Hacienda Dolores farmers launch protest

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More than 200 farmers and residents of Hacienda Dolores, Porac, Pampanga protested on September 16 to condemn Triple L and FL Development Corporation’s continuing attempts to seize their land. The protest was led by the Aniban ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Hacienda Dolores (ANMHD) and supported by the Aguman Dareng Maglalautang Capampangan (AMC), Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) and various sectors in Pampanga province. More than 300 farmers and residents are set to be expelled from the hacienda.

The farmers stand on firm ground in their claim to Hacienda Dolores. Their forebears have been clearing, farming and developing the land since 1835. The farmers themselves have long been planting rice and fruit trees on the land. It was only in 2004 that Triple L and FL Development Corporation began claiming the 700-hectare agricultural land, simultaneous with the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

The farmers and residents questioned the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) issuance of an Exemption Order to prevent the land from being covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). This order paved the way for the two corporations to have the land titled in 2005.

The farmers and residents said that Triple L and FL Development Corporation are currently waiting for the Land Use Conversion Order from the DAR. A “certification” issued by the barangay captain of Hacienda Dolores and a “Municipal Ordinance for Land Reclassification” enacted by the local government of Porac played a big role in the land’s reclassification. No public consultation was conducted before the ordinance was approved by the municipal council and mayor. The certifications issued by the DAR, Department of Agriculture and National Irrigation Administration do not likewise meet the necessary requirements.

The Hacienda Dolores farmers and residents’ resistance has been met with violence. The corporations have deployed more than 700 armed guards along with goons to terrorize and deceive the farmers. In 2011, they fenced off the peasants’ farms, destroyed their huts, banana and other fruit trees and vegetable plots and have charged the farmers with grave threats to boot. In July 2013, a farmer was illegally arrested and detained and charged with illegal possession of firearms and malicious mischief.

In a related development, the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) is expelling 134 farm workers from Barangay Cutcut and Barangay Balete in Tarlac City, which are both part of Hacienda Luisita. The farm workers were accused of illegally entering the land they have been tilling. Tadeco owns Hacienda Luisita and 70% of the shares of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), the company that runs the deceptive stock distribution program.

The 134 farm workers are among the 6,212 HLI beneficiaries scheduled to receive 6,600 square meters of land each. They have begun planting rice as part of the “bungkalan” or collective tilling program implemented by the farm workers since the end of a bloody strike in 2004. It has been their source of food as they conduct their continuing struggle for land distribution.

HLI does not intend to distribute the land for free. The beneficiaries are required to pay P60,000-P70,000 for a period of 30 years for every 6,600 square meter-lot distributed to them.