No assurance lands will be distributed even if CARP is extended, says critics

No assurance lands will be distributed even if CARP is extended, says critics

Groups opposed to the extension of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) on Tuesday said prolonging the life of the twenty-year old land reform program is not an assurance that the Department of Agrarian Reform will be able to distribute the remaining 1.2 million hectares of private agricultural lands to farmer beneficiaries.

In a press statement the anti-CARP groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Southern Tagalog-based Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said proponents of CARP are only misleading the Filipino farmers.

“Apologists of this bogus, anti-farmer and pro-landlord land reform program keep on saying that extending CARP for another five years will enable the agrarian reform department to distribute the remaining 1.2 million hectares of private agricultural lands to landless farmers. How sure are they that such promise of agrarian justice is true and realizable?” KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said.

The KMP leader added: “Let me set the record straight, the DAR over the last 20 years of implementation failed to present a terminal report on CARP implementation. They are hiding something big, a best kept secret in favor of big landlords, corrupt officials and their partners in crime in and out of agrarian reform department.”

Ramos added that past and present DAR secretaries have repeatedly said that they have covered and accomplished the distribution of some 6.5 million hectares of agricultural lands to qualified beneficiaries, but until now nothing has been said if these lands covered for distribution were really physically transferred to farmer beneficiaries and their ownership over these lands were assured.

“Since 1988, DAR is merely preoccupied with doctoring the statistics of land distribution to convince the public that land reform and agrarian justice exist within the framework of CARP. However, if we ask the agrarian reform on land reform inventory and performance audit of land reform, all we got from them is an executive summary of lands distributed to farmer beneficiaries,” he added.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap backed KMP’s questioning of the existence of real and massive land distribution under CARP which Congress seeks to extend for another five years, further asserting that what happened in 20 years of the agrarian reform program was token land distribution and not thoroughgoing land reform program.

“DAR did not mention that majority of the 6.5 million hectares they had covered under CARP were locked in layers of agrarian disputes before various courts and quasi-judicial courts across the country, and that these lands although covered were not distributed to landless farmers,” he said.

The Pamalakaya leader recalled that in1993, Sentra, a non-government organization together with other farmer groups conducted a preliminary assessment of CARP from 1988 to 1993, and one of the striking results of program was revealed— a total of 10,958 certificate of land transfers (CLTs), 9,133 EPs and 2,303 CLOAs were cancelled by DAR covering 32, 041 hectares of prime agricultural lands affecting over 22,000 CARP beneficiaries.

“In fact, CARP led to stories of land reform reversals from 1993 up to present with the thousands of cases of land titles having been cancelled or rebuked by DAR to pave way for across-the-country land use conversions that went on full speed ahead in the 90s,” added Hicap.

Quoting a joint study of Sentra and Kasama-TK, Pamalakaya cited the case of farmers in Southern Tagalog which said that from 1994 up to 2007, about 1,302,375 hectares of prime agricultural lands have been placed by DAR under conversion and such terrible act led to the massive land reform reversals with the cancellation of land titles all over the region.

During the same period, Pamalakaya said around 173,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands in the region have been already converted for commercial purposes; leaving tens of thousands of supposed to be CARP beneficiaries landless.

“This is the kind of sham land reform which CARP had offered and would still offer to poor farmers and rural people all over the country if Congress passes this shotgun, double bladed piece of legislation”, the group added.

Pamalakaya said the 1.2 million hectares which DAR vows to distribute to landless farmers under an extended CARP is a misnomer, saying that the national government plan is not to distribute the remaining 1.2 million hectares of private agricultural lands but to lease or sell them to foreign investors.

“There is no such thing as genuine agrarian reform and distribution of lands in the old CARP and even in the extended CARP. The purpose of the government is to lease or sell lands to big agribusiness whether these are foreign or domestic entities,” the group added.

Meanwhile, Kasama-TK spokesperson Imelda Lacandazo, one of the organizers of the 54-day Rural Camp Out for Genuine Land Reform and Against Chacha challenged President Arroyo, the Senate and the House of Representatives to certify HB 3059 or GARB as an urgent bill if the administration is really sincere in implementing a thoroughgoing land reform in the country.

Declaring the 20-year old CARP as dead, KMP, Pamalakaya and Kasama-TK together with peasant groups from BTL (Buffalo-Tamarraw-Limus) in Bukidnon province today cremated CARP to signify that the present land reform program is dead and the country needs a new legislated agrarian reform program through GARB.

While the first committee hearing of GARB is set on May 20, it is about time for the Philippine Congress to give full consideration on the proposed law without the resurrection of a dead law. There is no more room for debate if CARP is extended or not, instead the government should pass a new land reform law which is genuine and pro-farmer and GARB is providing every assurance that is indeed an agrarian reform that arises from the legitimate demands of the landless peasants all over the country,” Kasama-TK said. #


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