Sunday, January 8, 2012

TPLEx project causing unrest among Tarlac farmers, groups said

Tarlac City, Tarlac – The Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Farmers Alliance in Central Luzon) and Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Tarlak (AMT, Farmers Alliance in Tarlac) condemned the recent displacement efforts by land grabbers pushed by the ongoing construction of Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx).  The project is now causing massive unrest among farmers in Tarlac City, particularly at barangays San Pascual, Batang-batang, Villa Bacolor, San Manuel and Balingcanaway.  TPLEX is the northern component of the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB) as part of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s “super regions” program.  It is the continuation of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) that pierced through Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.  The Aquino government is continuing the said Arroyo program and is now implemented by the Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) but the agency is transacting with illegitimate claimants of the affected lands and not to farmers who are actually cultivating.

“The TPLEx project is now the root cause of landgrabbing at the area in Tarlac City, near the Tarlac-Nueva Ecija national road and SCTEx.  As result, 17 farmers’ houses were demolished on December 28 and many trees were uprooted,” said Fidel Castro, AMGL Vice-chairperson.

The groups said that the issue involved the Abrilles, De Leon and Cortez estate covering more than hundreds of hectares that used to be sugar lands since the post-World War 2.  However, a certain Marilou Abrilles is claiming ownership who the farmers said has claimed compensation from the “right of way” payment from the DPWH.  Farmers added that her legal claim was only based on an emancipation patent issued on 2008 but was cancelled by the Dept. of Agrarian Reform Region III office.  She is also a granddaughter of the old Don Fernando Abrilles, not an actual occupant and farmer, hence she is ineligible to be awarded with an EP.

“Marilou Abrilles admitted she has no conscience when farmers were negotiating to receive payment at least for the trees they have planted,” said Castro.

AMT said that local farmers were paid 30% of the valuation of the improvements and the remaining 70% has yet to be received by the farmers.  They have also receive none of the trees they have cultivated as Abrilles claimed payment.  At present, farmers from Brgy. San Pascual and Batang-batang are demanding the remaining 70% payment of the demolished improvements and the value of the trees they have planted.

AMT added that Abrilles has broad connection including the police official used to be assigned at police sub-station at Brgy. San Manuel, who is related to the Lorenzos.  Martin Lorenzo, the majority shareholder of Pancake House Group and owner of St. Tropez Holdings Corp, is also grabbing lands at a nearby Brgy. Balingcanaway located at the SCTEx interchange.

“We have confirmed that the land grabbing efforts at these barangays are connected as value of lands around the SCTEx-TPLEx interchange are expected to shoot up.  We anticipate that more speculators and investors are to arrive at the interchange site in Tarlac City,” said Castro.

At present, local farmers are preparing to block demolition attempt and AMGL and AMT are planning to dialogue with the Tarlac Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO, DAR Tarlac) to implement the DAR III decision that cancelled Abrilles’ EP and start covering the lands for land reform. #

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