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Farmers accuse Aranetas of grabbing farms and home lots in Bulacan

A farmers’s group accused a bank of fencing off land in Sitio San Isidro in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan, adding the bank is acting in behalf of the “landgrabbing” Araneta family.

The Samahan at Sandigan ng mga  Magsasaka sa San Isidro-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Sasamag-KMP) said the Manila Banking Corp. ordered the fencing off of lots and started constructing one-meter high posts surrounding the perimeter of Blocks 9, 10, 11,12 and 13B in Sitio Isidro.

Sasamag-KMP said surveyors and engineers from AB Surveying and Development Corp. arrived last August 29 and claimed the farm lots planted with vegetables, root crops and food crops where houses are also located.

The surveyors misled barangay officials and presented a letter that said they would only conduct a “survey of the area,” the group said.

“The farmers were surprised to see heavy equipment and construction materials such as hollow blocks, steel and cement bags being hauled near their farms. The fencing and construction activities have instantly sent the farmers into a panic,” Sasamag-KMP said,

The group also said that soldiers of the 48th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army encamped nearby only looked on as farmers tried to stop the surveying company from fencing off farms and home lots .

“The soldiers are not in our community to protect the people. They are here to protect the interests of land grabbers and private companies with businesses in San Jose Del Monte City,” Eriberto Peña of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan said in a statement.

Peña said the soldiers have been encamping near the community’s barangays hall since 2018 and conducting surveillance activities masked as “Community Support Program Operations.”

The farmers said Barangay Tungkong Mangga in SJDM is the targeted location of the intermodal depot and last station of the multibillion MRT-7—a big-ticket construction project supported by the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

The MRT-7 and commercial components will cut through 103.48 hectares of the farming communities of Sitio San Isidro and Sitio Ricafort in Tungkong Mangga. More than a thousand farmers and their families will be affected by the project, the KMP said.

Large real estate companies have already put up subdivisions and township projects in San Jose Del Monte City in anticipation of the completion of the MRT-7 project. 

In addition to the Araneta group, Ayala Land Inc. has also expanded its Php7-billion Altaraza Town Center project to include Amaia Altaraza Steps, a medium-rise condominium project.

Colinas Verdes Residential Estates and Country Club, a joint-venture partnership with Sta. Lucia Real Estate and Development, already covers 261 hectares of land in Tungkong Mangga, KMP added.

The group said the Araneta family covets a total of 3,500 hectares of land in San Jose Del Monte City that includes portions of the nearby Pangarap village in Caloocan City-North. 

“These real estate projects are affecting the farmers in the sub-village of San Isidro in Tungkong Mangga. There are frequent instances wherein crops planted by farmers are being bulldozed by surveying companies and private security guards employed by real estate companies. The security personnel also prohibit farmers from planting and harvesting their crops,” KMP leader Danilo Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2 urban poor activists abducted

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
bulatlat.com

MANILA — Two urban poor activists were forcibly disappeared yesterday, April 13, in Bulacan.

The two urban poor organizers are Kadamay member John Griefen Arlegui, 20, and youth group Anakbayan’s Reynaldo Remias, Jr., 24.

They were accosted at gunpoint between 10:00 to 11:00 in the morning while posting posters of senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares and partylist group Bayan Muna along Angat-Pandi Road, according to eyewitnesses.

Kadamay said in its statement that they were forced into a red car that bore no license plate by armed men in plainclothes, right in front of the Iglesia ni Cristo church in Brgy. Sta Cruz, Angat, Bulacan.
 
Kadamay’s chapter in Pandi learned of their abduction when they noticed the election sortie vehicle, along with their election materials, parked along the highway in the afternoon of April 13. The two, however, were missing.
                                           
Kadamay said they have already searched police stations in Angat, Norzagaray, Sta. Maria, and San Jose del Monte but were told that the two are not in their custody.

Arlegui and Remias were among the members of Kadamay who occupied the abandoned government housing in Pandi, Bulacan.

The urban poor group suspects that the abductors belong to the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Last year, no less than President Duterte ordered an elite police force to go against Kadamay, whose members were occupying government housing units. He went as far as ordering to have them killed should Kadamay resist a police takeover in the housing units.

This is not the first time for Kadamay members in Pandi to be subjected to rights abuses.

On March 26, 2019, two Kadamay members Marlon Acedera and Joel Chavez were illegally arrested when bullets were supposedly found in their homes within the occupied housing in Padre Pio Resettlement in Cacarong Bata, Pandi.

