By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Blame the lack of genuine agrarian reform in the country for the increasing number of urban poor and worsening urban poverty. Blame the Aquino government for continuing disastrous programs implemented by the previous administration.
On the second anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reform (CARPer), the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap said the government’s faulty agrarian reform program is behind worsening problems connected to urban migration.
The group said the absence of a real agrarian reform program pushes Filipinos formerly living in the provinces to go to the cities, leading to increases in city population and tighter employment competition for almost 30 million urban poor.
Carlito Badion, the group’s national vice chairman, said past and present administrations have failed to implement the crucial step of distributing lands to millions of landless rural poor and to put an end to massive landgrabbing by corporations and landlords.
“After two years, the CARPer has not provided solutions to the problems of landlessness. It did not result in the distribution of land to the farmers. Because of the gravity of the problems of widespread rural poverty and landlessness, millions of Filipinos are forced to go to the cities and urban centers to find means of survival and alternative means of livelihood. More often than not, they fail to find secure employment and many are reduced to being ‘squatters’ in their own country,” Badion said.
According to Badion, 60 percent of all agricultural lands or almost nine million hectares are privately owned by a mere 13 percent of landlords in the Philippines. “More than 20 percent of agricultural lands or three million hectares are owned by just 9,500 individuals,” he said.
Increasing urban migration
The urban poor leader said urban migration has reached its peak in recent years.
“Cebu City, for instance, has experienced drastic urban migration in recent years. It is now is the 5th largest city of the Philippines with a population of almost 800 thousand. It is the most populous city in the Visayas and the center of Metro Cebu has a population of approximately 2,314,897,” he said.
“The presence of big landlords like the families of Almagro, Garcia and Durano from Cebu, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr, and the Romualdez clan who monopolize land ownership in the Visayan provinces, can be blamed for the problems that arise with chaotic urban migration,” he said. “Unless land monopoly and feudalism are put to a systematic and decisive end, millions of poor peasants will continue to flock the cities, and contribute to the growing number of urban poor population.”
Badion cited data used by the United Nations indicating that from 2005 to 2015, the estimated average growth of capital cities in the Philippines or urban agglomerations is pegged at 28 percent. By 2030, the urban population is estimated to reach 85 million or approximately 70 percent of the total population.
In the meantime, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the CARPer is “nothing but an instrument of landlords to legalize landgrabbing and land use conversion, and to justify the brutal displacement of farmers.”
According to the KMP, during the first year of CARPer’s implementation, only 64,329 out of the 163,014 hectares targeted for land distribution were processed and the bulk 41,000 hectares were placed under the Voluntary Offer to Sell (VOS) category. A negligible 1,777 hectares were put under Compulsory Acquisition (CA). The peasant group said landlords were determined to continue exploiting the provisions of the law that authorizes them to dictate the value of their lands.
CARPer, the KMP said, is the milking cow of landlords.
Kadamay’s Badion said the urban poor unites with the country’s farmers in calling for alternatives to the CARPer.
“CARPer, as the government’s land reform program, will never contribute to efforts to address widespread poverty. It should be scrapped,” he said. “Without a genuine agrarian reform program such as that being promoted by the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) of Anakpawis Party-List, farmers in the countryside will continue to support armed struggle and calls for agrarian revolution will always be justified,” he said.
CCT scheme not a solution to poverty
In the meantime, the urban poor group continues to speak out against the Aquino administration’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.
“The government is spending a big chunk of taxpayer’s money to a program that is ineffective, and is very prone to corruption,” Badion said. “Aquino and Social Welfare secretary Dinky Soliman are riding on the issue of widespread poverty to defend the proposed bigger funds for the CCT program. These same funds could have been utilized to bolster long-term poverty alleviation measures such as job creation and delivery of basic social services.”
The DSWD, the main agency tasked to be the main implementor of the CCT scheme, has proposed a budget of P49.2 billion (US$1.14 million) for 2012. Of that amount, around P40 billion (US$930 million) will be devoted to the implementation of the CCT. The budget for the DSWD used to be only P21 billion (US$488.37 million).
Aside from the CCT, the DSWD also aims to spend P2.8 billion (US$6.51 million) for supplemental feeding programs, P881 million (US$20.49 million ) for the food for work for internally displaced program, and P103 million (US$2.39 million) for the national household targeting system for poverty reduction.
According to Kadamay, the increased fund for CCT exposes the government’s refusal to implement more comprehensive programs that will directly provide long-term solutions to poverty in the country. The group also pointed out that the Aquino government also chooses to implement programs enforced by the previous administration.
“Despite the negative impact of these schemes, Aquino chose to continue some of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s programs. Both the CCT and the CARPER have been proven to be anti-poor and its implementation riddled with corruption scandals,” Badion said. “Why can’t the government create real jobs for the bulk of unemployed poor Filipinos instead of pushing these dole-out schemes and fake agrarian reform program?”
Badion said it is also the government’s deliberate failure to implement a national industrialization program that keeps the economy import-dependent and export-oriented.
“The P39.4 billion fund (US$916.28 million) could be invested in opening big industries in the cities and in the countryside that could showcase the country’s natural products instead of exporting it to industrialized countries, said Badion. “Hundreds of thousands of poor Filipinos could be given instant and regular employment.”