Maramag, Bukidnon- On February 11, 2020, the 33 years struggle of the BTL or also known as Bukidnon Free Farmers Agricultural Laborers Organization (BUFFALO)- Tribe Agricultural Movers Association of Rural Active Workers (TAMARAW)- Land Tiller Inhabitants of Musuan (LIMUS) had formally ended with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Central Mindanao University 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 Central Mindanao University) under Presidential Proclamation No.476.
Through false promises and exploitation of land issue, this peasant organization was deceived by the Kahugpong sa Mag-uuma-Bukidnon (KASAMA-Bukidnon), a Communist Terrorists Group – affiliated farmers’ organization that mobilized them during protests, rallies and mass demonstrations both at the local and national arena for the past 33 years.
However, this exploitation has finally ended with a localized peace initiative jointly undertaken by the Central Mindanao University, 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 the said social issues through formalized partnership.
Inked down in the MOA are the answers to the clamor of the 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 that they will voluntarily share 400 sacks of palay every harvest to CMU; free utilization of farm equipment and facilities owned by CMU; putting up of office for BTL 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 assistance , technical services and other support to the farmers.
Both parties also agreed as stipulated in the MOA that the BTL shall withdraw its support and affiliation from KASAMA-Bukidnon and other CPP-NPA-NDF affiliated groups; and promote strong partnership with the law enforcers, LGUs and other government agencies.
As Dr Jesus Antonio G Derije, CMU President said, “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 better social condition.
The relationship of 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 personal advocacy, I will help my constituents especially the BTL to give what they are longing for”.
It is also noted that the BTL and CMU security forces had clashed for so many times in the past due to the conflict of interesto of both parties.
During the activity, COL BARANDON, the Brigade Commander of the 403rd Brigade stated that, “We expect full cooperation from the BTL members to follow the provisions of the MOA and to denounce and withdraw their support from KASAMA-Bukidnon. 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”.
Brgy Dologon, Maramag, Bukidnon is the birthplace of the BTL and is now undergoing CSP immersion through the 88th Infantry Battalion that started last January Likewise, prior to the MOA signing, series of dialogues and consultations were jointly broken by 403rd Brigade and PLGU-Bukidnon involving BTL members and CMU.