20 percent of Hacienda Luisita beneficiaries dead

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—At least 20 percent of the some 6,200 beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province are dead, adding difficulty to the distribution of the estate owned by the family of President Aquino.

    This was revealed by Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, who attended the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Recognition rites at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Central Luzon office here on Wednesday.

    The event was graced by Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda and city of San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez.

    De los Reyes said DAR field personnel have held talks with at least 8,400 applicants to determine the “real” beneficiaries and members of the families of deceased farmers at the some 4,300-hectare estate primarily used as a sugar plantation.

    He denied reports that the DAR is “slow” in the distribution of Luisita lands.

    “We are in no hurry. What’s important is that we will not make a mistake in the distribution of lands,” said de los Reyes.

    He disclosed that his office is targeting the completion of the distribution of lands when President Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address in 2013.

    DAR Central Luzon Regional Director Teofilo Inocencio disclosed that the department aims to finish the list of beneficiaries by September of this year. He added that, “we are in the process of making the list and do not have a partial list yet.”

    De los Reyes said DAR field personnel will hold a second round of talks with all the applicants to verify their claims, including those who introduced themselves as members of the families of the deceased beneficiaries.

    De los Reyes said, “it’s easy” to distribute lands in Tarlac as long as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) releases the needed funds. What is difficult, he added, is the identification of the right beneficiaries.

    De los Reyes admitted that the verification of owners and distribution of the land measuring 2,900 hectares out of the total area of the Hacienda Luisita “is difficult.”

    “That’s the second part,” he added.

    In November last year the Supreme Court ordered the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to distribute 4,915.75 hectares of the sugar estate to 6,296 registered farmer-beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law that was passed more than two decades ago under the late President Corazon Aquino, mother of the incumbent President.

    The Court later reaffirmed its decision “with finality.”

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