Farmer leader: PNoy SONA, more on war preparedness than value for farmers

MALAYBALAY CITY – President Benigno Aquino III gave more importance to the country’s preparedness in the event of war than give value to farmers who produce food for the country to ensure food security, Napoleon Merida Jr. of the chair of the Panaw Sumilao Multipurpose Cooperative, said.

Merida lamented Aquino’s silence on his position on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program-Extension with Reforms (CARPer) and his unclear plans on support services needed by the farmers.

Merida, who said he was in the Batasang Pambansa to listen to Aquino’s second state of the nation address Monday, was “disappointed” of Aquino’s speech.

“He prioritized buying a battle ship to prepare for war than give importance to the farmers,” Merida, one of the leaders of Sumilao farmers, added.

The Sumilao farmers are best known for their long struggle to have their 144-hectare ancestral land in Barangay San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon, returned to them.

They fasted for 28 days in 1997 and a decade later, walked 1,700 kilometers for 69 days from Sumilao in Bukidnon to Malacanang.

On March 29, 2008, the Sumilao Farmers, San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Office of the President, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Church signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) giving the farmers their 144-hectare property – 50 hectares of which would be part of the contested land while the remaining 94 hectares will be within Sumilao town, “preferably within Barangay San Vicente.” (Walter I. Balane)

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