Negros farmers hail decision vs conversion of hacienda

FARMERS hailed the decision of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to block moves to convert the use of a sugar hacienda in Negros Occidental formerly owned by the Arroyo family from agricultural to industrial.

“We thank DAR Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes…he showed a strong will to uphold the law regardless of the personalities involved,” said Jose Charito Celis, leader of the farmers in Hacienda Bacan in Brgy. Guintubhan, Isabela town.

A certificate of land ownership award had already been generated by the DAR for the farmers, making them beneficiaries of the 157-hectare estate under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The Arroyo family-controlled company, Rivulet (which in Spanish is “arroyo”), filed the application for conversion last June 15.

The application was made almost two years after the Land Bank of the Philippines, in July 2008, issued payment for the property in the amount of more than P42 million.

It was in 2001 when the hacienda was placed under CARP coverage through a voluntary offer to sell (VOS) by then Rivulet president and now Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, brother-in-law of former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In its December 1, 2010 decision, the DAR denied Rivulet’s application for land use on the following grounds:

  • The property remains economically feasible and sound for agricultural use;
  • The property was covered by the CARP, and only the agrarian reform beneficiaries, not the former landowner, can apply for conversion provided they have met their obligations to the land;
  • Rivulet failed to clearly explain the purpose of conversion;
  • Rivulet failed to show that conversion will be more beneficial to the farmworkers and to the community.

“(The landholding) can no longer be the subject of a conversion order as the landholding has been placed within the ambit of agrarian reform long before the application was filed by the previous landowner,” noted the DAR decision.

The DAR further said in its ruling that, “The applicant for conversion is the former registered owner, not the agrarian reform beneficiary thereof. Hence, the application for land use conversion must fail.”

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