The huge machines groaned as they scraped and removed soil from the face of a hill. Soon, a swath of the Zambales mountain range in Barangay (village) Hacienda Dolores, Porac, Pampanga (90 kms. north of Manila) will vanish to make way for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project (SCTEP).
BY ABNER BOLOS, GITNANG LUSON NEWS SERVICE
Posted by Bulatlat
PORAC, Pampanga — The huge machines groaned as they scraped and removed soil from the face of a hill. Soon, a swath of the Zambales mountain range in Barangay (village) Hacienda Dolores, Porac, Pampanga (90 kms. north of Manila) will vanish to make way for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project (SCTEP).
Along the newly-built road leading from the Porac river to the project site, mango and guava trees were uprooted and vegetable crops destroyed.
For the upland farmers in this village, (pop. 7,000) not only their crops and the fruit-bearing trees that have sustained them for generations will be taken away from them.
LLL Holdings, a corporation partly owned by former Pampanga governor and incumbent senator Lito Lapid, now claims ownership of the 761 has. forest land, which includes the village’s residential areas.
“We don’t want their money. What we know is that our forebears have worked on the land and nobody lays claim to it in the past except us, by virtue of our actual possession. Suddenly, somebody says he owns it and will take it away from us,” Petron Pineda, 68, told GLNS.
Pineda has just received P3,000 as payment by employees of KAJIMA Corp., a Japanese firm contracted by the Base Conversion Development Authority to construct this part of the SCTEP.
The money is compensation for his crop of camote (sweet potatoes) destroyed in the road construction, but he was not paid for a portion of his farm that was used for the project.
He and the KAJIMA employees were still in his hut beside the river when GLNS arrived for an interview.
The employees who asked not to be identified explained that the BCDA have paid all the landowners affected by the project.
The money paid to Pineda, they said, is not for the land but for crops destroyed outside of the defined road area and was paid “as a consideration and goodwill” on the part of KAJIMA, and not as a legal obligation..
Officers of the Aguman Memalen Ating Malasakit King Hacienda Dolores (Association of Concerned Citizens of Hacienda Dolores or AGUMAN), an organization of village residents, say that BCDA has recognized the ownership of LLL Holdings on the land and have, indeed, paid the company millions of pesos in right-of-way fees.
“We have not seen the so-called owners. They have not come to us. The people who are implementing the project did not conduct a single meeting to consult us about their plans. This came as a shock to everybody,” Teresita Ignacio, AGUMAN treasurer, said in a meeting with affected farmers and residents held in the village chapel last February 15.
Ignacio said their woes began when it was announced that the SCTEP will be constructed and will traverse their village.
In October last year, they were told that by government officials that LLL Holdings owns almost all of the land in the village and has been paid right-of-way fees by the BCDA.
Residents, however, believe that LLL Holdings is owned by powerful individuals in the province one of which is Sen. Lito Lapid.
A 60-year old farmer who also works in a government office in Pampanga told GNLS that he personally went to see Sen. Lapid in his residence in Porac sometime in January to inquire about the matter.
“Matagal nyo nang pinakinabangan ang lupa. Nagbabayad ako ng amilyar dyan kaya bigyan nyo naman ng pagkakataon ang iba,” (You have benefited from the land for a long time. I am paying the real estate tax on the land, it’s about time you give others a chance [to benefit from the land]), the farmer who asked not to be named, quoted Lapid as saying.
The farmer also said that he was given an assurance by Lapid that he will be compensated.
“Mag-uusap na lang daw kami,” [We will just talk things over], the farmer said, referring to Lapid’s promise of compensation.
The AGUMAN is questioning the process through which LLL Holdings came to own the land.
Last year, they submitted an administrative complaint to the Porac municipal council against barangay officials for allegedly faking a document that may eventually serve as the basis for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to exempt the land from being covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
In the complaint, the farmers and residents charged Hacienda Dolores barangay chair Nestor Tolentino, two barangay council members and barangay secretary Eligio Dimal for producing a document that was “forged and approved by themselves without any knowledge and…and acceptance of their constituents.”
The complaint was signed by three barangay council members and 65 farmers and residents.
The alleged forged document dated September 9, 2005 was supposedly signed by 19 farmers and was submitted to the DAR regional office.
DAR is expected to issue a decision on whether there are tenants on the land and whether it is covered by CARP.
A DAR decision that the land is not tenanted and is exempt from CARP will bolster the ownership claim of LLL Holdings.
Part of the document read: “King ikami ekami kumontra king kaburian ning mikibandi king gabun nanu man ing buri nang gawan kaniti pauli na nitang alang bibye buwis king pupol ming produkto.” (That we will not oppose the landowner in whatever he wishes to do because we did not give his share in the harvests).
In the document, the signatories disclaim any tenant-landlord relations with Leonardo L. Leonio, the land’s registered owner.
The document was made part of LLL Holdings’ application for CARP exemption.
On January 3, 2006, all the 19 signatories in the alleged forged document executed a sworn statement saying they did not sign it and disavowed its contents.
They said what they signed is only an acknowledgement of the payment they received for their crops damaged by the road construction and not a waiver to their claim on the land.
Gerry Alvarado, AGUMAN chair say they are also in a search of a copy of the land’s original certificate of title (OCT) through which they hope to prove that the land was titled illegally.
A certification issued by barangay chair Nestor Tolentino show that LLL Holdings own land in the village covered by TCT Nos. 575228-R, 575229-R, 575230-R, 575231-R and 575528-R while FL Enterprises and Management Corp. own land covered by TCT No. 534721-R.
The titles cover almost 800 has, or practically the entire village, AGUMAN leaders say. The certification further says that the lands in question are “cogonal, hilly to rolling and untenanted.”
The SCTEP is a flagship project of the Arroyo administration that will link the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City, the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga and Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.
Called Central Luzon’s “growth corridor,” the road will be 60 meters wide and will cover some 94 kilometers cutting across the Zambales mountain range into Pampanga and Tarlac.
Construction began October last year.
In Hacienda Luisita, farm workers and residents have opposed the project saying they have been deprived of their rights as claimants to the 6,000-hectare sugar plantation.
The BCDA has paid P90 million to the Cojuangco family for right-of-way fees for about 66 has. inside the hacienda that will be used for the road project.
“These so-called development projects bring nothing but misery to the people. Because of the [SCTEP], thousands of farmers in Pampanga are in danger of being dislocated. This may be another case of land-grabbing,” Joseph Canlas, chair of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (Central Luzon Peasant Alliance) told GLNS.
He said his organization will support the farmers who are protesting against the project and their possible eviction from their farms and homes.
A 47-year old farmer who asked not to be identified said he personally went to the BCDA office to complain. He owns a two-hectare parcel planted to fruit bearing trees, bananas and watermelons.
Portions of his crops have been destroyed. He said he was told by a certain military officer who is also a BCDA official that all claims regarding the land has been settled and the project will push through as planned.
“Hindi kami nakapag-aral pero naiintindihan namin na inaaagaw nila sa amin ang aming lupa. Mangyari na ang mangyari pero hindi kami aalis,” (We may be uneducated but we understand that our land is being taken away from us. Come what may, we will not leave), he said.
He said he stands to lose at least P20,000 worth of watermelon harvest and the income from some 900 bananas and other fruit-bearing trees on his land.
He has not been paid a single peso and has decided, after his frustration with BCDA, that he will not demand payment anymore.
Soldiers, accompanied by government officials, allegedly visited him on his farm and he now fears for his safety.
He claims he is being accused of issuing threats against people connected with the project, a charge which he denies. He said he is being harassed because of his opposition to the project. GLNS/Posted by Bulatlat