Farmworkers reject Hacienda Luisita application for special economic zone declaration

AMBALA urges PEZA, DTI to junk Aquino kin application to declare disputed Hacienda Luisita land as special economic zone

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) should immediately rescind its 13 February 2014 approval of the application by the Cojuangco-Aquino-owned Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC) to declare as special economic zone a 260-hectare disputed agricultural land in Hacienda Luisita, a statement by the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) said.

In a budget hearing yesterday at the House of Representatives, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap asked the Department of Trade and Industry secretary, Gregory Domingo, if he was aware that the said Luisita land that the Cojuangco-Aquinos are pushing to be transformed into a special economic zone are agricultural in nature and are in fact the subject of a Notice of Coverage (NOC) by the Department of Agrarian Reform.  The DTI secretary replied that he would ask PEZA, a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) under his department, to look into the matter.

PEZA Deputy Director General Tereso Panga, for his part,  admitted that they were not aware that the said land is under agrarian dispute, but assured Hicap that while PEZA may have initially approved to process LRC’s application, the applicant would have to strictly comply with several requirements before the agency could come up with any recommendation.

AMBALA and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) already formally requested PEZA’s Director General Lilia de Lima on August 29 to rescind LRC’s application. PEZA has so far only acknowledged receiving the said request.

“The Cojuangco-Aquinos’ PEZA applicaton is the latest of their scheming attempts to once again exempt the Presidential clan from distributing a big portion of Hacienda Luisita to the farmers,” said AMBALA chairperson Florida Sibayan.

Luisita farmworkers, according to Sibayan, are especially wary that PEZA could directly become an instrument of the Cojuangco-Aquinos given that the agency is under the Office of the President and the fact that it is the president himself who signs the final order declaring an area a special economic zone.

Sibayan likewise  cautioned the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) from reversing its ruling on issuing out a Notice of Coverage (NOC) on the said disputed lands on December 17, 2013. This includes another 100 hectares of land in barangay Cutcut which are actually owned by Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), a sister company of LRC. TADECO appealed to DAR recently to reverse its December 17 ruling.

In the first place, according to Sibayan, DAR should have included the said properties in the land distribution ordered by the Supreme Court (SC) on April 24, 2012. The SC also ruled that DAR by its mandate must put under agrarian reform coverage all other Luisita agricultural lands owned by TADECO.

“DAR must not add insult to injury by withdrawing its NOC on the said disputed lands. Doing otherwise would only prove for the nth time how the haciendero president has long been in collusion with the DAR in its sham land distribution in Luisita.

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Source Verification:
Gi Estrada
UMA Media officer
+639166114181

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
(Agricultural Workers Union)
Philippines
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International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. The ICHRP is a global network of organizations based outside of the Philippines, committed to campaigning for human rights and Filipino people's rights.