CARP Deceives Peasants,
declares achievements by successive land and agrarian reform programs
including the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). However, an
analysis of relevant data would show that CARP cannot address peasant
poverty and landlessness because it was never meant to.
BY SONNY AFRICA
Posted by Bulatlat
AGAINST DECEIT: Writings on Gate 1 of
the Cojuangco-owned Central Azucarera de Tarlac assail CARP’s
BULATLAT FILE PHOTO
As the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Program (CARP) marks its 18th anniversary, rural poverty continues to be
widespread and millions of peasants still remain landless. And this is not
just after close to 20 years of CARP, but nearly half a decade of various
agrarian reform programs.
Major land reform legislation in the
country started with the Agricultural Tenancy Act of 1954, the Land Reform
Act of 1955 and the Agricultural Land Reform Code of 1963. Following the
Agrarian Reform Code of 1971 and Presidential Decree No. 27 (PD 27) in
1972 under the regime of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, agrarian
reform took organizational form with the creation of a Department of
Agrarian Reform (DAR). Most recently, Republic Act (RA) 6657 or the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) of 1988 initiated the CARP.
Yet, according to various Censuses of
Agriculture, full land ownership has actually been on the decline since PD
27 was enacted. In 1971, 58% of all farms were fully owned but this fell
to 47.5% in 2002; in terms of land area, fully owned farms accounted for
62.9% of total farm area in 1971 but fell to 50.6% in 2002.
Although there was a decrease in the share
of completely tenanted and leased lands, this did not translate into full
ownership but only part ownership that implies a continuation of tenancy
and lease arrangements. In fact, the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey
(APIS) of 2002 reported that only 11% of all families owning land other
than their residence had obtained land through CARP.
Yet the government repeatedly declares
achievements by successive land and agrarian reform programs including,
most recently, the CARP. How does this reconcile with decreasing land
ownership according to agriculture census data?
The DAR and the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (DENR) reported a cumulative accomplishment of a
seemingly impressive 6.4 million hectares – or 79.4% of the target CARP
scope of 8.1 million hectares – with 3.8 million farmer beneficiaries from
1972 to June 2005. These figures seem to indicate that agrarian reform in
the Philippines is well underway, albeit slowly.
However, the current target scope
represents a severe downward adjustment from CARP's original scope in
1988. Back then, the target for distribution was 10.3 million hectares, or
some 85% of total agricultural land planted to crops and a third of the
country's total land area. This was adjusted downwards by 21.7% in 1996 to
the current scope of 8.1 million hectares following drastic cuts in
coverage of both private and public lands.
The reason behind these cuts may be rooted in CARP’s
pro-landlord orientation. CARP is not about free land distribution to the
tiller which is the core of a genuine land reform program. Instead, CARP
seeks to provide landlord compensation and require peasant beneficiaries
to pay for land that they have been tilling for generations. Land reform
under CARP is essentially a land transaction between landlords and
peasants with the government acting as the middleman.
The revised CARP scope represents a
concession to big private landed interests. The target was adjusted
downwards to accommodate CARP exemptions. CARP allows landlords to retain
five hectares of land and an additional three hectares for each of the
heirs. PD No. 27 had a retention limit of seven hectares each. Landlords
used these as a loophole, hurriedly subdividing their landholdings and
coming out with multiple titles within the limits. Yet the scope of
exemptions even broadened far beyond just retention limits.
At least 60,000 hectares of land in
commercial farms and plantations were exempted from 1988 to 1998 and these
remain undistributed even as the deferment period has already expired. The
Supreme Court handed down a decision in 1990 sparing commercial livestock,
poultry and swine operations from CARP coverage. Belated land use
conversion is also another way out where agricultural lands that have
already been distributed are suddenly found to be, according to local land
use plans or zoning ordinances, for residential, commercial or industrial
use and hence CARP-exempt.
Further, landlords also had the option to
forego land distribution altogether through non-land transfer schemes,
such as the infamous stock distribution option (SDO). The SDO adopted
corporate stock sharing instead of land distribution to peasants. Aside
from other production and profit-sharing arrangements, the SDO’s leasehold
arrangements supposedly guaranteed that, in farms under five hectares, the
split of net produce between landlord-tenant would be 25-75.
In the end, the revised CARP scope in 1996
only covered 3.0 million hectares of private land. This implies that 43.7%
of total potential private land for distribution – around 5.3 million
hectares – was exempted outright from CARP. The reductions in the scope of
public land in turn accommodated vast tracts of government land leased or
otherwise controlled by big landlords as cattle ranches, export crop
plantations and logging concessions.
Trends in CARP implementation also confirm
its pro-landlord bias. Compulsory acquisition (CA) – covering the largest
chunk of privately-owned land (including commercial farms and plantations)
and the most resistant landlords – has the largest balance remaining among
all land types. This is both in terms of absolute land area (1.3 million
hectares) and as a percentage of its target scope (83.8%). It also
accounts for the majority of total balance remaining (76%).
The "over-performance" of voluntary land
transfers (VLTs) by 82.8% is alarming. VLTs ostensibly provide for the
direct transfer of land from landlords to the peasant beneficiaries, with
the government no longer acting as the buyer (from the landlord) and the
seller (to the peasant). Instead, government only becomes responsible for
mediating the transfer and subsequent enforcement of the contract. The use
of this particular CARP mode of land redistribution is alarming not only
because the landlord is put in a strong position to dictate the terms of
the contract with the peasant. More important, the landlord is put in a
position to use VLT as a deception where there is only a bogus "contract"
and no transfer of land at all.
