MARAMAG, Bukidnon, Feb. 11 (PIA) — The 33-year struggle of the Bukidnon Free Farmers Agricultural Laborers Organization (BUFFALO), Tribe Agricultural Movers Association of Rural Active Workers (TAMARAW), Land Tiller Inhabitants of Musuan (LIMUS) collectively known as BTL formally ended today with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Central Mindanao University (CMU) and the officers and members of the said organization.
Since 1990, the BTL with a membership of more or less 800 farmers fought their rights to own a piece of land within the 3,401 hectares reserved by the government for the Mindanao Agricultural College (now CMU) under Presidential Proclamation No.476.
Through false promises and exploitation of land issues, this peasant organization was deceived by the Kahugpong sa Mag-uuma-Bukidnon (KASAMA-Bukidnon), a Communist Terrorists Group – affiliated farmers’ organization. They were mobilized during protests, rallies and mass demonstrations both at the local and national arena for the past 33 years.
Fortunately, this exploitation ended with the localized peace initiative jointly undertaken by CMU, Provincial Government of Bukidnon, Local Governments of Valencia City and Maramag, 403rd Infantry Brigade and 88th Infantry Battalion, together with other stakeholders that brilliantly created ways and means to answer social issues through formalized partnership.
Inked down in the MOA are answers to the clamor of BTL members such as free scholarship for their sons and daughters in CMU; tilling of 517 hectares of land owned by CMU for free provided they will voluntarily share to CMU 400 sacks of palay every harvest; free utilization of farm equipment and facilities owned by CMU; putting up of BTL office upon the completion of the CMU Farmers Techno-Hub; and to allow the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Department of Agriculture (DA) and other government agencies to provide technical assistance, services, and other support to the farmers.
Both parties also agreed that the BTL shall withdraw its support and affiliation from KASAMA-Bukidnon and other CPP-NPA-NDF affiliated groups and promote strong partnership with law enforcers, local government units, and other government agencies.
“The Central Mindanao University is once again opening its doors to the BTL farmers. As an academic institution, it is our duty and mission to help our constituents to have a better social condition. The relationship between CMU and BTL had been very bitter for the past years and the only way to heal it is to have peaceful dialogue and engagement. As the President of CMU and as my advocacy, I will help my constituents especially the BTL to get what they are longing for,” said CMU President Dr. Jesus Antonio G Derije.
Col. Ferdinand Barandon, commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, said they are expecting full cooperation from the BTL members to follow the provisions of the MOA and to denounce and withdraw their support to KASAMA-Bukidnon who have exploited them for the past 33 years.
“They were not able to help you resolve the problems and social issues that exist. This is now the time for you to live peacefully and work closely with the government to fulfill your dreams and the dreams of your children,” Barandon told BTL members.
Brgy Dologon in the municipality of Maramag in Bukidnon is the birthplace of the BTL. It is now undergoing CSP immersion through the 88th Infantry Battalion. Likewise, before the MOA signing, series of dialogues and consultations involving members of the BTL and CMU were jointly undertaken by 4the 03rd Brigade and PLGU-Bukidnon. (403rd Inf. Bde/PIA10)