TACLOBAN CITY-The journey towards owning their land after 15 years of struggle remains far from over for the 21 farmers in Ormoc City. A supposed ceremonial agreement between the Bugho Farmers Association, the group of concerned farmers in Barangay Matica-a, Ormoc, and the Department of Agrarian Reform(DAR) scheduled on May 12 fizzled out. The agreement could have formalized the “self-installation” conducted on April 30 by the farmers who were originally given their certificate of land ownership awards (CLOAs).

The failure of having the agreement signed was decried by the farmers saying their struggle will continue and as if the situation was the same in 1999, the year the CLOAs were awarded to them.  “The land was promised to us by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law since December of 1999,”said Rosenda Apay, leader of the Bugho Farmers Association. “While we are grateful that DAR has acknowledged and assisted us after our bid for self-installation, the never-ending accommodation of demands from the other farm workers’ group has rendered the validity of our certificate of land ownership awards useless,” she added.

The contested agricultural land covers 25 hectares with other farmers belonging to a private company also challenging ownership. Baby Reyes, project coordinator of land rights advocacy group Rights-Network who is helping the farmers on their fight, said Bugho farmers are the genuine owners of the land by virtue of CLOA Numbers 00276805 (TCT-780) and 00276806 (TCT-781) they are holding.

After they were driven out from their land, Bugho farmers went into what they called “long and tedious legal processes which always yielded victory for our group.”
There were originally 31 holders of the certificate of land ownership yet their number has gone down to 21 today.

“Despite these, DAR was still unable to install us back in our land. In 2002, wanting to possess our land, we agreed to a compromised agreement, authored by DAR (legal division), giving the 21 hectares of land to the Fran Farm Workers who occupied our land, and keeping the 25 hectares to ourselves. Again, DAR failed to install us even with this compromised agreement,” Apay said.

The numerous meetings and dialogues which happened thereafter keep the group away from their farm for 15 years.
According to Reyes, the rival group of farmers is still not totally relinquishing their claim on the 25 hectares of land during the scheduled signing of agreement.
As Bugho farmers’ demand for swift action continues to fall on deaf ears, they called anew for DAR to “put an end to the tedious process of negotiations with the other group.”
“Consummate the installation of the 21 agrarian reform beneficiaries, “Apay said. (RONALD O.REYES)