Assistant Secretary Arnold Arrieta of the Department of Agrarian Reform central office yesterday spearheaded another round of consultations with farmer-beneficiaries of the Polo Plantation estate in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, in preparation for their long overdue installation.
Arrieta was joined by Negros Oriental Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer, Johnson Sinco, and provincial DAR legal officer Louie Naranjo in the latest round of negotiations between the farmer-beneficiaries, represented by at least seven officers of their group, the Polo Plantation Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries’ Multi-Purpose Cooperative and representatives of the Negros Oriental Center for People Empowerment and Development, a people’s organization assisting them.
Praxedes Ocay of NOCPED said that during the meeting, discussions focused on the land swap proposal of the estate owner, former Sen. Rene Espina, a road right of way leading to the parcels of land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and a request for a final harvest of sugarcane by the owner prior to the re-installation of the farmer-beneficiaries.
Also included in the negotiations were the proposal for the owner to provide the agrarian reform beneficiaries with two tractors and farm inputs and the merging of two groups of ARBs, Ocay said.
The installation of ARBs to the contested estate a few years ago did not materialize after its owners filed a protest that the land should not be covered by CARP, as it had already been declared an economic zone.
However, the Supreme Court had decided the case in favor of the ARBs, prompting DAR Undersecretary Narciso Nieto to issue an order last April 12, for the provincial DAR office to immediately re-install the beneficiaries who already had received their Certificates of Land Ownership Award.
Ocay said , at least 700 hectares of the Polo Plantation have been covered by CARP.
During recent negotiations, the POPARMUCO, through its president, Elias Ramos, has intimated that they are willing to receive at least 300 hectares from the total CARP-covered area. The beneficiaries are also amenable to a land swap proposal where they would instead get the interior portions of the estate while the owner retains the areas that are closer to the highway, Ocay said.
While nothing is final yet, Ocay said the ARBs are optimistic that pretty soon, they can finally occupy and till the lands that government had awarded them.
Arrieta, who hails from Dumaguete City, is set to return to Manila on Monday to report to Nieto on the latest developments on the negotiations for a peaceful adjudication of the contested Polo Plantation.
Arrieta and provincial DAR officers had motored to Tanjay City after the meeting yesterday to conduct another ocular inspection of the Polo Plantation estate, Ocay said.
There are a total of 96 CLOA holders of the POPARMUCO-NOCPED, while 29 others are affiliated with the Movement for Agrarian Reform Advancement, another people’s organization in Negros Oriental assisting CARP beneficiaries. Both groups have already agreed to unite so to attain a final and lasting agreement on the Polo Plantation issue, Ocay said.
Arrieta also said during the meeting that the DAR Central Office will also continue working on the inclusion-exclusion proceedings of Polo Plantation beneficiaries, she added.*JFP
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