Agrarian reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano directed Region 12 Director Nasser Mussali and Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) Marion Abella to proceed with the coverage of the 4,000-hectare area in Arakan, North Cotabato in a memorandum dated March 31.
Shortly after Mariano represented the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) as panel consultant in the fourth round of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), he met with farmers from Southern Mindanao to ensure them of the agency’s duty to solve the agrarian disputes in their respective landholdings.
The said area consists of 3,295 hectares of the unutilized portion of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) reservation and 605 hectares of the unused land of the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST).
Mariano led the announcement of the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) continuing commitment to improve land tenure security in Southern Mindanao on the last day of the farmers’ two-week campout for free land distribution.
“Nananatili pong mahalagang patakaran ng DAR na walang mapapatalsik na magsasaka sa kanilang lupang sinasaka,” Mariano said. “Walang sinumang benepisyaryo na sapilitan at puwersahang napatalsik na hindi maibabalik sa lupang ipinagkaloob sa kanila ng agrarian reform program,” he added.
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 USM through Presidential Proclamation No. 428 in 1957.
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.
DAR vowed to honor its commitments to expeditiously resolve and take action in all pending cases to the full extent allowed by law and consistent with the department’s mandate, policy issuances, rules and regulation.
“Lahat ng mga government agencies, kasama na ang mga state universities and colleges na may mga lupaing agrikultural, ay dapat mag-execute ng deed of transfer o pumasok sa memorandum of agreement upang mai-transfer ang lupa sa DAR at maipamahagi sa potential ARBs,” Mariano said.
Around 50 peasant leaders, agrarian reform beneficiaries, indigenous peoples and agricultural workers staged a protest campout outside the DAR Central Office from March 30 to April 10 to strengthen the national campaign for free land distribution of lands to farmers and to call for an end to the spate of peasant killings in the countryside.
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