This is not really about me, but about the people I meet, the places I visit and the stories I want to share.

Monday, April 21, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well

I’d like to remain optimistic - all’s well that ends well in Sumilao.

Yoyong Merida, one of the younger leaders among the Sumilao farmers is back to his normal life in Bukidnon, grinding coffee when he’s not seen in their farm.

On March 29, the historic settlement agreement between the Sumilao farmers and San Miguel Corporation was announced by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. After enduring that grueling three-month walk from Bukidnon to Manila late last year, the Sumilao farmers are finally rewarded their long-deserved land.

At least, Yoyong and his fellow Sumilao farmers have 50 of the 144 hectares in Bgy. San Vicente. San Miguel is still looking for the additional 94 hectares since obviously the company cannot give back the main bulk of the contested property where concrete structures for their hog farm have been erected.

They may have their land now, but there’s still more work to do for the farmers.

Atty. Arlene Bag-ao, or Kaka to the Sumilao farmers told our The Correspondents team that they are planning to do communal farming in the 50 hectares while the remaining 94 hectares will be distributed to the farmers.

Initially, the problem that I saw in the settlement agreement was the use of the term “donation.” There’s the connotation that the land was just “donated” to the Sumilao farmers, which could mean that San Miguel is still the owner of the land, and as owners, they can get the land back anytime they want. But Kaka said this possibility is very remote. The farmers got their land through the framework of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law and even if the term “donation” was used, everything was legitimate.

The primary thing that worries the farmers as of now are the support services they need for their farm. Baka iwanan daw sila sa ere ng DAR. Actually, the farmers should not be asking for support services. They should be demanding these services since this is mandated by CARL.

But then again, we have to be optimistic. As optimistic as Nanay Hilda who can still manage to smile in this photo-op. :)

And of course, Nanay Sion won't allow herself to be left behind in another photo-op, while I enjoy that perfect cup of coffee - Sumilao blend. :)

By the way, taking their cue from the Sumilao farmers, the Calatagan farmers are also marching to Malacanang to demand the land which they also believe is theirs. I hope it is also an all’s-well-that-ends-well story.

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