Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sumilao Update: At Long Last And Then Some

After a 60-day, 1,700km trek from Bukidnon to Manila, three months of waiting, the Sumilao farmers and San Miguel Foods, Inc. has finally reached a settlement. I received a text message early this morning informing me that a Memorandum of Agreement is to be signed by the two parties. SMFI will give 50 hectares of the disputed land and will acquire another 94 hectares to complete the contested 144 hectares being claimed by the Sumilao farmers. All cases pending on the issue will also be dropped.

After ten long years, the Higaonon farmers will finally realize their dream. They will have their lands back. After the land is awarded, the farmers intend to form a cooperative together with other farmer groups. Groups like taskforce MAPLAD and SALFA will be included in the new cooperative. It will be a good start and a happy ending for the farmers. The DAR had been ordered by GMA to expedite the process of determining the beneficiaries of the land.

I am glad that all is well in the end. The farmers can now determine their own future with this development. But as the last page of the Sumilao saga closes, another fight looms in the horizon. Another group of farmers whose land was awarded to them back in 1990 is about to have it taken away from them. Farmers from Calatagan will be marching their way to Manila starting April 17. Their land is to be converted to a mining area. Asturias Industries, a mining corporation is now going through loopholes in the legal process to convert the land.

So the fight for social justice and equity continues in the Enchanted Kingdom. I am sure that more farmer groups will come. Inspired by the Sumilao farmers, I hope that they too will win their fights. As a food crisis threatens the country, I just wonder why conversion of farmlands continue? I suppose the government would rather have the people go hungry first before they realize the impact of their misdirected programs. Oh well, what else is new? Industrialization will never be realized if the people are straving. Productivity? When the government would rather have 15yr. old kids work than go to school, it tells you where the country is headed.