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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, July 14, 2016
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Protestors disrupt SOPA

About 20 protestors claiming to be workers of Hacienda Illiman in Brgy. Sta. Rosa, Murcia, staged a protest behind the Negros Occidental Capitol in Bacolod City yesterday afternoon as Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. was delivering his State of the Province Address before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

The protestors supported by the National Federation of Sugar Workers and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said they wanted an audience with the governor to ask him to allow them to occupy and cultivate a section of the Negros First Ranch in Murcia.

They shouted their demands on a loud speaker that could be heard at the Capitol Social Hall where the governor was delivering his speech, prompting Senior Supt. William Señoron, Negros Occidental police provincial director, to appeal to them to quiet down.

Danny Tabura, Hacienda Illiman Farm Workers Association chairman, said they took over a patch of the Negros Ranch near a river on Monday to prepare the land for planting rice.

“We are suffering from the effects of the El Niño phenomenon and Tiempo Muerto or off-milling season,” Tabura said, “We chose to enter and cultivate the land so that we'll have food to feed our families.”

Provincial Legal Officer Jose Ma. Valencia said the protestors had occupied an area near where the cows at the Negros First Ranch are located.

“If you are asking for livelihood assistance , why will you illegally enter a place? That is like extortion,” he said.

Those who illegally occupied a section of the ranch Monday left yesterday as they were warned that charges would be filed against them if they refused to leave, he said.

Valencia said a dialog was held with those who illegally entered the ranch on Tuesday.

“We did not even know who those people were, some of them were not even from Murcia, they were from San Carlos City, Escalante and Don Salvador Benedicto,” he said.

They said they entered the property because during the drought they were not given assistance, but the barangay captain of the area said they did not even ask for assistance before their illegal entry into the ranch, Valencia added.

He said assistance had already been given to the real occupants of the property and relocation sites .

They said the reason they entered the property is that the Department of Agrarian Reform denied the provincial government's petition for exemption from land reform, but they have no reason to take over the property because the DAR did not award it to them, Valencia added.

He said steps are being taken to secure the ranch.

There is an Army detachment there but the police will also put up a detachment to secure the surroundings, he added.

“If we allow them to occupy the ranch, what will stop others from entering, too?” Valencia asked.

He said it appears that someone is behind the illegal entry into the ranch and the protest.

Tabura claimed that even before the province bought the property in 2009, they were already farming in the area and a Notice of Coverage was already issued.

He said they just want the 15-hectare land near the river; they have no intention of occupying beyond what they are asking.

Tabura said they respect the process that needs to be undergone with DAR, their only request is to use the piece of land they prepared. “And if worse comes to worst, we'd rather take chances in re-entering the area rather than dying of hunger eventually,” he added.*KBC



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