Landowners develop ranches to evade agrarian reform

The Espinosas own a 3,000-hectare ranch in Milagros town, on the western coast of Masbate island. Masbate was once regarded as one of the top cattle producing provinces in the country. It is also the second poorest province.

While the DAR central office has yet to decide on the exemption petition, Deinla and other farmer-beneficiaries in Hacienda Espinosa are waiting, perhaps in vain, to get their own lands.

They are not alone. The local DAR statistics show that almost half of about 26,593 CARP beneficiaries in Masbate are in the same predicament as Deinla.


In the article “Subverting Peasants Land Rights: The Supreme Court Decision Exempting Livestock Areas from the Coverage of Agrarian Reform” by Danilo Carranza of the Peace Foundation Inc. and Pepito Mato of Masbate Center for Rural Development Empowerment (MACARADE), the Supreme Court is blamed for “constricting” the scope of CARP coverage by exempting productive agricultural land classified as being used for livestock, swine and poultry production.

The DAR tried to cushion the Supreme Court decision by issuing Administrative Order No. 9 Series of 1993, regulating exemptions of lands devoted to livestock-raising. The AO sets a land-animal ratio–one head to one-hectare–as basis for an exemption in lieu of a blanket exemption.

However, on Oct 19, 2005, the High Court declared DAR AO No. 9 as unconstitutional when it ruled with finality the CARP exemption of some 3,020 hectares of property owned by Delia Sutton, a lawyer and rancher. The land is located in Barangays Amutag, San Agustin, Dayhagan, and Cabasan, in the municipality of Aroroy, also in Masbate.

Sitting en banc, 13 justices concurred the decision penned by now chief justice Reynato Puno.
Sutton won the case despite DAR’s assertion that portions of the said property are dedicated to farming. Some 205 farmers lost the chance to own land through CARP. They claim that a 50-50 sharing system in rice exist in the Sutton land holdings.

Aside from the Sutton case, 11 similar exclusion cases have been documented by MACARADE in six towns in Masbate province covering 12,026 hectares and affecting some 2,014 farmers. The cases are pending at the Supreme Court or at the DAR regional or central offices. (Click here to see status of the CARP exemption cases in Masbate where farmers are assisted by MACARADE.)

Mission unaccomplished

Of the total 404,707-hectare land area of Masbate, 274,750 hectares are classified as agricultural. Of these, only 141,154 hectares are covered by CARP.

As of February 2007, the Masbate Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) reported that only 58,527 hectares, or 41 percent of the total area covered by CARP, have been reported as “accomplished.” The rest of the 82,627 hectares (or 59 percent) is described as CARP “balance” or unaccomplished, including 5,747 hectares identified as “problematic.”

Of the total CARP balance, processing of 71,233 hectares (86 percent) 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.

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