Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Noynoy insists options explored on Hacienda Luisita

By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
Updated March 17, 2010
12:00 AM

Original Story: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=558741&publicationSubCategoryId=63

NAGA CITY , Philippines - Liberal Party (LP) bet Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III yesterday denied allegations that his family would not give up Hacienda Luisita, and reiterated that “there are already options which are being explored.”

Aquino took exception to an article from The New York Times quoting Fernando Cojuangco, chief operating officer of the holding company that owns the plantation, that the extended Cojuangco family, owners of this plantation since 1958, had no intention of giving up the hacienda.

“If you read that article, it was unfortunate that it was written that way. I don’t think it is a fair treatment. As I told you there are already options which are being explored,” Aquino said.

Aquino said his cousin had texted him and apologized “and he was wondering if he was quoted accurately.”

Aquino said all six families – his mother’s and her siblings’ families – that owned Luisita had met and there was a unanimous decision that “running it (Luisita) under the present scheme is not really viable.”

He said the news article ran counter to his announcement that the family would transfer the hacienda to the farmers after ensuring that debts were paid off.

“It will be theirs free and clear,” Aquino said during an interview with the Times.

He said the news article even questioned the land reform program initiated by his late mother, the former President Corazon Aquino.

“I cannot imagine him (Cojuangco) talking that way about my mother. All of us were brought up to respect our elders. He as a lawyer should have studied the matter. I really am not sure if he was taken out of context,” he said.

The Times article focused on Mrs. Aquino’s first year of presidency, particularly on the land reform program.

Critics said there is no greater example of Mrs. Aquino’s land reform program than the family owned 10,000 acre Hacienda Luisita.

In 2004, the military and the police killed seven protesters during a strike by farmers fighting for land and higher wages.

Since then, the family-controlled Hacienda Luisita has managed to plant only 40 percent of the estate with sugar cane; the rest has been seized by individual farmers or remains idle, the Times said

Cojuangco told the Times that the family has no intention of letting go of Hacienda Luisita.

“No, we’re not going to,” Cojuangco told the Times. “I think it would be irresponsible because I feel that continuing what we have here is the way to go. Sugar farming has to be; it’s the kind of business that has to be done plantation-style.”

Original Story: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=558741&publicationSubCategoryId=63

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