FARMERS STAGE PROTEST RALLY VS. IDLE MILK FARM IN PANGASINAN

LAOAC, Pangasinan — Some 50 farmers staged a protest rally against what they called failed projects in the 5th district of Pangasinan where million of government funds were spent right at the site of an abandoned dairy farm and milk processing complex in Barangay Maraboc here.

The farmers brought placards identifying the milk complex, a corn drying complex in Alcala, gymnasiums in Sison and Bautista as among the projects pursued by Former Congressman Mark Cojuangco that became useless and just a waste of money.

The milk processing complex used to be teeming with over 600 cows but has ceased operations since last year.

There were no cows seen in the dairy farm, only a small plot of fodder grass. No people were seen inside the locked buildings. The giant silos that dominated the complex were empty. The only activity was that of a backhoe moving earth behind the silos. In a shed were heavy equipment not in use.

When the rally was over, the farmers left behind their placards in front of the closed buildings and beside the empty tower silos.

Some of those placards described the projects as merely “white elephant” or useless big projects. They also asked where the Php 1.2-billion share of the 5th district in excise taxes that were supposed to be spent for projects benefiting tobacco farmers but allegedly channeled through former Rep. Cojuangco and his incumbent wife Kimi, were actually spent.

Joining the farmers was an old lady on wheelchair, Divina Aquino Mangonon, who said her family owned the two hectare lot where the facility was built till it was land- grabbed by the town government without paying the owners a single centavo.

“We have filed a third party complaint seeking payment for the property,” Mangonon said.

She explained that the property was titled in the name of her grandfather, Rafael Aquino.

“All we ask is for the government to pay our land that it took over,” she said.

The rallyists, led by Pluto Cabalteja, explained that the dairy farm and milk processing complex was started way back in 2004.

It stopped operations when the operator of the complex failed to pay the salaries and wages of the farm workers and office employees.

The protesters also questioned other Cojuangco’s big ticket projects including the Php 27 Million gymnasium in the town of Bautista, the Php 28 Million gymnasium in Sison, the Php 200 million corn processing complex in the town of Alcala and several unfinished school buildings in the 5th Congressional District of Pangasinan.

Cojuangco is now seeking to be elected governor of Pangasinan in a tussle with board member Amado “Pogi” Espino III.

Outgoing Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. is contesting the 5th District Congressional seat in the coming May elections against the former solon’s wife, Kimi. PNA / northboundasia.com