At least 20 beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program under Task Force Mapalad in Negros Occidental have sold their sugar farms, after fighting tooth and nail to gain ownership of the land. They said the program did not extend support services to them and failed to improve their living.
They used to work as farm hands in the hacienda owned by the family of Roberto Cuenca but became landowners after the 209-hectare property was subdivided among the farmer-beneficiaries in Barangay Robles in La Castellana town.
Romeo Caram, chairman of the Hacienda Malaga-Multi-purpose Cooperative, said the 20 members of Mapalad used to clash with the co-op members two years ago in a bid to take control of the entire Cuenca property. The cooperative now owns 144 of the 209 hectare-Cuenca landholdings.
The farmer-beneficiaries obtained a “mother” certificate of land ownership award for the 209- hectare Cuenca property from the Department of Agrarian Reform but the Mapalad members wanted the entire property and later subdivided it among the 329 members. Caram’s group refused.
From January to June in 2007, tension gripped Barangay Robles after farmers belonging to the TF Mapalad launched a series of attempts to wrestle full control of the 114-hectare portion of the Hacienda Malaga being tilled by Caram’s cooperative.
At least three persons were killed and several others injured after the series of violent incidents arising from the dispute over the hacienda, police records showed.
On Sept. 27, 2007, Caram’s group, composed of 207 farmers, managed to sign a deal with the TF Mapalad officials, the Cuenca family, government, religious and local officials in the area to divide the CARP-subjected 209-hectare hacienda, leaving 114 hectares to the 207-member cooperative and 95 hectares to the 122-member TF Mapalad farmer-beneficiaries.
Since the hacienda was divided, at least 20 Mapalad member-farmers have either pawned or sold their lands, leaving them poorer than before, because they cannot till their lands. They did not have resources to buy pesticides, seedlings and machineries to plant sugar cane, Caram said.
Very recently, Caram said the 20 landless and workless farmers have reconciled with their group to be able to work in the cooperative-run sugar cane farm lands and support their families. –Romie A. Evangelista, Manila Standard Today