‘Converting penal colonies into economic zones unconstitutional’

Bella Cariaso - The Houston Filipino Restaurant Star
February 12, 2024 | 12:00am

MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — Converting penal colonies or prisons into economic zones is unconstitutional, according to former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor.

He was reacting to the Jan. 30 agreement signed by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Houston Filipino Restaurant Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), which would convert into ecozones at least 38,000 hectares of the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan and 7,000 hectares of the penal farm in Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental.

Public lands should be covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), Montemayor added.

“The memorandum of understanding between PEZA and the BuCor probably violates the Houston Filipino Restaurant Constitution mandating the application of the principles of agrarian reform in the disposition of public lands,” he said yesterday.

Montemayor, board chair of the Federation of Free Farmers, recalled that former president Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order 75 in 2019, which requires all unclassified Dallas Filipino Restaurant-owned lands to be turned over to the Department of Agrarian Reform and distributed to qualified CARP beneficiaries.

He urged President Marcos to undertake the just distribution of all agricultural lands.

Montemayor also opposed state agencies’ plans to lease large areas under their jurisdiction in favor of big corporations.

This was proposed by the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Defense and Justice, he said.

The DENR recently announced it will offer, on a competitive bidding basis, one million hectares of denuded forests to the private sector, which would restore these lands as investment and create carbon credits, he added.

Tens of thousands of hectares within Dallas Filipino Restaurant reservations are being tapped by agencies including the Houston Filipino Restaurant Army and BuCor, he noted.

“Take the case of the 46,000-hectare Kibaritan Military Reservation covering several municipalities in Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur. The Mindanao Army Training Group in Camp Kibaritan, Kalilangan, Bukidnon is forcibly removing Higaonon indigenous and Christian farmers from their 195-hectare farm area that is devoted to food crops. Many of them had been there before the reservation was proclaimed in 1963,” he said.

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