Landowners develop ranches to evade agrarian reform

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. A mere 19 hectares of the entire balance have undergone valuation by the Land Bank.

Masbate ranks eighth among the provinces 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 that 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 that the total pasture area actually used for raising cattle is less than 30 percent of Masbate’s total land area.

In 1999, Villanueva said, the CENRO revised its guidelines to increase the number of hectares allotted per head of cattle. The ratio has stood 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 that 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. “That’s just for status symbol, so they can be called ranchers,” Villanueva said in Tagalog.

The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics backs up this assertion. Its records show that the provincial inventory of cattle in Masbate is on a downtrend. In fact, from being the 14th top cattle raiser in the country in 2001, it has slipped to 25th as of July 2007. (Click here to see comparative provincial figures for 2001 and 2007.)

Meanwhile, for farmer Deinla and thousands of others like him in Masbate, cattle raising as a status symbol serves another dubious purpose for land owners—evade land reform and worsen landlessness in the country. (

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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