Negros Occidental

Court order in favor of PNB threatens to displace 1,000 people in Negros Occidental

Reymund Titong

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Court order in favor of PNB threatens to displace 1,000 people in Negros Occidental

PERPLEXED. An 80-year-old woman, Warleta Gesana, worries about what her family will do now that the Philippine National Bank has asserted its land rights on 56 hectares in Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan City.

Reymund Titong/Rappler

A court recognizes the Philippine National Bank as the owner of more than 50 hectares in Kabankalan City, which used to belong to the Dacongcogon Sugar Central

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – About a thousand people are facing the prospect of losing their homes and livelihood as the Philippine National Bank (PNB) asserted its rights to foreclosed parcels of land that used to be owned by the Dacongcogon Sugar Central in Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan City.

Reyjan Mahusay, a village councilor from Tabugon, told Rappler on Sunday, June 16, that the court sheriff in Kabankalan has coordinated with the barangay officials about the impending move to serve a writ of possession granted by a court in favor of PNB.

The June 3 writ recognized the PNB as the rightful owner of more than 50 hectares in their village that were formerly owned by the Dacongcogon Sugar Central.

Mahusay said the writ of possession also indicated that all occupants on PNB-owned land must vacate, but no timetable was given. 

Mahusay said the barangay officials were asked to survey the area and record the number of households that will be adversely affected.

The PNB owns 56 hectares covered by the following titles: T-3532, T-3533, T-3524, T-3535, and T-3536.

Around 250 families, or at least a thousand individuals, are at risk of losing their homes and livelihood in the sub-villages of Ipil-Ipil, Molave, Red Mahogany, Langka, and Tar-Apple, according to Mahusay.

Need for help

Eighty-year-old Warleta Gesana told Rappler on Monday, June 17, that her family would follow the court order, but she was worried about their future.

“Kun pahalinon kami, diin kami ma saylo? Tani bisan sa kalog nalang kami,” Gesana said.

(If they ask us to leave, where will we be relocated? I hope they at least give us a portion of a brook.)

She said she was so worried she could barely sleep, and her anxiety had started to take a toll on her health. Gesana is suffering from hypertension, diabetes, and pneumonia.

“Kabalo man kami nga indi ni amon duta, pero diin kami makadto?” she asked.

(We know this is not our land, but where can we go?)

Gesona said almost all the families living on the PNB-owned land used to be dependent on the sugar company for their livelihood. When it closed down, she said they just decided to stay.

Meanwhile, Jaster Demi, a community leader, asked for help from the local government of Kabankalan and called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to help them relocate, as they feared the impact of the court order.

Demi said they were willing to vacate as long as the government would help them find a relocation site where they could start all over again.

Mahusay earlier said that the village council of Tabugon cannot ensure a relocation site for all the affected households, but instead, it plans to bring the matter to the city government so it could act on it.

Creation and setback

The Dacongcogon Sugar Central was established in 1968 and was one of the flagship programs of then-strongman Ferdinand Marcos Sr., through the late Catholic Bishop Antonio Fortich and Benjamin Gaston, who organized sugar workers in Dacongcogon Valley into a cooperative and made them owners of the sugar mill.

The establishment of the sugar mill was devised to curb and address the socio-economic problems of Negros Island, which was among the communist insurgency-affected areas.

The Visayan Daily Star quoted Rolando Parpa, the chairperson of the Dacongcogon Farmers’ and Producers’ Cooperative (DFPC), as saying that in the first 25 years of operation, the sugar mill generated P2.2 billion, and improved the local economy.

However, after 40 years of operation, the mill faced financial and operational difficulties. The PNB, from which the sugar mill secured a loan, foreclosed on it due to its inability to ensure profitability. – Rappler.com

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