On third year of extended agrarian reform, land monopoly remains

“Majority of the 249,369 hectares distributed from July 2010 to June 2012 under Aquino are either public lands or ‘easy acquisitions.’ A big portion of the total agricultural lands are still in the hands of landlords and private corporations.” – Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano


MANILA – Farmers from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon trooped to the national office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) yesterday demanding the junking of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Extension with Reforms (CARPER).

Led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and its regional chapters in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon, the farmers branded as failure the three years of CARPER. Republic Act 9700 or CARPER, which extends the CARP of the late president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino for another five years, was signed by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo exactly three years ago today.

In a statement, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said that Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes himself admitted that the government could not accomplish its land distribution targets by 2014 during the recent budget deliberations in Congress.

“Majority of the 249, 369 hectares distributed from July 2010 to June 2012 under Aquino are either public lands or ‘easy acquisitions.’ A big portion of the total agricultural lands are still in the hands of landlords and private corporations,” Mariano said.

Based on Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) data, 94 percent or 900,188 hectares of the remaining balance for Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) are privately owned agricultural lands.

According to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, Aquino has the worst land distribution performance. In a paper by Sonny Africa, Ibon executive director, under Aquino, only an average of 9,324 hectares were distributed monthly in 2011 compared to Arroyo’s 9,342 hectares (2001-10), Estrada’s 10,106 hectares (1999-2000), Corazon Aquino’s 16,878 hectares (1988-92) and Ramos’ 24,759 hectares (1993-98). The Aquino administration is also the most below-target in its accomplishment at 55.9 percent of targeted area for distribution compared to Corazon Aquino (56.4 percent), Estrada (73.5 percent), Ramos (82.6 percent) and Arroyo (82.9 percent). At the current rate the extended agrarian reform program CARPer is already five years behind schedule with its June 2014 target, Africa pointed out.

Fernando Hicap, Anakpawis vice chairman said that the CARP “is a milking-cow program that has notoriously delivered perks and benefits to landlords, instead of its promised agrarian justice to the people.”

Of the DAR’s remaining balance for LAD, only 62 percent will be covered under Compulsory Acquisition and 85 percent or 816, 491 hectares will be paid by the government through just compensation.

According to Anakpawis, from 1972 to 2008, local landlords received a total of P289-billion ($6.92 billion) in payments for 1,619,513 hectares by virtue of the government’s land reform programs.

In the 2013 proposed budget, the allocation for CARP, particularly for LAD component, is pegged at nearly P13 billion ($311.15 million).

“Decades of CARP implementation have allowed landlords to either run away with unjust compensation or evade land distribution entirely, while ‘lucky’ farmer beneficiaries in so-called agrarian reform communities are left mired in complicated legal and financial turmoil due to this sham reform program,” Hicap said.

Hacienda Luisita case

“The President himself is enmeshed in a major land dispute where the CARP faltered and fatally erred,” Hicap said, referring to the stock-distribution option (SDO) scheme implemented in Hacienda Luisita during the administration of the late president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.

Under the SDO, one of the non-land transfer schemes allowed under CARP and CARPER, stocks, instead of land, were distributed to farmers. Two decades of SDO resulted in the further impoverishment of the farmers, according to the United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu) and Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala). In 2004, the farm workers staged a strike, which was violently dispersed by state agents, killing seven and wounding hundreds.

The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson accused the Aquino administration of delaying the distribution of Hacienda Luisita. In April, the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of 4,916 hectares of Hacienda Luisita to the 6,296 farmworker-beneficiaries (FWBs).

The AMGL called on Aquino to abandon his and his family’s interest on Hacienda Luisita and immediately order its distribution.

“He and the Cojuangco-Aquinos promised to follow the law but when the Supreme Court decided, he ordered DAR to make a new list of farmworker-beneficiaries, prolonging the process,” Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairman, said.

Other agrarian disputes

The AMGL is also demanding the immediate distribution of 3,100-hectares agricultural lands, which were formerly part of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

“The issue of Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation is the very concrete example of the uselessness of CARPer. Imagine, its coverage was already ordered by former president Cory Aquino through her executive orders 407 and 448 in 1990, and Deed of Transfer (DOT) between DAR and the Department of National Defense (DND) signed by then Agrarian Reform secretary Benjamin Leong and Defense secretary Renato De Villa, respectively in 1990, but the process is being opposed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a government entity itself,” Canlas said.

The 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army claims ownership of the lands.

In Southern Tagalog, the Katipunan ng Magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) said that almost 400,000 hectares of land in 76 towns of nine provinces are controlled by only 67 landlords and 49 local and foreign developers.

“Only two years is left with CARPER and still, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco controls six haciendas in Negros, Henry Sy has 8,650 hectares in Nasugbu, Batangas and 7,100 hectares in Hacienda Yulo in Laguna….” the group said.

Kasama-TK added that nine landlords are still in control of more than 20,000 hectares of land in Bondoc Peninsula and South Quezon.

Kasama-TK noted that from Marcos’s Presidential Decree 27 until Aquino’s CARPER, the government’s land reform programs over 40 years have not solved the problem of landlessness.

Land use conversion

AMGL also demanded Aquino to stop the massive land use conversion (LUC) in Central Luzon that has ejected farmers from their lands.

The group said the construction of Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) and Central Luzon Expressway (CLEx) projects in Nueva Ecija has ejected and continued to threaten farmers out of their lands.

“If Aquino was sincere in realizing fundamental reforms, CARP should have covered the subjected lands decades ago and distributed to legitimate farmer-beneficiaries, but he did not. Hence, farmers are now defending their rights,” Canlas added.

Kasama-TK, meanwhile that in the past 23 years of CARP and CARPER, land use conversion of agricultural lands was massive. In Laurel, Batangas, 2,014 hectares will be converted into golf course, subdivision and park. Portions of land in Hacienda Zobel in Calatagan, also in Batangas, are being converted despite the Supreme Court decision to distribute 2,000 hectares of land to farmers and fishermen.

The group said that almost 2,000 farmers will be evicted from 1,003 hectares of land to give way to the Batulao Nature City, which will feature18-hole golf course and a subdivision. More than 6,000 farmers will also be displaced from 2,400 hectares of land in Kaylaway village in Nasugbu, Batangas by projects of Korean investors.

Genuine agrarian reform

Farmers called for the passage of a bill filed by Anakpawis Partylist seeking to implement a genuine agrarian reform.

“Instead of cooking up another anomalous extension scheme, it is high time for Congress to pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), or the House Bill 374, the only acceptable framework for free land distribution favorable to farmers’ demands,” Hicap said.

Mariano said that the bill enjoys the massive support of farmers and farm workers nationwide. “For decades, farmers suffered ill-treatment with the pro-landlord land reform programs adopted by the government. The junking of CARP and legislation of GARB will be the first step to delivering social justice for farmers,” Mariano said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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