Two years ago today, in March 29, 2007, the Sumilao farmers signed an agreement with San Miguel Corporation (SMC), represented by its president, Ramon Ang in the presence of Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. In signing of the agreement, SMC ceded 50 of the 144 hectares being claimed by the Sumilao farmers and committed to acquire 94 hectares of land outside the disputed property for distribution to the farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform. This marked the end of the Sumilao campaign which started with their historic 1,700 kilometer-march from Sumilao to Malacañang. As a direct result of their 1,700 kilometer march, President Arroyo revoked the conversion order covering the contested property in December 2007 and ordered the distribution of the property under the CARP forcing SMC to the negotiating table with the farmers. After the signing of the agreement, the Sumilao farmers returned home and occupied and began to cultivate the 50 hectares covered by the agreement.
However, after two years, the Sumilao farmers are yet to receive the land titles of the 50 hectares within the contested property and the 94 hectares outside the 144-hectare disputed land. "We have met with the representatives of SMC and the DAR and they have promised the land titles every time we met. Deadline after deadline came and went but the promised land titles failed to materialize. Even the title of 50 hectares we are now tilling remains an unfulfilled promise" Peter Tuminhay, spokesperson of the Sumilao Farmers said. He added that the lands offered to them by SMC have various problems; some of the lands are still leased to Del Monte, some had titles that were not surrendered by the landowners.
"Last February, Atty. Fred Peñaflor, legal counsel of San Miguel Corporation committed to us that they will distribute the titles for the 50 hectares of land that we are now tilling and the 94 hectares outside the 1-44-hectare property today on the 2nd anniversary of the signing of our agreement. After waiting for 2 years and listening to promises several times, this will be the last deadline. Should they fail to distribute the titles today, as they have promised, we take it that San Miguel Corporation is not serious about fulfilling its commitments to us. It is almost a year since our leader, Rene Peñas was gunned down here in this land. We can no longer wait for more promises. We will to return to our original claim, should they again break their promise today, we shall begin to occupy and cultivate portions of original 144-hectare land" said Yoyong Merida, spokesperson of the Sumilao farmers. "We call on those who have supported our struggle to once again join us in our cause. We will not stop until we cultivate the land that belongs to us" Merida added.
In commemorating the 2nd anniversary of the signing of the agreement, Malaybalay Archbishop Honesto Pacana will celebrate a mass with the farmers at their camp outside the gates of San Miguel Corporation in San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon. He will join the farmers in demanding the distribution of the Sumilao property.
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