2016

Yulo King Ranch peasant killing

Absence of genuine land reform program emboldens goons, paramilitary groups and state forces in attacking farmers — KMP

By KMP

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the killing of a peasant leader in Coron, Palawan inside the disputed 39,000 hectares of land known as ‘Yulo King Ranch’ being land grabbed by the government and private entities in Coron and Busuanga in Palawan. Last September 20, farmer leader Arnel Figueroa was reportedly shot by Dante Mayo, a blue guard employed by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) of the Department of Agriculture.

KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said the absence of a genuine land reform program by the government has been capitalized by landlords and landgrabbers to strengthen control over the lands by attacking farmers using hired goons, security guards and state security forces turned private armies. “Farmers who assert their right to the right to till through land cultivation activities are either killed, arrested and jailed or subjected to various forms of abuses,” the peasant leader said citing the recent peasant killings in Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija, Isabela and North Cotabato.

Some 8,000 hectares of alienable and disposable public lands in Yulo King Ranch (YKR) are the subject of request for land reform coverage by different peasant groups.

Flores said that a fact-finding mission led by the KMP in Yulo King Ranch in 2014, declared that “the disputed grazing and pasture land, if distributed and cultivated, could ensure food security, economic sustainability and self-sufficiency not only for the people of Coron and Busuanga but also for the entire country.”

The KMP leader said that the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) has declared the Yulo King Ranch lands as unfit for farming even with the presence of agricultural activities. “For decades, farmers have been cultivating and planting cashew, coconut, banana jackfruit, calamansi and bananas fruit bearing trees in the vast lands.”

“But the PD 27 and the succeeding bogus CARP has exempted the disputed lands from actual land distribution and as a result, rendered farmers landless and poor,” Flores said.

“With 40,000 hectares benefiting merely a thousand cattles, while thousands of farmers are impoverished, hungry and lacking of access to economic productivity and self-sufficiency, this is the biggest agricultural anomaly of our country,” the KMP leader said.

Since 2013, the KMP and its regional chapter Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK) has been campaigning against the massive landgrabbing of the YKR in Coron and Busuanga in Palawan.

Farmers in Coron and Busuanga were tilling the lands even before the government, through Proclamation No. 1387 declared the 39,238.93 hectares of lands as pasture lands in 1975. The said land is the subject of a long-running dispute between farmers and the Yulo King Ranch owned by Luis Yulo and Peter Sabido, known cronies of Marcos who were able to usurp the lands during Martial Law.

In 1986, the land was sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) as it allegedly formed part of Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth, and the management of the ranch was transferred to the Bureau of Animal Industries (BAI).

In March 2010, the Supreme Court lifted the sequestration order, and transferred the management of the land to Philippine Forest Corporation (PhilForest).

In 2013, President Benigno Aquino III signed Presidential Proclamation 663 transferring the administration of the pasture reserve to the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Under the guise of the Busuanga Pasture Reserve, the government has seized and controlled the lands. Original settlers in the affected communities, such as Tagbanua, Calamianes, and Cuyonin, were displaced from the lands to give way to the establishment of business and economic activities like grazing and pasture activities, agro-forestry, tourism, and industrial development,” Flores said.

The government then ordered the deployment of Marines Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4) in the disputed lands to harass farmers and settlers who are defending their rights to the lands.

“YKR is recognized as the biggest ranch in Asia, and yet, the number of cattle and horses in the disputed land has dramatically decreased over the years. The vast area provided for pasture land is obviously excessive compared to the number of cattle in the whole 40,000 hectares, since only one hectare is considered sufficient for a cattle to live,” said Flores. ###