Philippines ready to carve up Aquino farm

Posted at 04/25/12 5:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said Wednesday said it was ready to carve up the vast farm of President Benigno Aquino's clan after the Supreme Court rejected the owners' demand for $100 million compensation.

The Philippines' highest tribunal on Tuesday reaffirmed an earlier ruling to sell 4,300 hectares (10,600 acres) -- most of the nearly 5,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita -- to its tenants for much less than the clan's asking price.

The ruling would crown the Philippines' 14-year effort, ironically launched by the incumbent leader's late mother, then-president Corazon Aquino, to give millions of share croppers land to help dig themselves out of poverty.

"The DAR stands ready to implement the Supreme Court decision," the department said in a statement.

Hacienda Luisita, one of the country's largest corporate farms, spreads across several towns in the central plains north of Manila and has come to symbolize the failure of the first Aquino president's land reform program.

The farm is run by Corazon Aquino's Cojuangco clan, which had been accused of trying to avoid giving up their land by converting parts of it to non-agricultural uses and giving its share croppers shares of stock instead.

A total of 6,296 Hacienda Luisita workers stand to be able to buy small segments of several hectares each under terms that still have to be set out by the agrarian reform agency.

The Supreme Court had already ruled against the Cojuangcos on the issue in November last year, but the clan appealed the court decision.

It also demanded an estimated million pesos ($23,000) per hectare, much higher than the 40,000 pesos per hectare that the agrarian reform department was prepared to pay for it.

Hacienda Luisita lawyers and the Aquino government have both said they will respect the Supreme Court ruling, while stressing they still have to read the decision in full before making further comments.