The two remain incarcerated as of this writing.

Kadamay national chairperson Gloria Arellano called for the surfacing of their two members.

She added, “we blame the Duterte regime for openly attacking the legal democratic movement with all the possible means in order to quell the resistance of the Filipino people against its anti-poor and anti-people policies.” #

Saving Taliptip

by Leon Dulce

Obando Fishport was bustling with activity at 6:00 in the morning. A colorful and tightly packed flotilla has gathered, fishing boats carefully slipping and sliding past each other to get their turn at docking.

 The bustle slowly fades to an idyllic backwater as we travelled via pump boat to the coastal village of Taliptip in Bulakan town, Bulacan province. Its surrounding seas is life to some 5,000 mostly fishers and salt-makers. It is from the gentle waters and mangrove corridors where they get their bounty of fish, mussels, crabs, shrimp, and krill.

On this collection of small island communities, a 2,500-hectare reclamation project by the San Miguel Corporation is being aggressively pursued, threatening to convert everything in its wake into a an aerotropolis complex of airports, expressways, and urban expanse.

 The project was a well-kept secret from Taliptip’s residents until concerned environmental advocates and church workers raised the issue among the communities—and until President Rodrigo Duterte was seen in the news already inking the project’s deal.

 Residents, especially the families who have lived in the village over the past 80 years, are concerned that their life and livelihood are under threat by this project.

A fisherman tending to his nets in Taliptip. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

“So long as the sea is here, there is hope…What will we fish when all this is turned into cement?” said Arthur*, a fisherman from Sitio Kinse, an island community of Taliptip ensconced in a dense shroud of mangroves.

 Arthur shared that the average fish catch for a day would net them around 500 pesos. Deductions from their gross income will be used to defray gasoline and other expenses and pay their boat consigner’s share. During the dry seasons, some fishers tend to the salt fields and get 154 to 254 pesos as payment per sack depending on the quality of the salt.

 A good day’s catch is a rarity nowadays, however. Gloria*, a woman resident of Sitio Dapdap, explained that fishing families usually stock up their live catch in makeshift pens and sell these on a weekly basis. A daily trip to and from the central market in Obando is simply too expensive compared to the dwindling daily catch.

A section of the Bulakan Mangrove Eco-Park. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

The hardships push the people of Taliptip to be sustainable by necessity. Living off the grid, residents pooled their resources to set up solar panels and batteries for their simple electricity needs. The residents take care of the mangroves since the shellfish they harvest live among its roots, and serve as a natural barrier to big waves.

 Aside from a 25-hectare eco-park established by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), various other stretches of mangroves are spreadt across Taliptip’s waters. A huge population of birds such as terns, egrets, kingfishers, and swallows make a home out of these trees.

A plethora of birds roosting over makeshift structures put up by fisherfolk. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

It is not hard to see the importance of these coastal greenbelts. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the lead agency that approved the reclamation project, however, apparently has a diametrically-opposed view.

 San Miguel has pronounced that it can payroll entirely for the P735.6-billion aerotropolis, a hefty price tag that must have been the clincher. That amount seemed enough to justify ignoring the thousands of people set to be displaced and the ecologically critical vegetation to be converted.

A portion of a stretch of mangroves allegedly cut by San Miguel personnel. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

Early this year, the Duterte government also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dutch government to cooperate in the crafting of the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP). The cart came before the horse, however, with projects such as the aerotropolis rapidly progressing without the guidance of a comprehensive sustainable development and management framework.

San Miguel personnel were reportedly behind a massive mangrove-cutting spree in Taliptip two weeks ago. Communities had no idea if the cutting had a special tree cutting permit from the DENR, as required by law.

 Almost 30,000 hectares of such projects presently cover the entire length of the bay.

A fisherman off the port of Obando. Proposed reclamation projects span the entire coastline of Manila Bay. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

For Arthur, defending the only livelihood they know from the real threat of reclamation is non-negotiable. “We will not leave our homes. We will fight so long as there are people supporting us and giving us strength to fight,” he declared.

Environment groups and churches are digging in deep with the communities for the struggle to save Taliptip and various other communities across Manila Bay. Will Duterte stand with the people and stick to his rhetoric against reclamation, or will he bow once again to the oligarchs it has vowed to stand up against?#

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Leon Dulce is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE). Follow the local people’s struggle to save Taliptip on Facebook, or through the hashtag #SaveTaliptip on Twitter.

*Real names withheld for security purposes