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Parties to Sumilao land row hit ‘win-win’ deal

March 29, 2008 5:11pm

MANILA, Philippines - With the signing of a memorandum of agreement on the disputed 144-hectare lot in Sumilao town in Bukidnon, "all protagonists have won," Malacañang said Saturday.

In a statement posted on the Office of the Press Secretary website Saturday, Malacañang said the resolution showed that much can be done if all worked together.

"All protagonists have won. The San Miguel Corporation (SMC) will be able to continue with their project and the farmers will get the land they have sacrificed and worked for through many years," it said.

Under the agreement, the SMC agreed to release to qualified farmers through deed of donation 50 of the 144-hectare contested property. To complete the 144-hectare claim, the company would acquire additional 94 hectares outside the original estate, which will be distributed to the claimant farmers.

The farmers have agreed to accept this formula and are presently identifying their preferred parcels of land outside the original property from a list the SMC has distributed.

The Deed of Donation giving the 50 hectares to the farmers was also signed by San Miguel Foods, Inc. (SMFI) Saturday. The farmers will get a total of 144 hectares, which is equivalent in size of the original property they sought for.

The dropping of all pending cases by all parties is also part of the agreement.

"Government has demonstrated its commitment to land reform and social justice. The Church, led by Manila archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales played the role of the Church of the poor and peacemaker on earth," the Malacañang statement said.

It said that President Arroyo has ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to expedite the process of determining qualified farmer beneficiaries.

The DAR has conducted the technical survey delineating the 50 hectares to be given to the farmers. It is determining which parcels of land within the vicinity of the original property can be acquired by SMC for distribution to the farmers.

The signing ceremony was held at the San Carlos Seminary Complex in Makati City with Rosales as one of the main witnesses. The Cardinal gave full backing to the farmers.

The parties paid a courtesy call on President Arroyo in Malacañang after the signing. They presented to the president a copy of the settlement agreement and thanked her for her "support."

"The quiet back room negotiations that led to the settlement were initiated by Cardinal Rosales and participated in by top-level representatives of the Catholic Church, SMC, and the Government. The talks lasted nearly three months from January to March 2008," the Palace statement said.

Other qualified beneficiaries from MAPALAD and San Vicente Landless Farmers Association (SALFA) will be included in the succeeding processes. This will finally vindicate their years of sacrifice and relentless efforts.

Arroyo offered the use of Air Force C-130 planes to transport the farmers back to Mindanao where thanksgiving Masses are scheduled on site.

The farmers are expected to occupy the initial 50 hectares within the SMFI property in a few days.

Those who signed the MOA were Ramon S. Ang and Francisco Alejo for San Miguel Corporation and San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI); Antonio Medina for the NQSR Management and Development Corp.; Samuel Merida, Larry Carejo, Mercy Serona and Napoleon Merida, Jr for the Sumilao farmers; and Secretary Nasser Pangandaman of the Department of Agrarian Reform
and Secretary Conrado Limcaoco Jr. of the Office of the President for Government.

Rosales and Manila auxiliary bishop Broderick Pabillo were among those who signed as witnesses. Other witnesses were Sumilao Farmers' consultant Christian Monsod, Sumilao Farmers' lawyer Arlene Bag-ao and SMFI legal counsel Wilfredo Peñaflor. - GMANews.TV
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