Manila (AsiaNews) – A pressing call by the Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, to San Miguel Corporation, the leader in the soft drinks market, to restore 144 hectares of land to the farmers of Sumilao. Meanwhile the farmers are marching through Manila today, decided not to leave the capital until they have been given back their lands. President Gloria Magapagal Arroyo has ordered that these 144 hectares are included in the programme for agrarian reform, which aims to distribute land among farmers. The initiative has been welcomed by the Church which supports the farmers by adding its voice to their protests.
Sumilao, Bukidnon is 830 kilometres southeast of Manila. 55 indigenous Higaonon and other farmers from Sumilao town completed a two month long march to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's office from Bukidnon to Manila and arrived early December. They have since been camping outside the office of the Agrarian Reform Commission in Quezon City. Along their journey they received the support of many diocese, which gave them food and shelter.
The farmers delegation is accompanied by Msgr. Dinualdo Gutierrez bishop of Marbel and chairman of the Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP); St. Paul of Chartres Sister Rosanne Mallillin, the commission's executive secretary; and Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila who met Arroyo to ask her grant them their "ancestral land’ which is occupied by San Miguel Corporation. Arroyo issued an order on December 18 saying that the land to be given back to the indigenous farmer.
The San Miguel Company had been set to construct a 24-hectare Development Academy of Mindanao, a 67-hectare Bukidnon Agro-Industrial Park, a 33-hectare forest development area and support facilities covering 20 hectares according to an agreement stipulated with the previous government.