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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, August 15, 2016
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Ruling on Capitolís ranch this week

Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano Saturday said he will rule this week  on whether property purchased by the provincial government in Hacienda Ilimnan, Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia in Negros Occidental for its Negros First Ranch rightfully belongs to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Mariano met with the protesting farmer beneficiaries in their makeshift camp behind the provincial Capitol in Bacolod City amid heavy downpour early Saturday morning to listen to their demands and later also held a dialog with them at the Bacolod Pavillon Hotel.

He also met with Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Provincial Legal Officer Jose Ma. Valencia at the Governor’s Office but the media were barred from entering the Capitol.

Mariano noted that the provincial government purchased property from the Aguelles family in Murcia for the cattle and sheep ranch consist of three lots totaling 159 hectares.

            Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Gil de los Reyes denied the petition of the provincial government for exclusion from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program of lot No. 1 consisting of 50 hectares and Lot No. 3 covering 97 hectares, Mariano said.

          The provincial government in turn filed a motion for reconsideration that is pending before his office, he added.

           Mariano, after meeting with the stakeholders Saturday, said he will rule on the motion for reconsideration this week.

          Danilo Tabura, chairman and spokesperson of the farm workers association of Hacienda Ilimnan, told Mariano they have  been camping out behind the Capitol  for almost a month and the governor has refused to dialog with them after dismissing them as “professional protestors.”

       He said they were driven out of the Ilimnan property by the military and police, depriving them  of the opportunity  to till even just 12 to 15 hectares of the property near the river  to enable them to have a source of livelihood.

        Tabura asked that the DAR to install the 55 families affected  in the property that has already been subjected to CARP coverage, and which was “illegally purchased” by the provincial government. The property is still in the name of the original landowner, he also pointed out.

      In 2010, the landowner Arguelles family, illegally sold the land to the provincial government, he claimed. Afterwards, the said landholding was immediately transformed into cattle and sheep ranch now known as the Negros First Ranch under the provincial government's Food Security Program.

               Negros Occidental, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer for Northern Negros, Teresita Mabunay, noted that the DAR head office issued a defective notice of coverage of the property. The notice of coverage stated 155 hectares instead  97, which needs to be corrected to enable installation of beneficiaries, she said.

          Tabura said it was a victory for the farmer beneficiaries to be able to dialog with Mariano. However, he said while they were happy about it they would remain at their camp-out behind the Capitol until the DAR issues a concrete solution to their woes and the  military and the police at Hacienda Ilimnan are removed.

The governor could not be reached for comment as of press time.*CPG



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