JANUARY 16, 2015, TACLOBAN CITY – “Pope Kiko, help us realize our dreams where there are no families left without homes and no peasant farmers without lands”, so say landless and shelter insecure Yolanda survivors on Pope Francis, as they eagerly await the historic visit of Pope Francis in Leyte on the 17th of January.
Yolanda survivors who are without land and housing security are praying for Divine Intervention to fulfil their wish of land and housing security because government solution to these long-standing problems of the poor have become remote possibilities. The status of many farmers and fisherfolks in Eastern Visayas closely resembles the situation described by Pope Kiko who spoke of “land, housing and work that has become increasingly unavailable to the majority of the world’s population.” Nothing could be closer to the plight of farmers from Barugo, Alangalang, Jaro, and other parts of Leyte who are still awaiting the distribution of their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
In 2008, DAR reported having accomplished the distribution of 11,000 Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the municipalities of Barugo, Alangalang, and other areas, when only hundreds have been awarded. Meanwhile, thousands of farmers from Ormoc, are in possession of their CLOAs but remained uninstalled more than 10 years after being awarded. Yolanda survivors without long-term shelter security on the other hand are in the hundreds of thousands. The concentration of lands in the hands of a very few private owners has allowed an anomalous situation where the fulfilment of housing rights of hundreds of thousands of Yolanda survivors becomes difficult, if not impossible, without decisive political action and Divine Intervention while farmers who make the land productive do not possess or control and are deprived of titles to the land despite official government reports stating otherwise.
Quoting Exodus 6:8, “I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord”, farmers and fisher folks who survived Yolanda hopes that Pope Kiko’s visit will highlight the miserable plight of poor people who have long been alienated from the their land and shelter.
KATARUNGAN Eastern Visayas, a federation of farmers and fisherfolks with 1,800 members across Leyte, Tacloban and Ormoc Cities, and Eastern Samar, assert that the slow delivery and access of programs and services, badly needed after the super typhoon Yolanda damaged their farmlands, was due to lack of tenurial evidence which is crucial in securing support services from agencies and international and national organizations involved in rehabilitation programs in the Region. “Tatlong buwan matapos ang meeting namin sa Kongreso, kay Cong. Baguilat at sa OPARR kay Secretary Lacson, wala pa ring naide-deliver sa mga commitment nila ang DAR. Hihingin na lang namin kay Papa Kiko na ipagdasal ang mga ahensiya ng gobyerno para mapadali ang solusyon sa mga problema namin. Itong rosaryo na ito, gusto naming ibigay sa DAR para maalala nila lagi ang bilin ng Santo Papa,” quips Violeta Magadan, a farmer-leader from Barugo.
Rosenda Apay, uninstalled farmer from Ormoc said “sentrong usapin talaga ang lupa – sa pabahay, sa hanapbuhay, sa pagsasaka. Simple lang naman ang pangarap namin, at dito ay kaisa namin si Pope Kiko, na ang lahat ng pamilya ay may bahay na masisilungan at lahat ng magsasaka ay may lupa at may karapatan sa lupa.”