A Reversal of Fortunes for Masbate Farmers: Losing the Battle for Land

Of the total CARP balance, processing of 71,233 hectares (86 per cent) is still at the MARO level while 5,628 hectares (6.8 percent) are at the PARO level. Sixty five percent (49,972 hectares) of the CARP balance involve landholdings planted to coconut. The 41 percent CARP accomplishment rate in Masbate pales in comparison with the 72 percent accomplishment rate nationwide as claimed by the DAR central office.

Problematic cases

The Masbate PARO also reported that there are “problematic” cases involving 9,006 hectares of land affecting 553 tenants and 1,809 petitioners. Petitions for exemption or conversion have been filed involving 5,747 hectares of the “problematic” landholdings. Sixty five percent (3,736 hectares) of these cases involve landholdings planted to coconut.

The phase of CARP implementation appears so slow in Masbate that according to the PARO report, only 316 hectares of the 82,627 CARP balance are in the process of “generation” of emancipation patents or certificates of land ownership award and a mere 19 hectares of the entire balance have undergone valuation by the Land Bank.

Masbate ranks 8th among the provinces in the entire country with the biggest number of uninstalled land reform beneficiaries and hectarage ‘not yet fully covered’ by CARP as of October 2007, according to the Planning Service unit of DAR.

Rodeo country

Government statistics show 46 percent (or 186,194 hectares) of Masbate’s land area is devoted to cattle earning it the moniker “Rodeo Country.” Apart from the privately-owned pasture lands, 37,600 hectares are covered by 110 pasture lease agreements between the government and ranchers.

Engineer Falcon Villanueva of the Masbate CENRO however said the total pasture area actually used for raising cattle is only less than 30 percent of Masbate’s total land area.

In 1999, Villanueva said the CENRO revised its guidelines increasing the number of hectares allotted per head of cattle. The ratio stands at one-head-per-six-hectares since 1999, he said, citing the low production of almost 50 percent of the government’s lessees. This would have the effect of further increasing the hectarage that can be exempted from CARP in private or government-owned land.

Prime producer?

Villanueva said cattle raised in Masbate are sold as meat in Manila. However, he said only 20 to 50 heads are sold monthly, a very low figure considering the local government’s claim that Masbate is one of the country’s prime producers of cattle.

The CENRO official said that the pasture industry in Masbate is in a downtrend but property owners are not about to give up their lands. “For status symbol na lang yan,” Villanueva said, “para matawag lang silang ranchero.” (It is only for status symbol, just so that they would be called a rancher.)

The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) backs up this assertion. Its records show that the provincial inventory of cattle in Masbate is on a downtrend. (see table below) In fact, from being the 14th top cattle raiser in the country in 2001 with 50,140 heads, it has slipped down to number 25 as of July 2007 with only 35,242 heads.

Meanwhile, for farmer Deinla and thousands of other like him in Masbate, cattle-raising is not only a status symbol. It also serves a dubious purpose for landowners-for evading land reform and worsening the landlessness in the country.(Bulatlat.com)

This special report was produced under the 2007 Newsbreak Investigative Reporting Fellowship Program, a component of the Media, Democracy and Development Program of the United Nations Democracy Fund.

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