THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is continuously monitoring and conducting an investigation to determine if there are really violations in the corporative scheme of the 4,300-hectare farms in Negros Occidental formerly owned by business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.Under the corporative scheme, agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) during the Estrada administration entered into a joint venture with Cojuangco, who capitalized on the land that was voluntarily transferred to farmer-beneficiaries through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
Department of Agriculture (DA)-Negros Island Region (NIR) records showed that the 4,300-hectare Cojuangco farms covered some 1,800 ARBs in seven local government units (LGUs) in the province including the cities of Himamaylan, La Carlota and Bago, and towns of Pontevedra, Hinigaran, La Castellana and Isabela.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, who was in Bacolod City Saturday for a dialogue with the farmers of Hacienda Ilimnan in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia, said their agency will make necessary actions on the matter as soon as the validation on alleged violations on the provisions of existing reform laws is completed.
The DAR received reports that portions of these lands previously planted with crops like mango and other fruits were converted to sugarcane fields and were managed by another lessee.
Mariano said the investigation includes identification of the perpetrators of illegal or premature conversion, who will have criminal liability.
“We also need to check whether the land is under a leaseback arrangement or agribusiness venture which should be covered by the new administrative order on agribusiness arrangement,” Mariano said, assuring that “the agency should stand for the rights and welfare of farmers.”
Stock distribution option
Moreover, the DAR chief also presented two large landholdings in the province with a total area of about 344 hectares under stock distribution option (SDO) subjected for final review and deliberation of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) on August 22.
These are the 174.31-hectare Wuthrich Hermanos Inc. (WHI) located in Buenavista, Calatrava town comprising 366 farm worker-beneficiaries; and the SVJ Farms Inc. (SVJFI) with a total area of 170.65 hectares covering 144 farmer-beneficiaries in Barangay Concepcion, Talisay City.
DAR said that under the SDO, which is a non-land transfer program of Carp, the farmers become stock owners, meaning, they are given rights to purchase capital stocks, equities or shares from the corporate landowners and association.
Mariano said the review of the PARC resolution on the WHI SDO stemmed from the petition for cancellation or revocation filed based on various violations including inexistence of SDO, non-distribution of the shares of stock to identified recipients, and no memorandum of agreement for SDO terms and conditions, among others.
For the SVJFI, he cited that the revocation of the SDO plan is based on the grounds like dilution of equity of farmer-beneficiaries, shares equivalent 30.37 percent of the authorized capital stock were given in protracted mode, and non-compliance with its obligations under the agreement.
DAR-Negros Occidental officials said they will just wait for the decision of PARC on the SDO for these landholdings.