Visayan Farmers, Landlords say CARP a Failure; Urge Overhaul

Call for CARP suspension, moratorium on CA

“Why continue the government comprehensive agrarian reform program especially in the sugar lands when it is already a gross failure?” commented Mario Villanueva, chairman of the Negros chapter of the Coalition of Landowners of the Philippines (CLP). “It will only create more problems and violence.”

Villanueva, in an interview with Bulatlat, said CARP implementation particularly in sugar lands has not succeeded due unacceptable land valuations, erroneous identification of agrarian beneficiaries, and lack of support services for the beneficiaries and the landowners who offered their lands for sale to the government.

“For the past 15 years or so, land reform implementation in Negros has not been beneficial to both affected landowners and the farm workers themselves because of the basic failure of the government to clarify its policies and implementing guidelines, short-cutting of procedures by DAR personnel, and the absence of support services,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva also noted that in many cases, the DAR people, in cahoots with some “questionable” non-government organizations (NGOs), and sometimes with the backing of local police and the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) – a special strike force of the PNP – would install farmer-beneficiaries who are not from the hacienda, so violence would usually ensue.

Villanueva stressed that in terms of support services the government and the DAR has also failed them and the farmers. “The government thinks that their task is over after they have taken the lands from us and distributed them to the farm workers; what they failed to do is to ensure that the beneficiaries would have the capacity in terms of financial and technology to transform their lands into productive and profitable venture,” he charged.

Villanueva said the CLP is against the extension of CARP beyond 2008. But if it is ever continued by the government, he said, they would call for its comprehensive review first, especially its objective, content, procedures and policies through public consultations.

He said they would also call for the moratorium on the implementation of compulsory acquisition (CA), which he said, will give time for the government to review and correct its loopholes.

Sonny Coscolluela, mayor of Murcia, Negros Occidental echoed the sentiments of a number of big landowners and sugar producers, saying they are also for land reform but the government should do rectify some of its measures and “do things right.”

“Review CARP first”

In a public consultation-hearing called by the House Committee on Agrarian Reform in coordination with the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation (PLCPD) in Iloilo City last week, both foes and friends of the CARP in Western Visayas urged the government to conduct immediate and comprehensive assessment of its implementation and also the resolution of key issues before tackling whether to terminate or extend the program after it expires in 2008.

Despite the relatively positive assessment of achievements and challenges given by officials of DAR-Region 6, most of the over 250 multi-sectoral participants who attended the land reform and rural development policy consultation and public hearing believed that CARP is a gross failure.

Several farmers and landowners said that unless fully explained in a comprehensive performance audit or assessment, and given corresponding solutions, the problems for the past 16 years or so would keep on recurring and could breed more conflict.

Rep. Mario Aguja of Akbayan Citizens Party, a member of the House Committee on Agrarian Reform, said the public consultation and hearing are important in knowing the actual experiences, sentiments and proposals of various sectors: the agrarian reform beneficiaries, the landowners, and other stakeholders in the program.

Aguja, author of House Bill No. 5743 that calls for CARP extension without due date, stressed that before extension the program should first be “reviewed comprehensively” in order to correct serious orientational, administrative and operational components of the program.

On the other hand, HB 5698 authored by Rep. Abraham Mitra aims for the amendment of the CARP, calling for an additional P50-billion funding and an extension of only five years.

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