Cojuangcos grabbing historical lands in Bayambang, Pangasinan- group

PEASANT group in Central Luzon Monday assailed the Cojuangco-controlled Central Azucarera de Tarlac Realty Corporation (CAT)for claiming ownership of the 386.8-hectare agricultural and residential lands covering about 12 barangays in Bayambang town, province of Pangasinan.

This is also the site of the 289-hectare Camp Gregg Military Reservation declared by the US colonial government from 1903 to 1949.

The Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) said the affected areas are home and farms to about 20,000, 65% are rural and 35% are urban as categorized by the government’s statistics office.

The group said they will launch a campaign against the imminent Cojuangco-led landgrabbing which would definitely result into massive dislocation of farmers and residents, and Land Use Conversions.

“The greed of the Cojuangco-Aquinos extend to Pangasinan, now they are claiming that they own the lands that farmers have developed since the Spanish times.  Their claim only stands on a debt by a certain Isabelo Hilario, an arriendero or a contractor of sugarcane who was not able to deliver the goods he promised to CAT.  This Hilario allegedly paid CAT with the lands in Bayambang.  The Cojuangcos think the farmers and residents of Bayambang are stupid,” said Joseph Canlas, Chair of AMGL.

Camp Gregg Military Reservation was declared on October 13, 1903 by the US colonial government and they were only turned over to the Philippine government on March 27, 1949, and particularly to the Bureau of Lands on September 29, 1949.  It included barangays Cadre Site, Sancagulis, Bical Sur, Bical Norte, Magsaysay, Del Pilar, Buayaen, Dusoc, Telbang, Zone 7 and Poblacion Sur.

Senior farmers who still reside in the area said that their ancestors have tilled the lands which used to be forested areas.  They continued cultivation of the lands during the American and Japanese occupation of the country.  On the other side, the Cojuangco’s base their claim of ownership on the payment of Hilario.  Hilario paid the Cojuangcos with the lands on April 30, 1947.  Farmers said that Hilario did not own the lands.

In a statement , the group said the Cojuangcos applied for conversion during the Marcos dictatorship which was approved but they did no development on the area.  Farmers in Bayambang are holders of Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) as under Marcos land reform program Presidential Decree 27 (PD 27).

“Evidently that the Cojuangcos benefitted from the Marcos dictatorship.  It is unacceptable that their legal claim is based on a dictatorial rule, or probably they were simply in connivance with Marcos.  The immoral claim of Cojuangcos is opposed by farmers since the 1950s as it is very impossible for them to own the lands that they[farmers] have developed for generations,” said Canlas.

AMGL said that the Cojuangcos have been repressing the farmers of Bayambang for decades since the 1960s.  They used armed goons and coercing farmers to leave their farms.  At present, CAT Realty Corp. is conducting surveys of the lands that the residents and farmers oppose.

“The warlord and landlord Cojuangco-Aquinos think they could easily displace the farmers and residents of Bayambang to give way to their unsatisfiable greed.  They are dead wrong, they were dead wrong in Hacienda Luisita, as well as in Bayambang.  It is only a matter of time that the farmers and residents’ rage would explode in front of their faces,” Canlas added.

AMGL called on the local government of Bayambang and the office of Pangasinan Third District Rep. Rachel “Baby” Arenas to heed the farmers’ call to recognize their rights on the lands and protect them from the Cojuangcos’ landgrabbing. –D’Jay Lazaro

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