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DAR guarantees land to Arakan farmers

news reg 2 pix 1 dec. 23 2016ARAKAN, COTABATO (Dec. 23) – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has assured the farmers of the Arakan municipality that the unused portion of agricultural lands previously covered by the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) reservation will be awarded to its actual tillers and occupants.

In a letter sent by DAR Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano dated Dec. 16, the agrarian reform chief cited Executive Order No. 407, Series of 1990 (EO 407) and Executive Order No. 448, Series of 1991 (EO 448) as bases for the immediate execution of the Deeds of Transfer.

The DAR, led by Undersecretary for Field Operations Marcos Risonar, is set to meet with Regional Director Nasser Mussali, Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Marion Abella, and officials of the USM and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on January 9, 2017 to formally discuss the transfer of lands from the USM to the farmers.

Based on the report by PARPO Abella, USM President Francisco Garcia has already agreed to distribute the unused land of the university to its farmer-occupants.

In his visit at the farmers’ camp inside the USM grounds last Dec. 11, DAR Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Lucius Jun-jun Malsi already guaranteed the immediate and lawful resolution of the protesting farmers’ case.

“Ang kahilingan at hinaing ng mga magsasaka ay may legal na batayan. Ito ay marapat na maibahagi na sa mga magsasaka kung ito ay naaayon sa batas,” Malsi said.

Data from the DAR reveal that a total of 3,277.8 hectares of land in the USM reservation remain unused. Farmer-occupants of the MAILUMINADO Farmers Association, Inc. (MAFAI) have been engaged in a protracted struggle for land ownership ever since former President Carlos Garcia allotted some 7,200-hectare land as reservation for the university through Presidential Proclamation No. 428 in 1957.

Around 3,000 farmers and members of support groups set up a two-week camp in the Arakan campus from Dec. 5 to 18 to demand the distribution of the disputed land. The petitioners are members of the MAFAI and settlers of barangays Malibatuan, Ilustre, Makalangot, Naje and Doruloman, collectively known as MAILUMINADO.

According to MAFAI Chairman Cecilio Carmelo, the land has been peacefully occupied by Lumad and Christian settlers long before the Arakan town was established. Its occupants have been cultivating and farming rice, corn, rubber and banana since the 1950s.

“Panawagan namin kay Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte at kay DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano na kagyat na bigyan na ng kalutasan ‘yung hinihiling ng mga tao na resolbahin na ang aming problema sa lupa,” Carmelo said.

MAFAI said that they will be back at the USM grounds to set up camp again in January.

Mariano told the farmers to strengthen their ranks and continuously assert their rights. “Susi ng tagumpay ang sama-sama’t organisadong pagkilos kaakibat ang pagtulong ng kagawaran na may pagtalima sa kaukulang proseso ng batas,” he added.

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