On top of all this, landlords have also
profited immensely from CARP apart from what they had already accumulated
through generations of land ownership. From 1972 to June 2005, total
approved Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) compensation to 83,203
landowners for 1.3 million hectares has already reached P41.6 billion
($783.2 million, based on an exchange rate of P53.115 per US dollar) in
cash and bonds, or an average of P500,463 ($9422.25) per landlord. An
additional P4.5 billion ($84.7 million) is earmarked for 2006.
The CARP's reported accomplishments are
also dubious since various forms of bogus land distribution bloat the
figures. The "accomplishments" include lands with registered certificates
of land ownership award (CLOAs) but these have not been turned over to
tenants who are still paying for their amortization. There is double
counting where "mother" or collective CLOAs and the "individual" CLOAs
under these are both tallied. In the most brazen cases, there are CLOA
holders who still do not occupy the land because of outright landlord
The numbers also include "encumbered"
CLOAs prematurely released to beneficiaries for the sole purpose of
padding reports. These CLOAs are stamped or otherwise annotated as
"encumbered" because of unsettled payments and documentary requirements
and do not yet give holders the same rights of ownership as regular CLOAs.
Land has also been reported as distributed but in reality is inalienable
or otherwise not suited for agricultural production.
Apart from reporting dubious
accomplishments, these reports also do not reflect cases of land being
awarded but later taken away from beneficiaries. Landlords and rural
elites exploit a legal defect of CLOAs and EPs that limits the security of
beneficiaries' claim to the land covered. Torrens Titles have a one-year
prescriptive period for bringing up cases against them as opposed to CLOAs
and EPs that have no such limit.
This gives landlords the legal opening to
reclaim land by disputing the redistribution of land. CARP exemptions are
used, albeit belatedly, as the basis for cancellations. They also maneuver
decisions favorable to them through technicalities including supposed
errors in data entries, in the change of documents from EPs to CLOAs and
in the identification of legitimate farmer beneficiaries.
These defects, loopholes, and outright
corruption have resulted in thousands of cancellations through the years.
Over 2,000 CLOAs and EPs covering over 380,000 hectares of land and
thousands of peasant families had been cancelled by mid-2004, including
EPs distributed over two decades ago. This is likely to be a gross
underestimation though because DAR officials themselves admit that there
is no nationwide mechanism in place to monitor reversals happening on the
ground. Land conversion has also caused total farm area to fall to 9.7
million hectares in 2002, or 304,078 hectares less in 1991. This figure
does not include land that has been "converted" only on paper for the
In addition, there are also land
distribution reversals resulting from the economic pressures on peasant
beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are hard-pressed to make the lands
distributed to them productive because there are no support and extension
services available to them. This comes on top of the generally unfavorable
economic environment due to rapid agricultural sector liberalization in
the 1990s and the dumping of cheap cereals, spices and vegetables from
abroad. Falling farm incomes and mounting debt drive peasants to stop
amortizing "their" land leading either to foreclosure, a sale of the land
back to the landlord (who continues the payments), or out-and-out
CARP accomplishment reports then do not
reflect the hundreds of thousands of hectares of land that "beneficiaries"
are losing back to landlords, commercial and real estate developers. In
any case it seems that not all 2.1 million DAR CARP beneficiaries hold
either EPs or CLOAs since there are only 1.7 million EP and CLOA holders
as of December 2004.
Poverty and landlessness
The clear failure of land reform in the
country has severe consequences for a predominantly agricultural country
like the Philippines. The peasants who make up the largest part of the
population continue to be exploited by rural land, credit, trading and
marketing monopolies and are kept in miserable poverty. Rural poverty
incidence is two-and-a-half times that in urban areas and 73% of the
country's poor live in agriculture-dependent rural areas.
Land rent is still common with tenants
paying anywhere from 30% to, in some extreme cases, as much 90% of their
produce to landlords. The tersyuhan arrangement of a two-thirds
share to the landlord and one-third to the tenant, which happens in many
coconut farms in the Bicol region, is among the most common.
Farmworkers are doubly burdened with
irregular work and – even when there is work to be found – low wages.
Agricultural daily minimum wages ranged from P151-P212 ($2.84-$3.99)
nationwide yet farmworker wages were found to go as low as P20 ($0.38) in
Negros, P50 ($0.94) in Samar and P69 ($1.30) in Cagayan Valley. Peasants
meanwhile have to contend with traders charging high prices for
agricultural inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, while paying low
prices for peasant produce.
With peasant incomes perpetually falling
far below their needs, usury's grip is deep with interest rates reaching
the equivalent of 20% per month, 200% per harvest and 400% per year. In
the province of Mindoro Oriental,
P1,000 ($18.83) loans have been charged interest of four (4) sacks of
rice, or equivalent to over four times the original loan amount.
CARP cannot address peasant poverty and
landlessness because it was never meant to. Thus, the only hope for
genuine land reform in the country lies with the growing peasant movement.
Organized peasant groups have directly confronted exploitation by
landlords and traders. They have improved their livelihoods and welfare in
ways that, unlike CARP, do not sidestep the issue of who should be
benefiting from tilling and working the land. Posted by Bulatlat
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