Agrarian Reform in 2009: More of the Same Failed Program

Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano told Bulatlat in an interview that the original CARP failed — despite running for more than two decades — to achieve even half of its target, let alone 90 percent of all land supposed to be covered by the program. “When will that happen?” Mariano asked. “In effect, no private agricultural lands will ever be distributed under the CARP extension.”

CARP managed to cover only 43 percent of all agricultural lands in the country in those 20 years, according to Mariano, who is also chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Philippine Peasant Movement).

Based on the 2008 accomplishment report of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), which covers the implementation of two agrarian reform programs — Presidential Decree No. 27 of former President Marcos and the CARP — 3. 8 million hectares of land have been acquired and distributed by the DAR and another 2.4 million hectares distributed through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Of these, however, government data show that only 1.9 million hectares of private agricultural lands have been distributed since 1988. And KMP said that 82 percent of these private agricultural lands still have pending cases and that no actual or physical land distribution had taken place.

Back to the Landlords

Under CARP, the Sumilao farmers, for example, would have to pay San Miguel Food Incorporated (SMFI) at least P2.4 billion ($51,903,114) for what the latter invested in the 144-hectare land.

The CARP’s Chapter VI Section 17 stipulates:

Determination of Just Compensation. – In determining just compensation, the cost of acquisition of the land, the current value of like properties, its nature, actual use and income, the sworn valuation by the owner, the tax declarations, and the assessment made by government assessors, shall be considered. The social and economic benefits contributed by the farmers and the farm workers and by government to the property as well as the non-payment of taxes or loans secured from any government financing institution on the said land shall be considered as additional factors to determine its valuation.

This provision has not been deleted from the CARPER law.

Thus, it will not be surprising if CARPER will result in the reconcentration of land to the landlords and more cancellations of certificate of land transfer (CLTs), certificate of land ownership awards (CLOAs) and emancipation patents (EPs) as farmer-beneficiaries would be unable to pay for the amortization.

In fact, according to the DAR itself, in the year 2000, more than 375,000 hectares of land given to farmers have reverted back to landlords.

The DAR also reported in 2007 that 5,049 EPs and 103,092 CLOAs were already canceled involving 204,579 hectares of land. The figure does not include pending cases of cancellation.

The DAR figures are way below the results of a study of independent think tank Ibon Foundation that revealed that by the middle of 2004 alone, more than 2,000 EPs and CLOAs covering 380,000 hectares of land were canceled.

Mariano said, on average, the cost of agricultural lands is pegged at P235,00 ($5,082) per hectare. “With six percent interest and land tax, farmers would find it hard to pay for amortization,” Mariano said.

Rejected Amendments

The progressive party-list bloc in Congress proposed amendments to the bill during the second reading but the sponsors and the majority flatly rejected their proposals.

Among these were: deletion of provisions that exempted certain agricultural lands for CARP coverage; the distribution of land controlled and leased by multinational corporations; the deletion of Section 65 of the bill regarding the conversion of lands already awarded to farmers; and, the deletion of the so-called non-land transfer schemes in the definition of agrarian reform as stated in Section 3 of the bill.

Mariano said the retention of these provisions from the original law will pave the way for more cases of land-use conversion. The conversion of land to other uses is one of the methods used by landowners to circumvent CARP. DAR records show that in the first seven years of CARP, an estimated 33,707 hectares of agricultural lands were converted into other uses. By the end of 1997, conversion has covered 59, 965 hectares of agricultural lands.

The report of the National Statistics Office is more telling. In 2002, the NSO reported that 827, 892 hectares of lands have been converted to other uses.

CARP gives an option to landowners to choose “all other arrangements alternative to the physical distribution of lands, such as production or profit-sharing, labor administration, and distribution of shares of stocks which will allow beneficiaries to receive a just share of the fruits of the lands they work.”

The KMP asserts that this provision undermines the intent of any agrarian-reform program.

Mariano said this very provision was used by the Cojuangcos of Tarlac to spare the nearly 6,500 hectares of Hacienda Luisita from land distribution. Instead of actual land distribution, the farmers were given shares of stocks in the company under the stock-distribution option. But far from making the farmers instant millionaires, the stock options instead denied the farmers and farmworkers from owning a piece of Hacienda Luisita land that they have been tilling for more than five decades. This is precisely the kind of feudal setup that a genuine agrarian-reform program ought to break. Furthermore, the shares of farmers whose services are terminated by the Hacienda Luisita management are automatically forfeited.

On the island of Negros, other stock-option and joint-venture schemes by Eduardo Cojuangco are prevalent, particularly in Pontevedra, La Carlota City, La Castellana and Himamaylan City.

Class Struggle

Mariano said the most effective evidence that the struggle of peasants for land has been won is the actual cultivation of the land for their own benefit. The struggle of the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita has been a good example. Defying the Cojuangcos, the farm workers cultivated more than a thousand hectares of land for their own benefit.

However, for as long as landlords and big businessmen hold the political and economic power, the just struggle of Filipino farmers for land will continue. By not implementing a genuine agrarian-reform program that will pave the way for social justice, the Arroyo regime has, in effect, validated the need for the agrarian revolution that is already raging in the countryside. (

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