MILITANT peasant group Kilu–sang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pang–wawasak ng Kalupaan ng Hacienda Looc (Umalpas Ka–Hacienda Looc) on Monday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to immediately conduct an investigation on the looming displacement of public schools affected by an eco-tourism project in a village in Maragondon, Cavite that forms part of the disputed Hacienda Looc lands.
Umalpas Ka–Hacienda Looc spokesperson Mandy Lemita said that last week, the Virata family allegedly issued a “notice to vacate” to Sta. Mercedes Elementary School and Bucal National High School-Sta. Mercedes Annex, in Sitio (sub-village) Patungan, Barangay (village) Sta. Mercedes, Maragondon.
“The Viratas are claiming that they have a land title over Sitio Patungan and that the public schools stand on top of their land,” Lemita said.
Lemita added that 475 elementary pupils, 275 high school students, and 24 teachers are directly affected.
The Viratas, descendants of former president Emilio Aguinaldo, are claiming vast tracts of lands in Cavite.
The 600-hectare Sitio Pa–tungan is within the borders of the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc of Nasugbu, Batangas where Henry Sy, through the Manila South Coast Development Corporation and SM Land Inc., is currently converting into golf course and marina project called Royal Cliff, Harbortown Golf and Country Club.
He said that “real estate giants are employing various maneuvers, including harassment and persecution, in a desperate bid to suppress farmers, fishers, and residents of Hacienda Looc in fighting for their rights to the lands.”
“The Viratas are among SM Lands’ partner in evicting farmers and residents of Hacienda Looc,” Lemita said.
The groups called on the education department to immediately conduct an investigation and uphold the rights and welfare of the students and teachers to be displaced.
“The school year has just started. The DepEd should immediately step into this brazen land-grabbing by giant real estate firms. These big-ticket eco-tourism projects in Hacienda Looc are denying ordinary farmers and fisherfolk children not only of their rights to own the land but of their basic right to education,” Lemita said.