Farmers picket NEDA, want MRT-7 totally scrapped

BULACAN farmers led by the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) launched a protest action at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) at the Ortigas Center, Pasig City urging the agency to totally scrap the four-year delayed railway project that will run from SM North Edsa to Tungkong Mangga in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan.

“We call on the NEDA to totally scrap the MRT-7 project,” KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores adding: “Only President Aquino’s uncle, Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr. and local government secretary Mar Roxas’ family will benefit from this billion-dollar project.”

“While Cojuangco and the Aranetas feast over the billion-dollar project, farmers will be displaced from their farmlands and the Filipino people will pay for the gargantuan debt to be incurred by the Aquino government for the MRT-7,” Flores added.

The $1.235 billion MRT 7 Project is now at the NEDA after the proponent failed to secure financial closure in December 2010.

The MRT-7’s intermodal depot and residential-commercial components will be built over 311 hectares of agricultural lands in Tungkong Mangga covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) but is allegedly being grabbed by the Aranetas.  Urban poor residents in Quezon City and North Caloocan will also be affected by the stations to be built in Batasan and Manggahan in Commonwealth Avenue and in Pangarap Village in Caloocan City.

Sandigan Samahang Magsasaka (Sasamag) President Thelma Cartoneros vowed to “replicate the decisiveness and militancy of Hacienda Luisita farmers to stop the Araneta family’s land-grabbing in Bulacan.”

“Roxas’ family, the Araneta clan, will be the ones to benefit from the MRT-7 project as this would increase the value of the lands they are grabbing from us,” says Cartoneros.

The construction of MRT-7 will be led by SMC and Universal LRT Corporation while the commercial and residential component will be led by Roxas’ family who owns the Araneta Properties and real estate magnate Henry Sy’s SM Land.

Cartoneros said that “the more than 300-hectare agricultural land in Tungkong Mangga was covered by the government’s CARP in 1998.”

“The MRT-7 clearly demonstrates that the CARPER is toothless in defending farmers’ rights to the lands,” Flores said.

“Roxas’ failure to stop his family from grabbing our lands shows that he is no different from President Aquino who is totally inutile and, in fact, sanctions the Cojuangcos exploitation and deception against Hacienda Luisita farm workers,” the peasant leader said.

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