Philippine Farmers Urge Congress To Review Implementation Of Agrarian Reform

January 10, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
NEGROS, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 10) – A group of Filipino farmers have urged lawmakers to look into reports that influential and big landowners were allegedly influencing the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Task Force Mapalad (TFM), a national peasant federation, also it will ask progressive members of Congress to conduct a review of the role played by landowners in the implementation of the agrarian reform to determine to what extent they have contributed to its success of failure.

Jose Angeles, TFM president, said they would file a resolution seeking such a review in light of the landowners’ sustained call to review CARP and to defer its implementation pending such a review.

“Landowners have been calling for a review of CARP. They have been playing up the flaws of CARP in order to justify its non-extension after June 2008. Now we want a review of what they have done during the past 19 years of CARP in order to see if they have the moral high ground to question CARP,” Angeles said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Farmers see the landowners’ call for CARP review as a mere mask to hide their real intention to completely stop the implementation of CARP, he said.

“They are actually anti-CARP through and through and they want to use the CARP review as a way of stopping CARP and saving their land from distribution,” he said.

Angeles said that in case a review of landowners’ role in CARP pushes through, they will ask the congressional review committee to summon to the hearing all landowners who have been identified by farmers and farmer-beneficiaries to have been involved in agrarian-related land disputes.

“A congressional review of such nature will help bring to light why there have been cases not only of failure in CARP implementation but also land disputes that in sometimes resulted in violence and deaths,” Angeles said.

He said landowners have been blaming CARP itself for the occurrence of land disputes and violent incidents.

“As far as the farmers are concerned, the only source of violence in agrarian-related disputes has been the landowners who want to evade CARP and prevent the distribution of their CARP-covered lands,” he said.

He said that among the groups that have openly called for CARP review included the landowners in Negros province, sugar millers and coconut planters associations.

Celso Pojas, regional spokesperson for the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said farmers were also protesting the proposed extension of the CARP.

The government’s agrarian reform program may be extended after President Gloria Arroyo certified as urgent a bill seeking a 10-year extension of the CARP, which is set to end in June 2008, ten years after it was passed.

The CARP is primarily a social reform measure and addresses the need for a more equitable distribution of land ownership. Its end-goal is to improve the standards of living of beneficiaries and promote greater economic activity in the rural areas.

But Pojas said extending the CARP would only exacerbate the plight of the farmers who, until now, suffers from landlessness and usurpation from big landlords and multi-national companies.

“We never benefited from the CARP. Our farmers remain landless,” Pojas told the Mindanao Examiner newspaper.

“The big landlords and multi-national corporations are the ones who have benefited from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, not us farmers. The CARP’s distorted definition of agrarian reform and the law’s actual provisions reveal its unmistakable bias in favor of landowners and agribusiness. This program has never been a solution to our problem.”

“Most of the benefactors do not have the security of owning the lands they tilt due to the imposition of heavy amortization of Land Bank. While some of us were forced to enter ‘growership’ contracts and leasehold arrangements with big plantations due to the lack of support from the government,” he said.

Pojas said the poor implementation of the CARP is worsened by feudal exploitation as many landlords continue to wield power in the countryside. “We call for the scrapping of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program not for its extension,” he said.

Some seven million hectares of agricultural lands, from more than four millions all over the country, have already been distributed. More than four million farmers benefited from the CARP, according to DAR, which is the lead implementing agency of the agrarian reform program.

It undertakes land tenure improvement, development of program beneficiaries, and the delivery of agrarian justice. DAR conducts land survey in resettlement areas. It undertakes land acquisition and distribution and land management studies. The DAR also orchestrates the delivery of support services to farmer-beneficiaries and promotes the development of viable agrarian reform communities.

The passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), Republic Act 6655, in 1988 was hailed as a historic occasion. CARL promised to redistribute agricultural lands — in several phases — to those who actually till them.

Most of the government funding for CARP came from the recovered P50-billion of the so-called Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth; however, only P10 billion was allocated to the DAR, the rest of the money was distributed to other agencies, including P8-million for human rights victims under then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Belgium, Spain and Japan among the countries that are supporting the CARP. (With a report from Lani Factor)

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